Cafe Calato*

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The once-popular Cafe Calato Italian restaurant in Rancho Cucamonga evidently has closed for good, at least for now. In a business park on Center Street just above Fourth Street, a stone’s throw from Ontario, and just down the street from our newsroom, Cafe Calato served inexpensive pastas and pizzas.

There was no note on the door Saturday and no activity. Based on Yelp comments, the restaurant closed around the beginning of June.

I don’t know much about Cafe Calato’s history, but it was in business in 1997 when I started at the Bulletin. A friend tells me the restaurant changed hands about three years ago and that the owner is having health problems. He offered his staff the chance to stay employed by running the place themselves, as long as they kept the place up to his standards. He visited a few days later, found the place a mess and, since that reflected on him, fired everyone and shut the doors instead.

Some people say what they mean and mean what they say, it seems.

* Meanwhile, I’ve also been told the new owner ran the place into the ground and cut a lot of corners, resulting in the C grade mentioned in the comments and a loss of business.

** Cafe Calato reopened under a new owner/chef in October.

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Food truck fest draws fans

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Boy, did the crowds turn out for Saturday’s first Inland Empire Food Truck Festival. They were expecting 12,000 by the end of the day and looked on track to do it.

More than 50 food trucks from L.A. and Orange counties were parked in a lot at Ontario’s Citizens Business Bank Arena, serving up trendy foodstuffs. Tacos, perhaps the IE’s comestible of choice, might have Chinese or Korean fillings. A hot dog might be topped with Japanese yakisoba noodles. Other items might simply be chefly takes on chicken or fries or ice cream.

I had an Asian chicken taco from Komodo, chicken balls and a biscuit from LudoTruck, a chicken pastel from Ta Bom, tamarind chicken sweet potato fries from Frysmith and a blood orange sorbet from Coolhaus.

(I meant to try Mandoline Tacos, which a reader had recommended, but forgot. The Grilled Cheese Truck, recommended by another, had a two-hour wait for most of the day.)

Did I enjoy myself? Mildly. Waits were often half an hour, and while a long wait somewhere for a single truck can build anticipation, multiple long waits when you’re trying to take a smorgasbord approach can be a drag, especially under the hot sun, or when you get to the front of a line to find the item you wanted was sold out (as happened at Coolhaus, where by mid-afternoon they were out of ice cream sandwiches).

The best strategy might have been to hit any place with a short line. I did a little of that. Another strategy would have been to go mid-afternoon. When I left at 3, the lines were a bit shorter, although the tradeoff would be that some items were sold out. Yet another strategy might have been to bring a book to help kill time in line.

Will there be a second festival? Based on the response, I’d imagine so, and I’m pretty sure I would attend.

If you went, what did you eat, and what did you think?

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Restaurant of the Week: Zaky

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Zaky Mediterranean Grill, 1013 W. Foothill Blvd. (at Mulberry), Upland; also 6622 Carnelian St. (at 19th), Rancho Cucamonga

Zaky Grill, which has a mostly-takeout location in Rancho Cucamonga off the 210, expanded to a larger second location in Upland a few weeks ago along Foothill Boulevard.

As an occasional customer at the Carnelian spot, which has just a couple of molded-plastic tables, I stopped in for dinner recently in Upland, where Zaky’s shares a new-ish minimall with a Starbucks, a cell phone store and a pizza parlor.

This Zaky’s has plenty of dining space. You still order at the counter, and the menu of sandwiches, plates, salads and rotisserie chicken turns out to be exactly the same in both locations. (View it here.)

I had the chicken kabob sandwich ($5), which is prepared to order on pita bread with garlic sauce, onions, pickles and tomatoes. Delicious.

The owner recognized me from previous visits and gave me a dessert, knafeh ($4), a pastry with cream cheese and honey, very nice.

I’d been to the minimall location before when it was B-Man’s Teriyaki and later when it was a Philly’s Best. The interior hasn’t changed much, being a bit stark, with track lighting near the ceiling that is mildly unpleasant. But Zaky’s food is pretty good stuff and the dine-in option is welcome. I hope they beat the location’s curse.

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The Civil Wars at Amoeba

Four of us from the newsroom left work Tuesday at a decent hour for a change and sped to Hollywood’s Amoeba Music for an in-store performance by the Civil Wars, whose debut CD, “Barton Hollow,” is recommended to fans of Robert Plant/Alison Kraus’ “Raising Sand,” Gram Parsons/Emmylou Harris or even the Everly Brothers. The close-harmony duo was playing at Largo that night and are also performing Thursday night at the El Rey.

Joy Williams and John Paul White, whose romantic ballads tend toward the serious, turned out to be playful and utterly charming in live performance. They performed for a half-hour as the audience stood in the record stacks.

Aside from a half-dozen of their own songs, they did a slow cover of “Billie Jean” (versions from other venues are posted to YouTube). They also challenged the audience to guess who was responsible for their final song and to find the CD. Here’s an excerpt of that:

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Food truck fest is Saturday

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Are you going? The first Inland Empire Food Truck Festival takes place Saturday at Citizens Business Bank Arena in Ontario. More than 50 food trucks will take over the arena’s parking lot all day, providing a sort of smorgasbord on wheels. Some from this truck, some from that truck…

Customers pay a fee of $10 to enter the festival and then can purchase items at whichever trucks they like.

I have my ticket (bought at the box office at the earlybird rate of $8). Will I see you there?

Food trucks, as you may know, are a hot trend around the streets of L.A. We don’t see many of them in our end of L.A. County and they’re currently banned (other than for special occasions like this) in San Bernardino County, making this a welcome event.

I’m no expert on food truck culture, so I can’t say with any certainty if the list is heavy or light on the good trucks, but the list certainly has some evocative names. Kogi isn’t among them, but Coolhaus, Bacon Mania, the Grilled Cheese Truck, Nom Nom and Frysmith are names I’ve heard, and the fact that they’re coming bodes well.

Anyone more versed in food trucks want to rate the lineup or recommend trucks/items?

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A favorite salad

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Let us now praise a bowl of lettuce, namely, the strawberry poppyseed and chicken salad at Panera (local locations in RC, La Verne, Chino Hills and Fontana). This is a seasonal item that popped up again in April and will be shelved again shortly. Strawberries, blueberries, pineapple, mandarin oranges and pecans, plus romaine, chicken and fat-free dressing. Not only is it healthy, it’s delicious, and amazingly it’s a mere 340 calories (or 220 without the chicken). I’ve been eating one every week. Don’t go, strawberry poppyseed and chicken salad!

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Reading log: May 2011

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Books acquired: “Chronic City,” Jonathan Lethem; “Red,” Sammy Hagar; “A Pleasure to Burn” and “Switch on the Night,” Ray Bradbury; “Pale Gray for Guilt,” John D. MacDonald; “Slow Learner,” Thomas Pynchon; “Men and Cartoons,” Jonathan Lethem; “Tales of Mystery and Imagination,” Edgar Allan Poe; “An Education,” Nick Hornby.

Books read: “The Book of Philip K. Dick,” Philip K. Dick; “The Hand of Fu Manchu,” Sax Rohmer; “The Beasts of Tarzan,” Edgar Rick Burroughs; “All Yesterdays’ Parties: The Velvet Underground in Print 1966-1971,” Clinton Heylin, ed.; “The Drawn Blank Series,” Bob Dylan.

May was a five-book month for yours truly. (Alas, it was a nine-book month on the acquisitions front.)

I read the Philip Dick story collection because it contains “The Adjustment Team,” on which the recent, enjoyable movie “The Adjustment Bureau” was based. The Fu Manchu and Tarzan books are each the third in their respective series and were pleasantly pulpy. The Velvet Underground book compiles news and reviews of the band (one of my favorites) from the period when they were still functioning. The Dylan book is made up of color sketches by the musician and several very dull essays by others.

On the whole, an uninspiring month, with the Dick volume probably the best of the lot.

As for when and where the books were acquired, the first three came from various used bookstores the last decade (the details escape me), the VU was a remainder purchased at Moe’s in Berkeley four years ago and the Dylan was bought at Pomona’s Magic Door Books a few months ago.

June is shaping up as a light month. As I write this it’s the 9th and I haven’t finished anything since late May; I’m still in the early stages of two books after abandoning a third. Hope you’re doing better.

Anyone want to share what they’ve read or are currently reading?

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Million Dollar Theater

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Wednesday night I attended the L.A. Conservancy’s Last Remaining Seats program at downtown LA’s Million Dollar Theater. The 1918 movie palace is unrestored and not in the best of condition, but it’s still pretty neat, and the exterior is spectacular. We saw “Captain Blood,” a 1935 pirate movie with Errol Flynn and Olivia de Havilland. Great fun.

There are still three more movies in the series, each on Wednesday nights, at different theaters on Broadway. (Two of the three are already sold out.) Click here for a schedule. I’ve got a ticket for “Safety Last” on the 29th.

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Mission/71

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Every now and then I’ll torture myself when returning from a visit to the Chino Valley by taking the 71 Freeway north through Pomona, where the 71 is merely a divided highway with traffic signals and very slow traffic, particularly at Mission Boulevard. It’s a change of pace for me and always interesting to see that part of town — which the congestion allows me to do at discouraging length.

Until the 71 is one day turned into a real freeway, Pomona is doing what it can by building a bridge over the 71 to handle Mission Boulevard traffic and thus eliminate the main bottleneck. As you can see, the work seems to be coming along — although not soon enough to have sped up traffic on Saturday, when I shot this.

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