11.20.2005

Surprise Closings: Chloe and Rocca

I've been so busy at my new job--launching TMZ.com, a news entertainment website--that I haven't even read my email; personal, professional or otherwise. And I'm ashamed. I painstakenly gathered up all my foodie contacts when I left LA.com and sent everyone notes saying "I'm not going anywhere...send me everything...tell me everything!" And they did. And I ignored them. But not on purpose, I promise. I haven't had time to read the LA Times, or the blogs, or Chowhound, which was such a daily habit in my life for the last several years, I feel naked without knowing what the 'hounds have recently discovered (or shredded, criticized, recommended...).

So today, finally catching up on life, I find out that two of my favorite non-regular-but-if-I'm-in-the-neighborhood places are closing: Rocca in Santa Monica and Chloe in Playa del Rey. I've dined several times at both places, a common recommend from me to anyone in need of a place to dine in either neighborhood. This is the kind of story I would've called the owners for, to find out the inside story on each had I had the time. But in the Times, Leslee Komaiko quotes Don Dickman, an owner of Rocca, saying that one of the other owners wanted out; Christian, chef/owner of Chloe, sighted lease issues.

Whatever the case may be, it's a loss on both counts. To me, Rocca had so much going for it. The food was so approachable in both cost and taste. I loved getting an inexpensive wine by half-caraffe so we could have something crisp and white for those dynamite garlicky roasted mussels, and something bold and red for whatever braised meat we decided on. This was a place I recommended over and over to friends who wanted something lively, not too expensive but delicious. I never did make it in for the Sunday or Tuesday night specials (Neopolitan ragu and roast pig, respectively), but they'll be open until New Year's Eve, so I'll make a point of it now.

Chloe, Christian Shaffer's charming Play del Rey cafe, was a special outing for me, as I live in Pasadena. But the few times I made the trek, I was never disappointed. The room was earthy, casual and neighborhood-bistro refined. The seasonal menu, exquisite. Shaffer's other restaurant, Avenue in Manhattan Beach, is worth a visit, too. But what other options are there in Playa? When you want something special?

Both of these restaurants had the backbone to become more than just a passing dish in the LA dining scene. The recipe for success was there: great atmosphere; needed in the neighborhood; unique, well-thought out, approachable menus.

Let's hope the owners have something new up their sleeves...

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