Comic book show coming to Claremont

I’ve written here and in my column about the demise of the Comic Bookie, the longtime Claremont comic book emporium. But owner Chris Peterson is back with a new venture: a pop culture and comics show in the Claremont Packing House, scheduled for Saturday.

He calls it the Los Angeles Comic Con — at least, as he puts it, “until somebody gives us grief about it.” The name was available, so why not? Visit the website, www.losangelescomic-con.com.

“We’re hoping to pull in the L.A. crowd as well as the Inland Empire and Orange County,” Peterson said.

The Packing House is letting him and co-organizer Erik von Wodtke use most of the common area in the complex, both inside and out, giving them space for approximately 28 vendor booths. As of Friday they had 16 confirmed vendors, filling the entire indoor area, a pretty good start. The Claremont Forum is helping underwrite the show.

Peterson said that vendors include Chino’s Comic Madness, several back-issue sellers, the Claremont gaming store Gameology and himself, whose 200-square-foot space will be reminiscent of his former 700-square-foot shop, which closed in October.

Danny Miki, a Marvel Comics artist, will be at the show from 11 a.m. to noon.

Peterson has a four-month deal at the Packing House and hopes to put on shows the third Saturday of each month. He hopes the show grows to include movie previews and more guests. In the meantime, the first show sounds like fun. Admission is free, so what have we got to lose?

“It’s just before Christmas. Get your shopping done, get something to eat and get your geek on,” Peterson advises.

Hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. in the Claremont Packing House, on First Street a block west of Indian Hill Boulevard.

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An arty movie lineup

Now playing at Claremont’s Laemmle 5: Perhaps the artiest lineup yet. This week’s movies are “Slumdog Millionaire,” “Milk,” “Australia,” “A Christmas Tale” (from France, starring Catherine Deneuve) and “I’ve Loved You So Long” (also from France, starring Kristin Scott Thomas).

If you want Laemmle to play sophisticated fare in Claremont, this would be a good week to vote with your pocketbook.

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Sunday column preview

While word was beginning to spread Tuesday afternoon about the Pomona police chief’s ouster, I was obliviously driving to Chino Hills for a tour of the city’s new City Hall.

Well, it needed to be seen at some point. Especially for me, as a critic of sorts of Council Chambers, having visited so many of them. The room is quite impressive, with plenty of seating and a dais that must be seen to be believed.

The press, by the way, is given a nook with a table and leather chairs. As a self-hating newspaperman, I couldn’t bring myself to sit there. It was too nice. I sat in the audience with the hoi polloi; maybe I can work myself up to the luxury seating next visit.

Behind the Council Chambers is a sophisticated audio-visual control room, with a sound mixing board, a recording booth and joystick controls of the chambers’ cameras. (Perplexingly, despite all the gear, meetings are still not broadcast live.)

Rather than the cameras on tripods, each trailing cords, that they had in the old Council Chambers, the new room has four hidden cameras. “They’re HD,” Cattern whispered.

I hope council members are ready for their closeup.

Look for more about my tour, and the novelty of a City Hall next to an outdoor mall, on Sunday.

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Restaurant of the Week: La Parolaccia

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La Parolaccia Osteria Italiana, 201 N. Indian Hill Blvd. (at 2nd), Claremont

This is the newest restaurant in the Village Expansion, an “osteria Italiana” (with a second location in Long Beach) whose name is said to translate, amusingly, as “bad language.” The restaurant, which opened a couple of months ago, took off immediately — the place always seems to be jumping — and I finally visited with a friend Thursday evening. We made reservations for 7 p.m. and reservations turned out to be a good idea, as even on a Thursday the restaurant was almost full.

They have a selection of pizzas cooked in a wood-burning oven, some with unusual ingredients such as eggplant, smoked salmon, yellow squash and goat cheese. Pastas include ravioli, linguine and fettucine, often with pesto, olive oil or other non-marinara treatments.

We had the Napoletana pizza ($12.50) with tomato sauce, mozzarella, capers, black olives and anchovies, and the linguine con i frutti di mare ($18.50), with fresh seafood. The latter was essentially a bowl of seafood (scallops, shrimp, clams, etc.) with a dollop of linguine and was quite good. The pizza, after I got past my unrealistic expectations that it would be as creative as Pizzeria Mozza’s in L.A., proved quite good as well, thin and crisp.

For dessert, the waitress recommended bread pudding ($9), which came with a scoop of gelato. She was on the money.

The meal didn’t proceed without hiccups: Perhaps the waitress hadn’t understood your soft-spoken blogger’s order, because we got a different linguine; it was returned and out came the right one, except, kitchen’s fault, they forgot to add the pasta. But this was quickly remedied and we were charged for the initial, mistaken dish, which was $4.75 cheaper, leaving nothing to object to.

I’d rank La Parolaccia among the valley’s better Italian restaurants, given the creative menu, but would like to reserve special praise for the location and atmosphere. Tables are close together, but not too close, so you get a friendly buzz from a roomful of people unseparated by booths or partitions. Service was friendly and prompt.

And from the exterior, the enormous windows show off people having a good time, in close proximity to a sidewalk, busy street and movie theater. It’s both urban and urbane. As a pedestrian I’ve seen other passersby cast an envious glance inside or closely examine the menu posted outside. La Parolaccia seems like a restaurant in Pasadena, not Claremont. I’m glad it’s here instead.

* Update April 2014: Spoiling the effect, they put curtains in the windows a year or so in, presumably due to complaints from privacy-conscious Claremonters who wouldn’t dream of dining al fresco. I’ve eaten here a few times since my 2008 writeup, including a lunch this month to celebrate birthdays and update this post with photos. I had the ravioli with spinach and ricotta ($13.50, below), a friend had a classico panini ($10, below that) and we shared an enormous tiramisu the size of a block of lasagna ($7.50, bottom). Service was deft and professional. Still a good spot.

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Friday column preview

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Jesus is back, and Ontario has him. No, he’s not coming to the Citizens Business Bank Arena. Mixing with the masses, he’s downtown on Euclid Avenue in the annual Nativity display, a tradition for 49 years, where you can see him for free.

The figure takes the place of one stolen in 2005 from the final scene, depicting the adult Jesus.

I also have a Pomona update and — why not? — a James Bond update. Look for all this in Friday’s paper.

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Of Thai treats, tapes and trains

I get discouraged by L.A.’s inconvenient public transit and the decades it will take to remedy it. Then again, even the limited range of options offers fertile ground to explore.

On Sunday a friend and I took Metrolink from Pomona to Union Station and via Red Line subway 1) saw “Frost/Nixon” at the Cinerama Dome, the only theater in town showing it, and 2) ate at one of food critic Jonathan Gold’s “LA 99″ restaurants, Bahn Thung.

The movie, playing a short walk from the Hollywood and Vine station, is terrific. The food, across the street from the Vermont and Santa Monica station, ditto.

No. 34, the crispy rice salad, was a riot of contrasting textures and tastes. No. 98, pla lui suan, a trout under mixed herbs, and No. 108, gang omp, a Thai curry, were exemplary too. The restaurant is unprepossessing but the food was more creative than Inland Valley Thai places.

Afterward we took the Red Line to the Vermont and Sunset stop to walk around Thai Town a few minutes before going back to Union Station to catch the 7:45 train home.

This was the first time I’d ever gotten off at the two Vermont stops. There are several more stations I’ve never seen, and I should.

It’s not that I don’t drive, but rather, as Bartleby the scrivener put it, I would prefer not to. Nice to be reminded that, even if most of L.A. is rail-less, there are still riches within reach for urban explorers from the distant suburbs.

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Thursday (?!) column preview

After the news about Pomona Police Chief Joe Romero being ousted, I thought I’d better write something now rather than wait for Friday. And so I did. Look for that special column Thursday.

And here I thought Ontario was becoming more vicious and political than Pomona. Well, like I always say, never count Pomona out.

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Wednesday column preview

Pomona swore in Elliott Rothman as mayor Saturday in a ceremony in the council chambers.

Among other comments, the former District 5 councilman thanked supporters — including Tim Saunders, who is likely to be appointed to Rothman’s empty council seat — and said smooth streets, clean neighborhoods and safe schools will be his goal.

“You’re all going to have a nice place to live,” Rothman told the audience. “And you’re all going to say, ‘I’m proud to live in Pomona.’ ”

Even those District 5 residents who insist they live in Phillips Ranch?

Look for that and more in Wednesday’s column.

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The pit of Pomona

A large pit on Pomona’s West Second Street downtown was dug for a condo project by Watt Development Co. early this year, and that’s as far as the project got before the housing market crashed. Some think the pit, which takes up half a square block, is an eyesore and would rather see it filled and turned into a sculpture garden.

At lunch Monday I was reading a Talk of the Town item in the Dec. 8 New Yorker about NYC’s own construction pits. Let me quote the relevant portion:

“What will become of the pits? Can we turn them into half-wild swimming holes, like the granite quarries of New England? Ring them with barbed wire and convert them into debtors’ prisons or internment camps for the culprits who structured synthetic C.D.O.s? They’d make excellent ha-has, for livery horses or livestock. Corn mazes. Extreme-cockfighting arenas. Or perhaps they could serve, over time, as urban tar pits, entrapping and preserving in garbage and white brick dust the occasional unlucky passerby for the scientific edification of future generations, if there turn out to be any. Or they could become parking lots.

“Vacant space tends to remain vacant, in anticipation of an upswing. Tax policy, inertia, and the eternal belief that things will get better (profitable) again usually trump civic dreams of pocket parks or stickball fields.”

An extreme-cockfighting arena has merit, though.

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