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RESTAURANT NOTES

Two L.A. Chefs Get the Beard Awards Nod

March 24, 1995|KATHIE JENKINS | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Los Angeles names are scarce on this year's list of nominations for the James Beard Awards announced on Tuesday in New York. In fact, only two L.A. chefs have been nominated for the Oscars of the food world (a Jimmy?): Mark Peel of Campanile for best regional chef in the California category and Octavio Becerra of Pinot Bistro in Studio City for rising star. Veteran Santa Monica restaurateur Piero Selvaggio, who won a Beard Award for outstanding wine service at Valentino last year, was nominated this year for the outstanding service award.

Nobu Matsuhisa, who has a large following at his Beverly Hills sushi restaurant, received a best new restaurant nomination for Nobu in New York, which he co-owns with actor Robert De Niro and Drew Nieporent. Patina alumni Traci des Jardins, now chef at Rubicon in San Francisco, also received a rising-star nomination.

Like the Academy Awards, the Beard Awards are judged by professionals in the field. And like every other such award program, there is quiet grousing that the same names keep appearing year after year and that the awards have become more a popularity contest than a tribute to the highest achievement. Winners will be announced May 8 at the New York Marriott Marquis in New York City. Those who can't be there can watch the entire awards ceremony from home on the Television Food Network.

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86 the Ribs: Joe Stellini is opening Carson's, his new Beverly Hills restaurant, the first week in April. But it definitely won't be April 1. "I didn't get married on April Fool's Day," he says. "I'm certainly not going to open my restaurant that day." Chef Michael Shaheen, who cooked at the Grill and at Morton's, will cook clean, healthy California cuisine. Regulars at Stellini's former Pico Boulevard hangout for sports figures and fans won't be gnawing on any of those famous Stellini spare ribs at Carson's. "Anything to do with Stellini's," says the restaurateur, "we left on Pico."

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More Openings: The owners of Empress Pavilion, the Hong Kong-style seafood and dim sum place in Chinatown, are opening a second restaurant--Sea Empress Seafood--in Gardena next month. . . . Jillian's, a California restaurant/sports bar/pool hall/dance club, will debut next month in Long Beach. . . . India's Tandoori has cloned itself in Burbank. . . . Amore replaced Silver Grille in Encino (but Silver Grille's Beverly Hills locale remains open). . . . A branch of Planet Hollywood, which is co-owned by actor-pitchmen Bruce Willis, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone, is coming to Beverly Hills sometime soon.

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Pasta Bowl: Before every home game, the Long Beach 49ers eat at Spaghettini in Seal Beach. The hoopsters sit at the same table. They always order the same thing--spaghetti bolognese--which is served by the same waitress. "It's a good-luck charm," says manager Chris Stewart. "This is the second season they've been eating here." Last Friday, though, the Big West champs were knocked out in the first round in the NCAA tournament in Iowa. "It's because there's no Spaghettini in Boise," says Stewart. "I don't know what they ate up there."

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Bread and Sushi?: Jim Lucero reports the Smoke House, his Burbank steak and chop place, has just sold its 18-millionth loaf of garlic bread. Lucero, who describes himself as the creator of the endless-refill policy at Carl's Jr., designer of a credit card device for drive-through fast food and inventor of an ice-box security system, ships his garlicky loaves all over the world, including as many as 100 a month to Japan.

For more restaurant coverage please see Thursday's Food Section and Sunday's Los Angeles Times Magazine.

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