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Willow Street Chef Wins Big in Vegas

By Stett Holbrook

THE EXECUTIVE CHEF for Willow Street Wood Fired Pizzas, David Cohen, won the jackpot at the first-ever International Pizza Expo's Italian Chef Wars cooking competition in Las Vegas last month.

Pizza Today and Canadian Pizza, two industry trade journals, sponsored the event and chose Cohen to represent the United States against Canada.

"The pressure was on," says Cohen.

The competition involved creating several dishes from a list of 35 ingredients in 90 minutes. Cohen and his north-of-the-border adversary, Dianna Coutre, received the list before the event and had time to plan out their menus.

Cohen's award-winning pizzas are now on the menu at Willow Street's Willow Glen, San Jose and Los Gatos locations. The prize pies include the "Sonoma picnic pizza," caramelized onions, prosciutto, gorgonzola and green apples; and the "California muffaletta pizza," green olives, red onions, red bell peppers, Canadian bacon, broccoli raab and mozzarella. Cohen's entire winning menu, which includes a salad, an inventive "pastaless" ravioli made from thinly sliced portobello mushrooms, and dessert, will be featured at Willow Street's Los Gatos location in the coming weeks.

Meanwhile, Willow Street is expanding from pizza into burgers with the opening of Main Street Burgers in Los Gatos. The fast casual restaurant is patterned after a retro burger-and-malt joint but will feature organic produce, free-range chicken and hormone- and antibiotic-free Harris Ranch beef. The restaurant opened Thursday and is located 20 S. Santa Cruz Ave. in the space formerly occupied by Swenson's.

NorCal 3, L.A. 0: Restaurant, England's restaurant industry magazine, unveiled its list of the world's Top 50 restaurants last month. At the top was The Fat Duck in Bray, Berkshire, England. The restaurant dethroned Yountville's French Laundry, which is now ranked No. 3 but was still named best restaurant in the Americas. Coming in at 38 was Manresa. This was the Los Gatos restaurant's first time on the list. Rounding out the list of California eateries was the venerable Chez Panisse. The Berkeley restaurant was ranked No. 13 and named "highest climber" on the list.

Not that I want to stoke any north-south rivalry, but I couldn't help notice that Los Angeles–area restaurants came up with a big goose egg in the rankings. Ouch.

SUPER MARIO COMES TO TOWN: Mario Batali, star of Food Network's Molto Mario and Mario Eats Italy, will be in San Jose Thursday hawking and signing copies of his latest cookbook, Molto Italiano, at Santana Row's Sur La Table. The event will start with a cooking demonstration in the courtyard of Santana Heights, with a booksigning at Sur La Table to follow. This will be Batali's only Bay Area appearance. Call 408.244.4749 to RSVP a spot in the peanut gallery.

SANTANA ROW GROWS: Eduardo and Sylvia Rallo, owners of Consuelo Mexican Bistro at Santana Row in San Jose, have opened two new restaurants in the shopping center/upscale food mall.

Thea Mediterranean opened last week. The restaurant, located at 3090 Olsen Drive, features the cuisine of Greece and Turkey. Former Boulevard executive chef Alex Padilla is running the kitchen. Call 408.260.1444 for more information and reservations.

The Rallos also opened El Jardin de Consuelo, an open-air restaurant that features casual Mexican food like inventive quesadillas and tamales. The restaurant also has a bar with an extensive selection of tequilas. Befitting its Mexican roots, the restaurant opened on Cinco de Mayo. The restaurant is located across from Consuelo. Call 408.246.1744 for more information.

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From the May 11-17, 2005 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

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