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Photograph by George Sakkestad

Scale Modeler: The Trout Farm Inn's Louie Derosa is a self-professed 'lover of good food.'

Roadside Touch

Louie Derosa gives a bright new touch to the landmark Trout Farm Inn

By Janet Blaser

YA GOTTA ADMIRE a guy who follows his heart. Despite whatever material obstacles there appear to be, he presses forward with what he knows to be true. And that's what Louie Derosa is doing up at the Trout Farm Inn. The experienced restaurateur (he opened and owns the chic, successful Gervaise Restaurant Francaise over the hill) and self-professed "lover of good food" took over the beloved landmark several months ago and has been slowly but surely brightening up both its image and offerings.

Don't get me wrong, now. I like the whole concept behind the TFI: the big tableside swimming pool, its nighttime underwater lights strangely comforting; the stocked trout pond out back, where you can literally catch dinner; the resortlike atmosphere that reminds me of summers in the Catskills. It's to Louie's credit that he's intent on maintaining these unique elements and is confident that they are integral parts of the successful vision of a modern-day Trout Farm Inn.

The restaurant has been made into what he calls a "roadside steakhouse with a Continental touch," and the new menu reaches far and wide, from Mussels Provencal ($7.50) to Firehouse Chicken Wings ($5.95) to Smoked Chicken Ravioli ($11.75). There's a "steaks and more" section that includes the Pagnini Cut ($15.75), an 11-ounce cut of top-grade Angus beef, named after well-known local Nick Pagnini, who was instrumental in helping Louie figure out the intricacies of the property. And there's the famous Trout Almondine, fresh-caught and grilled with a white wine sauce. The point, Louie explained, is to appeal both to those who just want a comfortable, satisfying, close-to-home place to have dinner--and to discriminating diners seeking a memorable meal experience.

He's also justifiably proud of the new wine selection, a sentiment supported by a merit award from the Santa Cruz County Winegrower's Association for featuring so many local vintages. While the pool is definitely a seasonal thing (to reopen in the summer), the trout pond is still open, by reservation only, on the weekends. You can find the Trout Farm Inn at 7701 E. Zayante Rd., Felton--really only a 15-to-20-minute drive out of Santa Cruz. Hours are Tuesday-Sunday, 5-9pm, for dinner; the bar is open weekdays 3:30-10pm, weekends from 2pm on. Reservations are recommended on weekends; call 335.4317.

Man the Barracuda

I promise I won't write ever again about that dang hanging fish on Laurel Street. Just when I thought the mystery was solved (how? why? what?), the can of worms opened up again. This time I think we have--finally--gotten to the bottom of it. Budding fisherman and Clouds waitress Jill Harrison was part of the offshore Capitola expedition that caught what turned out to be a barracuda a couple of months ago--an unusual catch, as these fish prefer warmer waters than are usually found hereabouts.

After a hardy fight (barracudas aren't known for their mild temperaments or good looks), the trio was disappointed to learn they wouldn't be enjoying a gourmet dinner after all (barracudas aren't prized for their succulent flesh either). So, instead, they strung their prize up downtown, "in conjunction with a stinky sneaker," quoth Jill. Yes, it took many tries, and yes, it was done in the wee hours (after many beers) when no one was around. OK, OK, enough, already.

Asian Rose, at 1116 Soquel Ave., in the heart of the East Side of Santa Cruz, is now open for lunch weekdays from 11:30 to 2:30pm. Long popular for its spicy, all-vegetarian selections from Ceylon and the Pacific Rim, the restaurant seems to be following the example of its sister location, downtown at 1547 Pacific Ave., which has been feeding the hungry masses lunch and dinner for almost a decade.

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From the November 22-29, 2000 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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