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Daddy's Cookin' Now

Former print shop owner Allen Rothman is at home in the Kitchen.

September 04, 1997|JUAN HOVEY | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

If you think it might be fun to go from, say, the printing business into the restaurant business, then you must have a certain capacity to enjoy the contradictions of life. Put another way, you can imagine going from the frying pan into the fire.

So you should understand what Allen Rothman, born and bred in Tarzana and a printer for the better part of his life, went through a year ago in opening up a tiny place called Big Daddy's Kitchen in Woodland Hills.

It wasn't a piece of cake. But let Rothman--Big Daddy himself, a gregarious man like so many others in the restaurant business--tell his own story.

"It's not that different, really," Rothman says with a laugh. "This is a small place, and when I'm here I'm always battling with my suppliers, just like I used to battle with my suppliers at the print shop. And it's long hours and a lot of work.

"The difference is that in the printing business people are always grumpy. In the restaurant business, they come to you because they want something good to eat--and I get to give it to them."

You can take Rothman at his word when he says he likes to serve up good food. A regular customer, Geri Miller, who lives around the corner, enjoys showing up when Rothman, experimenting with new food, passes something around for his customers to sample--like the corn fritters he circulated on a recent night. They were, Miller says, delicious.

Rothman's menu--big for a place that seats only 30--offers a variety of ribs and tri-tip dishes, plus chicken, chili, hot links, hot wings, hamburgers, sandwiches and even pizza. Most things come with a barbecue sauce that Rothman invented himself, and you also get coleslaw, roasted or mashed potatoes, or potato salad.

Best of all, only a handful of dishes cost more than $10--the big combination plates for more than one person. Everything else comes cheap: half a rack of baby back ribs, for example, for $8.90, half a rack of ribs and half a chicken for $1 more, half a chicken by itself for $6.99.

All the recipes are Rothman's own.

"I taught myself how to cook; I started cooking even before I got married," he says. "Anyway my wife bakes but she can't cook, so I've always done the cooking at home. . . .

"I'm 50 years old this week, and I always wanted to open up a restaurant. So here I am."

Big Daddy's Kitchen serves lunch and dinner Monday through Saturday. It has a counter, half a dozen booths along one wall, a handful of tables in the middle. Given the limited seating, neighborhood residents give the restaurant a big takeout business. It is at 21604 Ventura Blvd., Woodland Hills, (818) 704-7042.

*

As September begins and summer begets fall, things start jumping in the restaurant business--and Valley restaurateurs cook up inventive ways to get people back into their embrace.

As a case in point, the graceful Lenetta Kidd, who runs the classic supper club Moonlight in Sherman Oaks, hosts a celebration of Brazil's independence day on Sunday with a special menu reflecting the heady cuisine of that country plus, of course, entertainment--Christiane Callil and her "Girls From Ipanema" show.

Brazilian dishes on Sunday's menu:

* Two appetizers: small shrimp fritters flavored with bell pepper and onions, and fried zucchini blossoms--and a salad of hearts of palm.

* Three entrees: a black bean stew with beef, pork and sausage; a concoction of shrimp, fish, peanuts and coconut milk called vatapa, and grilled skewered beef served with a sauce of tomato and onion.

Prices range from $6.95 for appetizers to $17.95 for the entrees.

Moonlight is at 13730 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks, (818) 788-2000.

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 via e-mail at JHoveycompuserve.com

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