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[whitespace] Village Fare: Diner owners Chewy Cross and Jeff Ferreira.

A Finer Diner

The new Village Diner in Soquel serves old-fashioned treats until late

By Janet Blaser

A COUPLE OF WEEKS AGO, I heard about a new diner that had opened in Soquel Village. OK, that's nice, I shrugged. I snapped to attention pretty quickly after that, though. Turns out that the Village Diner is open till midnight on weekdays and 3am on Fridays and Saturdays. Hel-lo. And the owners are dedicated to using natural and organic products as much as possible.

Owners Chewy Cross (don't ask about the name) and Jeff Ferreira have put together a charming, old-fashioned diner that serves basic American comfort food with a healthy California twist. You can get breakfast all the time, which means all day and night and into the next day, too. Hot or cold sandwiches are available for lunch, all served on Kelly's breads. The dinner entrees are guaranteed to pull on your heartstrings--they're straight from Mom's kitchen. Here's where you can get a real roast turkey dinner (and that's Diestal naturally raised turkey, mind you) for just $9.95, with homemade mashed potatoes and dressing, plus soup or salad, any time of the year.

The diner, located on Soquel Drive across from the fire station and next to the Soquel Post Office, was a pizza place for years. Chewy and Jeff have totally remodeled it, ripping off the dark wood paneling and adding big booths and a counter with spinning stools. Tablecloths of '40s vintage cover the tables, and, as Jeff says, "Every time we leave the house, we grab something to bring in. So if it looks like someone's living room, it is--ours."

Jeff and Chewy have worked together in restaurants all over the county since Chewy was a busboy at Tampico's downtown. "This was our dream," Chewy explains. "We always wanted to open a restaurant together." Jeff, who does front-of-house at the Village Diner, still works part-time at JJ's Saloon, just a few doors away, while Chewy, who ran the kitchen at the Felton New Leaf for five years, does the food prep and cooking. The address is 4724 Soquel Drive, Soquel. Hours are 11:30am to midnight weekdays and to 3am Fridays and Saturdays. The number is 476.5333, which happens to spell, um, JEFF.

No Fruit Required

I can't resist the urge to share my favorite trick recipe this April Fool's Day: Ritz Mock Apple Pie. This pie is so good, you won't believe there's no fruit in it. The texture of the cinnamon-rich, sugar-syrup-soaked crackers mimics that of real apples so closely that most people can't tell the difference.

I love serving this to friends and family and watching their warm-and-cozy apple-pie feelings turn to incredulous horror when I tell them what they really ate. Now, there's nothing wrong with Ritz crackers and a little sugar wrapped up in a pie crust--it's just the idea that our taste buds can be fooled so easily that's troublesome. So, without further ado, here's the recipe, courtesy of Nabisco Foods. You can make your own pie crust from scratch if you like, but good-quality frozen ones will do just fine. Pastry for a two-crust, 9-inch pie; 36 Ritz crackers, coarsely broken (about 1-3/4 cups crumbs); 2 cups water; 2 cups sugar; 2 tsp. cream of tartar (optional); 2 tbsp. lemon juice; grated rind of one lemon; 2 tbsp. butter; 1/2 tsp. cinnamon.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Prepare crust for pie, then place cracker crumbs in pie crust. In a saucepan over high heat, bring water, sugar and cream of tartar to a boil; simmer for 15 minutes. Add lemon juice and rind; remove from heat and allow to cool. Pour the cooled syrup over cracker crumbs. Dot with butter; sprinkle with cinnamon. Cover pie with top crust. Trim, seal and flute edges. Slit top crust so steam can escape. Bake 30 to 35 minutes or until crust is crisp and golden. For maximum disguise, serve with vanilla ice cream.

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From the March 29-April 5, 2000 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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