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Val's Restaurant in Toluca Lake has several new features to offer patrons--expanded Sunday hours, a new fixed-price dinner program and a new executive chef who's no stranger to San Fernando Valley diners.

Val's will now be open for dinner on Sunday for the first time in its eight-year history. Starting this month, a separate "Showcase" menu will be offered Sunday to Thursday evenings along with the regular menu. With each item priced at $19.95, the Showcase menu will change weekly to offer seasonal specialties.

Val's has been noted as much for its elegant decor as for its cuisine, which in the past has been described as standard Continental. But Peter Schawalder, Val's new executive chef, developing a new menu, which will feature French/California cuisine with a Mediterranean touch.

For 14 years, the Zurich native was the chef-owner of Camille's in Sherman Oaks. In 1990, Times critic Max Jacobson praised Schawalder's artistry and meticulous craftsmanship, saying he had a talent for beautiful plate imagery and delicate sauces.

Val's Restaurant, 10130 Riverside Drive, Toluca Lake, (818) 508-6644. Open for lunch from 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday to Friday, and dinner from 5:30 to 9 p.m. nightly.


The Universal City Hilton and Towers has picked someone with a Valley background to be its new head banquet chef. While attending Cal State Northridge, Greg Hules worked as a cook at several local steakhouses and coffee shops. Later he was in an American Culinary Federation apprenticeship program, and is now a ACF Certified Working Chef.

He worked at the Sheraton Universal Hotel from 1989 to '93, where he rose to become night banquet chef. More recently, Hules worked as head chef at the Daily Grill restaurant on La Cienega Boulevard in Los Angeles.

As head banquet chef at the Hilton, Hules will be responsible for serving as many as 1,300 people at a time.

Universal City Hilton and Towers, 555 Universal Terrace Parkway, Universal City, (818 509-2027.


The Rasta Pasta Pasta Company in Woodland Hills has changed its name to Italy Express. Owners Matt Lyons and Rich Courshon felt the name "Rasta Pasta" did not accurately reflect their menu and did not appeal to an adult audience.

"We opened a third store with the name 'Italy Express' and we were more successful," Lyons says. " 'Rasta Pasta' didn't say Italian food very well."

Rasta Pasta had been praised for its good food at low prices (nothing more than $4.95). Earlier this year, Jacobson wrote "The motto here is 'Italian, fast, good,' and so far, I've been impressed." He especially liked its Thai pasta, the least Italian of its dishes. Patrons can also create their own dish by matching and mixing pastas and sauces for $3.95. Same management, same menu.

Italy Express, 19948 Ventura Blvd., Woodland Hills, (818) 592-0250.

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