Peel's Off: Campanile chef Mark Peel has decided to take an indefinite leave of absence from cooking duties at his and his wife Nancy Silverton's 8-year-old Hollywood restaurant. "It's nice to be able, after cooking for 22 years, to take a little time off," Peel says. He wants more time to spend gathering his children around the dinner table at home and to work on other projects. (The couple's new cookbook, "The Food of Campanile," is just out.) During his absence, Silverton, the celebrated pastry chef, is holding down the fort and Peel checks in just about every day to see how things are going. Suzanne Goin will be handling the duties as chef.
In Chapter 11 Or Not?: A few months back, we told you about a new restaurant-in-the-making on Fairfax Avenue in Los Angeles called Barnaby's. Well, Barnaby's the restaurant has not yet opened, but Barnaby's Hollywood LLC has filed for Chapter 11 reorganization. Owner Elliot Gottfurcht says that Barnaby's Restaurant Inc. is totally separate from Barnaby's Hollywood LLC, which owns the building the restaurant occupies. "The restaurant is planning to open in the spring. The building will be out of reorganization by the end of the year. One has nothing to do with the other." OK.
The Risotto-Matt: Matt McLinn, who was chef at Morton's and, briefly, at Rix, is taking his cooking in a new direction: fast food. He's planning to open a risotto bar in the food court of the Beverly Center. This may be the first time on record anyone ever characterized the northern Italian rice dish, which traditionally takes 20 minutes to cook, stirring by hand, as fast food. Whatever. His risotto menu will include beet, tomato and basil, and lobster and prawn versions, priced anywhere from $3.25 to $6.25 a bowl. To round out the rice dishes, McLinn's place will offer some side dishes such as sweet potato fritters, butternut squash, and risotto chips. He will also make fresh lemonade. McLinn's plans are still in the early stages, but look for an opening in about three months.
Chocolate Heaven: The Ritz-Carlton in Marina del Rey is having a chocolate-lovers' weekend Nov. 14-16. Each event is priced separately, but scheduled so that you can attend all. The weekend begins with a reception on Friday night, and moves to a cooking-with-chocolate class on Saturday morning. Saturday afternoon, there are no less than three chocolate-paired tastings: tea and chocolate first, then cognac and chocolate, and finally pink champagne and chocolate. Saturday night brings a six-course chocolate dinner, and if that's not enough for you, Sunday morning lets you tuck into a chocolate brunch. For prices, times and reservations, call the Ritz-Carlton at (310) 823-1700.
* The Ritz-Carlton, 4375 Admiralty Way, Marina del Rey; (310) 823-1700.
The Rename Game: Celestino Drago has officially changed the name of his Pasadena restaurant from Il Pastaio to Celestino. The menu is still Italian, but has been expanded to include more Sicilian specialties. And the decor has been made more homey.
Meanwhile, Clearwater Cafe in Pasadena now wants to be known as Clearwater Seafood in order to emphasize its new dedication to seafood. When the restaurant first opened, it served seafood along with lighter California fare and organic options. The organic angle was dropped about four months after opening. Recently the restaurant has installed an oyster bar, a lobster tank and a crab tank. And the menu now reflects more of the New Orleans style of cooking.
* Celestino, 141 S. Lake Ave., Pasadena; (626) 795-4006.
* Clearwater Seafood, 168 W. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena; (626) 356-0959.
A Lower, Wider Le Chardonnay: Le Chardonnay's owner, Maurice Constantin, has decided to lower the dinner prices at his establishment to bring in a wider crowd. Entrees that once began at $19.95 now begin at $16.95, and at least six entrees now fall under the $20 mark. Yea for the commoner.
* Le Chardonnay, 8284 Melrose Ave., L.A.; (213) 655-8880.
Farewell, Sweet Princess. The Siamese Princess on 3rd Street in L.A., which recently became the the Siamese Princess Ginger Grill, will be closing its doors soon. The new concept and chef for the restaurant didn't work out, so these next few weeks are your last chance to visit the princess in all her ginger glory.
* The Siamese Princess Ginger Grill, 8048 W. 3rd St., Los Angeles; (213) 653-2643.