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Caffe Klatch

Caffe Goosetown
Christopher Gardner

Griesbach's Back: Chef Clyde Griesbach returns with his latest Italian love letter, Caffe Goosetown.

Chef Clyde Griesbach's newest hangout provides a haven where foodies can gossip about the joys of Mediterranean cuisine

By Christina Waters

WHILE THE COZILY anachronistic exterior invites comparison with the old days--when this newly reopened dining room was the Willow Glen Inn--its transformation into a showcase for chef Clyde Griesbach is one of the many pleasures waiting at the recently opened Caffe Goosetown.

Without apologies, the Goosetown (the old slang name for a part of Willow Glen) menu announces the Italian intentions of this chef, former star of Paolo's. Griesbach brings a background of Old Country fieldwork to his concepts--even the wine list contains surprises from Sicily and other southern Italian regions.

Sliding into one of the tapestried booths, under softly lit contemporary chandeliers in the main dining room, we began a walking tour through the menu--enhanced by a reading of the night's specials. Never less than ambitious, Griesbach had front-loaded the evening's possibilities with seared ahi, roast guinea fowl, braised rabbit--a week before Easter!--as well as several seafoods. Along with a mouth-watering array of antipasti and pasti, we contemplated a special appetizer of grilled asparagus. The whole menu was worth toasting with a 1994 Kundé Sonoma Valley Merlot ($7) and a Corvo Rosso 1993 ($5.25) from Sicily--very spicy and beautifully rounded.

Like all new dining rooms, Goosetown is still fine-tuning some of its act: Our waitress was friendly and knowledgeable, but forgot to bring us bread and allowed too long between courses, while a roving bus person literally encircled the room at one-minute intervals, determined to clear away plates whether they were ready or not.

We loved our evening at Caffe Goosetown. The wines were joyful, including a second Southern Italian red, a 1993 Taurino Riserva Salice Salentino ($5) from Puglia, huge yet supple. The asparagus exuded the flavors of springtime, grilled lightly to enhance every herbaceous tone, and drizzled with a vinegar-intensive dressing tossed with kalamata olives, roasted peppers, garlic and onions ($6). It was an amazing opening dish. Equally good was my companion's plate of crimson carpaccio--a tender, more-flavorful-than-most treatment of paper-thin beef arranged on a bed of peppery arugula, dusted with shaved aged Parmesan and light olive oil and centered with a confit of marinated onions that was intense but could have used a bit more piquance ($6.95).

But on to the best! The guinea hen special entree ($16) was an extravagant portion roasted to moist perfection. Guinea fowl, very like a plump quail in flavor and texture, is easily overcooked and dried out, so we were delighted with its juiciness. A rich cacciatore sauce accented the game, and the secret weapon of the entire presentation was a soft, creamy polenta pudding underlying the whole. My companion, a former guinea fowl virgin, ate more than her share.

Less successful was a plate of bucatini rope pasta arrabiata ($10.95). However sensuous the idea of hollow "ropes" of pasta, these were more like stiff tubes that failed to cooperate when pierced. A single prawn--rather than the advertised "prawns"--kept company atop the noodles with some slices of fried calamari. The tender squid was tasteless. The dish just couldn't keep up with the incredible guinea fowl special. The chef's specials clearly consume much of his cooking passion, and I would highly recommend sampling whatever he's dreamed up that day.

Finally, we contemplated our espressos and allowed the house desserts to disarm us--especially a thin slice of lemon crostata dusted with pistachios and lemon zest ($4.25) and pooled with crème anglaise. My companion loved her whole pear, which had been poached to a deep burgundy hue in red wine and then stuffed playfully with creamy mascarpone cheese ($4). I wished that the pear had been at its peak before this lovely treatment. But with espressos and the memory of the wine on our lips, we had no complaints. None.

Like Sorrento, this is a menu to which I could easily return to over and over. Best of all, Caffe Goosetown announces the re-emergence of one of the South Bay's most talented chefs. Grazie, grazie mille .

Caffe Goosetown

Address: 1072 Lincoln Ave., Willow Glen
Phone: 408/292-4866
Hours: Mon.­Fri. 11am­2:30pm; Sat.­Sun. brunch 9am­3pm; dinner 5­9pm Sun.-Thu. and 5­10pm Fri.­Sat.
Entrees: $9.95­$16.95
Cuisine: Contemporary Italian
Chef: Clyde Griesbach
Ambiance: Classy family-style
Extras: Patio seating; adjoining bar

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From the April 3-9, 1997 issue of Metro

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