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Her Own Place

Longtime waitress at Tarzana's Little Cafe opens an eatery nearby.


Debbie Leslie has opened up her own cafe on Ventura Boulevard in Tarzana--to the huzzahs of the customers who knew her down the street at the Little Cafe.

Leslie waited tables at the Little Cafe for years. She knew her customers by name. She knew whose kids got in their parents' hair, whose in-laws and outlaws were in town, whose businesses prospered or fizzled.

"I worked there 11 years and three months," says Leslie, "and then I got into a fight with the owner--you know, these things happen--and I just got up and left.

"Four or five of my customers told me I ought to open up my own place, and they even said they'd back me. But you know how that goes. I thought maybe people just wanted me to feel OK about things.

But, Leslie says with a laugh, two of those who offered actually did back her: "And here we are."

Debbie's Place serves breakfast and lunch, but Leslie may stay open into the evenings come summer, on the theory that moviegoers at the Mann Theatres across Ventura Boulevard might want a sandwich and a cappuccino after the show.

Leslie's breakfast menu offers a variety of omelets at prices under $6--or you can create your own. For lunch, people get salads, hot and cold sandwiches and hamburgers in the same price range.

Debbie's Place is at 18621 Ventura Blvd., Tarzana, (818) 609-7796.


Sharon and Paolo Rosi have rolled back the canvas covering above the patio of their Encino restaurant Il Casale to welcome the later sunsets and warmer weather.

Paolo Rosi, who does the cooking at Il Casale, has some choice new offerings for his customers: grilled Chilean sea bass in an eggplant fondue with roasted tomatoes and a lime vinaigrette for $14.95; and bow-tie pasta with salmon in a sauce of coconut milk, roasted sweet peppers, pea pods, diced tomato and serrano chile for $10.95.

Then there's his gelato, surely the dessert of choice in the banquet halls of heaven.

"In Italy many artisans make gelato, which is lower in fat and higher in flavor than American ice cream," Rosi says. "And over there you can get every kind of fine ingredient for gelato--pistachios, hazelnuts, anything you want."

Gelato is unlike American ice cream, which customers can take home and store in the freezer. Ice cream's milk products give it texture but take away flavor, Rosi says.

"So I make my own gelato just for our customers at $4.50 a bowl."

His newest flavor, Italian cream, contains lemon, orange peel and a hint of anise.

Il Casale is at 17970 Ventura Blvd., Encino, (818) 344-5788.

* Juan Hovey writes about the restaurant scene in the San Fernando Valley and outlying points. He may be reached at (805) 492-7909 or fax (805) 492-5139 or e-mail

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