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EATS: in and around the Valley | TIDBITS

Chain Reaction

In this case, the restaurant's offerings rate far above the usual fare.

April 02, 1998|JUAN HOVEY | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

If you think "chain restaurant" means "dull food," check out the new Piatti restaurant in Westlake Village next time you venture out of the San Fernando Valley westward on the Ventura Freeway.

The names of the foods on the menu of this place are all Italian, but they range widely and adventurously across the spectrum of Italian foods.

A group of private investors runs the Piatti chain out of headquarters in Mill Valley, and the Westlake Village Piatti is the group's 17th--the others being scattered in places like Portland, Yountville in Napa County, Montecito, La Jolla, Denver and Scottsdale, Ariz.

So what brings the chain to the fringe of the Los Angeles area?

"The owners decided that Westlake Village and Thousand Oaks are growing areas with the type of people we like to cater to--young families a little on the upscale side," says Pepe Amespil, the restaurant's general manager.

"We seat about 130 people, and the patios can seat another 70. We opened them for lunch last week when it was warm, but then it started to rain again. One of the patios faces the parking lot, and the other is surrounded by trees and a wall and a garden."

Chef Bradley Bennett, who started up the Piatti restaurants in Montecito and Portland, runs the kitchen, whence come such things as:

* Bistecca di bue--roasted hanger steak served with arugula and mashed potatoes;

* Pila di verdure--grilled polenta layered with portobello mushrooms, eggplant, mozzarella, potatoes, oven-cured tomatoes and pesto;

* Arista di maiale--double-cut pork chops served with Cremona mustard, mashed potatoes and sauteed greens;

* Petto di pollo--grilled chicken breast with Tuscan beans and spinach.

Prices run from $11.95 to $16.95.

Elsewhere on the menu you find no fewer than six antipasti, five appetizer-size pizzas and five salads.

Then there are the pasta dishes, which max out at $16.50 and look as adventurous as the entrees:

* Fettuccine tossed with sea scallops and chives in an orange-butter sauce; and

* A concoction called pappardelle fantasia--wide saffron pasta ribbons served with prawns, tomato, garlic and Calabrian chile in a sauce of white wine, lemon and butter.

Piatti is in the new Northgate shopping center at 101 South Westlake Blvd. in Westlake Village, (805) 371-5600. Reservations are a good idea most weeknights and a must on weekends.

*

Santa Clarita has a new place for those who can't get enough of sports--the Celebrity Cafe and Sports Bar, which sports no fewer than 14 televisions, trained on you know what, including eight in the bar alone.

Run by Realtor Dana Kellstrom along with PGA golfer Duffy Waldorf and sportscaster Rick Garcia of Fox 11 News--all of them first-timers in the restaurant business--Celebrity Cafe offers such entrees as shrimp scampi, grilled salmon with a spicey lime pesto, seared halibut with a sauce of lemon and capers, an 18-ounce porterhouse steak, and an Australian rack of lamb.

You can also get burgers, sandwiches, salads, pizza, and pasta. Prices go from $9.75 to $18.95 for entrees, to $6.95 for sandwiches, and to $11.95 for pasta.

General manager Cathlyn Lynch keeps a limo on hand to give free rides home for guests who ought not drive themselves.

Celebrity Cafe and Sports Bar is at 22903 Soledad Canyon Road, at the corner of Bouquet Canyon Road in Santa Clarita, (805) 288-1218.

*

Cafe Sierra in the Universal City Hilton offers a special champagne brunch Easter Sunday, April 12.

As you no doubt know, the deadline for filing your state and federal income taxes comes only three days later, and it can't hurt to prepare for that ordeal by indulging yourself a little, right?

Mark Kohn and Barry Chan, respectively executive chef and chef, will serve up a groaning board of Pacific Rim foods--American waffles and omelets, Chinese dim sum, sushi, fruits and salads, seafood and poultry.

The cost: $32; $16 for children 3 to 8 years old.

Cafe Sierra is in the Universal City Hilton and Towers, right at the entrance to Universal City Walk, (818) 509-2030.

* 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 jhoveygte.net

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