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Real Thing: La Villa Deli, famed for its scrumptuous ravioli, expertly crafts an array of fresh Italian delights, to eat in or take out.

Food & Drink

Best Power Breakfast

Buck's Woodside
3062 Woodside Rd., Woodside 650.851.8010

Take an afternoon drive through Woodside and marvel at the pastoral mountain-town charm, the luxury SUVs and the freshly painted bungalows. This is where the people who got rich during the dotcom revolution have settled down to make babies. This is also where they conduct their power breakfasts. Buck's Woodside sits at the hub of most of the investor activity in the area, partially because of its location on the main road but mainly because of its legendary brunch scene and tchotchke-plastered decor. As patrons crunch on Caesar salad beneath a huge narwhal tusk and Russian spacesuit, they can listen to strains of the valley's most beautiful music: talk in low tones of options, series A fulfillment and functional specs. Oh, and on a birthday, listen for a full-on tuba serenade--standard procedure for all such celebrations at Buck's. TB

Best Place to Use a Cell Phone

Eight Forty North First
840 N. First St., S.J. 408.282.0840

Cell phones aren't just tech toys. Here at Eight Forty--the ground zero meeting place of San Jose City Hall's officials and nonofficials--cell phones serve as invaluable weapons for brokering, connecting and networking. Don't be embarrassed--whip it out and banter shamelessly, without those looks of contempt from fellow restaurant-goers at those other places. This is the spot for making deals and alliances over hickory-smoked half-chicken and Caesar salad, grilled portobello and eggplant sandwich, peppered rare filet and mangoes and a glass of Benziger Chardonnay. The buzz isn't from the cell phone--it's the whole room. GR

Best Place to Drown Investment Sorrows

420 Emerson St., Palo Alto 650.326.0983

Thought a discount broker could whip the other low-risk money market accounts? That kind of thinking can lead to a world of pain. What's needed now is a world of sensory bombardment, a place to forget, the sort of place where Zorba might have gone to dance, eat and drink his troubles into oblivion. Evvia would be that place, filled with laughter and carefree sensuousness--and enough retsina to drown anyone's investment woes. Even if that investment portfolio tanked, dashing dreams of buying one's way into Harvard Business School, a glass of retsina, some garlicky skordalia and a platter of roast lamb perfumed with oregano and lemon will give anyone a new outlook on the recent brokerage fiasco. Throw that last glass of Metaxa into the fireplace and fling those sandals in too. Dancing on top of a table is a sure-fire way to make new friends and lose the investment blues. CW

Best Place for Wall St Journal Over Pancakes

139 E. Campbell Ave., Campbell 408.376.3516

It's easy to fill up an empty stomach at one of Silicon Valley's newest and hottest breakfast spots. At Stacks, in downtown Campbell, locals flock to satisfy their every breakfast craving. Only one problem: many find themselves tortured deciding what to get, because everything on the menu looks so incredibly delicious--veggie-filled crepes, the chocolate and whipped-cream-topped Belgian waffles or the delicious eggs Benedict. Choosing between a huge stack of pancakes covered with fresh strawberries or topped with gulps of sweet maple syrup can be more intense than watching the market tank after Alan Greenspan sneezes. Luckily, everyone leaves Stacks with a full belly and a smile. Dine inside at a booth or a table, at the breakfast bar or under a shady umbrella on the sidewalk. CL

Best Place to Find Out how Elian Is Eating These Days

La Habana-Cuba Restaurant
238 Race St., S.J. 408.998.2822

In many ways Havana, Cuba, is an old-world city, a place of elegant manners and sensibilities. La Habana-Cuba Restaurant re-creates that feeling in the midst of San Jose. The balconied main dining area feels both intimate and enormous at the same time. The royal blue and cardinal red on the chair backs and napkins are rich enough to be a feast in themselves. A succession of waiters and waitresses forms a steady stream back and forth to the tables, never intruding but always looking to catch a diner's eye in case help is needed. The food? Well, the broiled sea bass yields to the knife like melting butter. How do people learn to cook this well? If Juan Gonzales had known about La Habana-Cuba Restaurant, he probably would have stayed a few more weeks. JDT

Best Place to Inebriate a Venture Capitalist

140 University Ave., Palo Alto 650.323.9449 10650 S. De Anza Blvd., Cupertino 408.253.2668

Who wouldn't be inspired to drink merrily in a place that plays bizarre Japanese house and promotes a sake binge-drink called "Tower of Death"? No one I know ever leaves the place sober, and that said, neither will any dining partner--investment, venture or otherwise. So make that pitch! But first, start off light--no bento boxes or combination dinners. Stick to sushi and hand-rolls to ensure that the collared capitalist has enough room for sake bombs, Miyake's signature drink, a mix of Sapporo and hot sake. Don't get too plastered, because you still have to count, in Japanese no less. Tell the waiter to turn off the lights, run the smoke machine and yell, "Ichi, ni, san" ("one, two, three" in Japanese) with the rest of the crowd. Bonzai! GR

Best Way to Avoid the Crash

Cafe Sua Da at Dakao
98 E. San Salvador St., S.J. 408.286.7260

It's 3pm and decision time--surrender to the oncoming coma or find some artificial stimulants to continue through the day? Fortunately, this town is loaded with outlets for legal speed, a delicious Vietnamese coffee import known as Cafe Sua Da. Slowly dripped, industrial-strength French roast mixed with sweetened condensed milk is poured over cracked ice--then down the hatch. Within minutes, life looks bearable again. Located downtown and close to the campus, Dakao offers convenience for both students and cube-slaves looking to score this turbo-charged caffeine and sugar high. KR

Best Corporate Hangover Cure

Original Joe's
301 S. First St., S.J. 408.292.7030

When the Nasdaq plummets, the lure of alcohol can be irresistible. Once down that path, however, hangovers are inevitable. Need a surefire hangover cure? Do what generations of hard-luck cases have done and hit Original Joe's for a Bloody Mary and a plate of Joe's Special. Quick comfort comes in the form of spinach, eggs and ground chuck. Add Tabasco and inhale. Or do as folks have done since the joint opened in 1956: slide into one of those red booths and order up some calf's liver with bacon and onions. Where else can fiscal wounds be licked with homemade Swiss steak? At O.J.'s, they mix the authentic Bloody Mary the way Dino liked 'em--spicy and full of booze. Once spirits begin to revive, grab a perch at the counter, watch the chefs fire up those sauté pans and rethink the portfolio. Mutual funds are best fine-tuned without a head the size of Fremont. CW

Best Place to Spend That Last Pocket Change

Willow Glen Coffee Roasting Co.
1383 Lincoln Ave., S.J. 408.297.9077

When the market hits one of its roller-coaster lows, spending those last nickels, dimes and quarters on a delicious cup of coffee at the Willow Glen Coffee Roasting Co. is a must. Those blues will be washed away with one sip of the Roasting Co.'s famous apricot cream coffee. After tossing in some milk and sugar, little else will matter but getting those hands on another cup. When the stocks recover, it's a good idea to invest in some of the roaster's fresh beans in unique flavors like butter pecan, chocolate, coconut cream, orange and raspberry, vanilla nut, hazelnut and French Vanilla. The roasting company is the only one of its kind in downtown Willow Glen, and it also offers plenty of other caffeine-satisfying beans like Tanzania Peaberry, Kenya, Sumatra Mocca Sanani and even a French Roast named after Vice President Al Gore. CL

Best Place to Stock Up on Supreme Master Ching Hai Propaganda

Vegetarian House
520 E. Santa Clara St., S.J. 408.292.3798

Armed with wonderful meatless delights like Kung Pao Chicken--made with TVP--this house of health sports a cushy-looking bar with fresh juice and sparkling wine. The studious lack of alcohol is undoubtedly an inspiration of the lovely Supreme Master Ching Hai, a Himalayan Oprah-like goddess of sorts who espouses the spiritual virtues of a gastronomically healthy lifestyle. Followers of the supreme master eschew meat, preservatives and spirits of the liquid type. In this temple Xdisguised as a dining room, a floor-to-ceiling TV screen forms the awkward backdrop to a pastel, plushy set of tables where lucky guests are sometimes treated to videos of the master herself discoursing on enlightenment. ML

Best Bar Stool

Sangria Restaurant
721 Willow St., Willow Glen 408.287.9777

After just one trip to test out the saddle bar stools at Sangria Restaurant in Willow Glen, any other bar-hopping experiences seem entirely too bland. Before the first sip of the Mexican restaurant's homemade sangria, the stools create a carnival-ride giddiness and swivel-induced buzz. Somehow, straddling brightly colored seats while shoveling down homemade chips and fresh salsa helps dissolve those pesky social barriers, too. Some foolish ignorants may still believe all Mexican food tastes the same, but anybody who has hopped in the saddle at Sangria realizes that all south-of-the border restaurants--and their bar stools--are not created equal. MS

Best Place to Get Bombed (Bombaloni sona buoni)

Paolo's Restaurant
333 San Carlos St., S.J. 408.294.2558

Everyone is nuts for this dough! Even my friend Johnny Molinari in New York City would love these tasty Tuscan street treats. I don't mean no disrespect for other local doughnut holes-in-the-wall, but hey, this Bombaloni at Paolo's Restaurant is the best doughnut I ever met. Screw Krispy Kreme, we're talkin' the real thing here. Chef Mark Hopper gives credence to the old saying "Nothing good comes easy." The Tuscan Big Bombs take time and patience to prepare and are not particularly fun to make on a busy kitchen night. These yeast-based doughnuts, round in shape, need to rise twice and are traditionally filled with either pastry cream, berries or cherry preserve or even candied rhubarb. Delivered to the table still warm, the Bomboloni dough keeps the sweet cream filling soft and smooth and the chocolate sauce on the outside drippingly delicious. Served two on a plate, this is the desert to savor with a loved one. DC

Best Place to Spend That Early Retirement

A.P. Stump's
163 West Santa Clara, S.J. 408.292.9928

Here's the deal--the ship came in, big time. At only 28, there are no challenges left. The S&P 500 has been scaled, and sudden wealth is a done deal. Lucent Technologies and Notel Networks tripled last week, and that IRA in Cisco Systems has just gone supernova. Clearly this Silicon Valley dotcom success can easily afford to indulge in some of the luxury appetizers created by whiz-kid chef Jim Stump. Gorgeous surroundings encourage gorgeous gastronomy, like Maine lobster and corn pudding soufflé, topped with American osetra caviar. Does that sound too lowbrow? Fine. Call for a starter of Russian beluga caviar with blini and a shot of Stoly neat. Remember, with Putin at the helm, the new millionaire might be able to buy Russia in a few more weeks. And leave room for one of those desserts that looks like a Picasso--Dutch chocolate cake and hazelnut mousse with those fist-sized drums of feather-light chocolate on the side. CW

Best Sure-Fire Way to Strike It Rich

Ben & Jerry's Fudge Brownie
115 E. San Carlos St., S.J. 408.275.8827

Pity the masses who think Ben & Jerry's merely sells ice cream. Everybody knows that B&J's offers some of the best frozen flavors in town, but the elite of dessert culture also know this beloved shop bakes up a downright addictive chocolate fudge brownie. Gooey and sticky in an perfectly underbaked way, the unassuming star makes the ice cream parlor's brownie sundae legendary--a treat that inspires even the most devoted workaholic to toss aside the to-do list and partake in a chocolate pilgrimage instead. For those who don't want to play around with the whipped cream and crushed nuts, the brownie holds its own as a quick, rich, chocolate fix. MS

Best Place to Gorge After a Promotion

Todai Restaurant
388 Eastridge Mall, S.J. 408.270.8301

The wait might be long, and all the neon and overhead lights might invite perspiration, but this sumptuous all-you-can-eat buffet is worth the time to gloriously cry, "I've got stock options!" The chain restaurant--whose name means "lighthouse" in Japanese and lists 14 locations nationwide (a Cupertino location opens in January 2001)--draws as many as 800 to 1,000 customers a day, according to company officials. And for good reason: in the center of the restaurant are assorted sushi, Alaskan crab legs and shrimp cocktails. Around the corner, there are mini fruit-tarts, custards, cream puffs and cakes. Lining the restaurant's walls are all the classic Japanese entrees: teriyaki chicken, tempura, miso soup, seaweed salad, half-shell oysters, barbecued ribs and lobsters. Don't be surprised if it takes three trips to the 160-foot-long buffet table to sample everything. Just remember to wear garter pants. GR

Best Sports Bar to Track Your Fantasy Football Players

Double D's Sports Grill
354 N. Santa Cruz Ave., Los Gatos 408.395.6882

Granted, there are bigger sports bars in the valley, like the preposterously oversized Dave & Busters at the Great Mall. But Double D's has the best menu (the "Scramble to the Border" plate with chorizo is an excellent Sunday brunch offering), acceptably priced beverages and friendly service. On football Sundays, Double D's airs six different games at once on its 21 TV screens. That means a couple of lame morning games--like the recent yawner between the Browns and Bengals--may not be shown. The friendly staff lets patrons remain seated at a dining table for the duration of at least the morning games, though we recommend either ordering extra beverages or tipping generously if you do so. Oh, as for the name--it's not a crass brassiere reference. It stands for the names of the two owners, brothers Dean and Darin Devincenzi. WH

Best Merger of Cool Jazz and a Cuppa Joe

518 Bryant St., Palo Alto 650.327.8954

Just when it seemed as if it had already taken over every street corner, mall and airport, Starbucks went and introduced its new offshoot, Circadia, earlier this year. But believe it or not, this European-style cafe is more than just another coffee factory. It's a restaurant, full bar and concert venue all rolled into one. Admittedly the food is not the main attraction; the gentle ambience is what draws people away from the hectic crowds of University Avenue for hot java and cool live jazz. And Circadia provides live music on Fridays and Saturdays. RC

Best Place to Eat Up When Stocks Drop

The Falafel Drive-In
2301 Stevens Creek Blvd., S.J. 408.294.7886

Since 1966, the Falafel Drive-In has been a classic San Jose spot at which to eat a good, quick meal without spending too much cash and without going to a fast-food joint. In fact, according to San Joseans who frequent the delicious drive-in, it's one of the best-kept local secrets--until now. By day, stock sharks in suits tuck in their ties and fill up on the famous falafels, falafel balls and falafel salads. Men and women in suits chase those mouth-watering treats down with tall glasses of icy lemonades or orange freezies. By night, moms and pops treat the family to a night out at the drive-in, eating under the stars. The drive-in also serves hummus, chicken pitas, gyros, pitta chips, corn dogs, hamburgers, burritos, French fries and milk shakes. Forget the tiring sushi meal and discover the secret drive-in San Joseans have known about for three decades. CL

Best Authentic Japanese Product on the Market

1438 El Camino Real, Menlo Park 650.329.1799 193 Jackson Street, S.J. 408.279.4311

This cozy little Japanese restaurant remains one of Palo Alto's buried treasures. But those who are familiar with the delicious udon (noodle soup) and donburi (rice bowls) meals line up anxiously for the boisterously friendly service at Gombei's. A telling sign of the restaurant's authenticity, the regular crowd is composed primarily of Japanese-Americans. Reasonably priced dishes include scrumptious teriyaki chicken and tantalizingly tasty vegetable tofu, not to mention the daily sushi specials. Parking is a bit of a bear, especially on weekends, and the lines sometimes stretch out the door, but the incredibly efficient service keeps things moving at high velocity. Also, have plenty of cash on hand--they don't take personal checks or credit cards. RC

Best Brasserie for Spying on VCs in the Sun

Left Bank Cafe
635 Santa Cruz Ave., Menlo Park 650.473.6543

On a Saturday afternoon, every woman who walks by this classic French brasserie comments to her stroller-pushing friend, "My husband, Mark, loves it here." Why does he love it? Sure, the steak-frites are great, the tarte Lyonnaise is fabulous and the white wine is crisp, but the real reason to dine at Roland Passot's crowded, cosmopolitan Left Bank is the people-watching and table-hopping. Because it's a casual, quality destination, business types love to use it as a meeting place for discussing insider information and budding tech deals. Watch out for atrocious service; the waiters are cute, but they aren't so quick to replace your dropped shellfish fork. TB

Best Baci

Il Fornaio
302 S. Market St., S.J. 408.271.3399

God bless the Italians. Not only do the bakers at downtown's Il Fornaio churn out decadent treats with reckless abandon, they follow the fine Italian tradition of finding romance in every morsel of life. The cafe's delicious baci--or "kiss"--alassio encases rich fudge filling with tasty chocolate-hazelnut sandwich cookies. Yeah, yeah, everybody knows that money can't buy love. But for 85 cents, it can sure buy moments of passionate bliss while inhaling--I mean savoring--the delicate baked bacis at Il Fornaio. MS

Best Place to Eat Ostrich in Style

The California Cafe
50 University Ave., Los Gatos 408.354.8118

Whether wooing investors or taking advantage of Mom and Dad's visiting generosity, dinner at the California Cafe in Los Gatos never disappoints. This huge space features tons of swanky, plush booths, a gigantic wine list and one of those modern California menus: Asian apps, French sauces, roasted organic meats, fresh fish, cool herbs, etc. We love it for the amazing grilled ostrich, a heavenly steak look-alike that is lean, savory and, honestly, better than most New York strips we've enjoyed. Comfort levels are high, and sure, so are the check totals, but it's worth it. Old Town Los Gatos is pretty cute, too, for the after-dinner stroll. TB

Best Deal for Flapjacks Outside Your Mama's Kitchen

447 S. California Ave., Palo Alto 650.326.6505

When looking for a nice, quiet place to enjoy Sunday brunch, word is that Joanie's cafe is tough to beat. The small cafe draws a steady crowd, so there's often a short wait. But a nice stroll down California Avenue helps work up a healthy appetite for Joanie's plentiful servings. Their pancakes are the tastiest in town--large, filling and with a hint of vanilla. Coincidentally, they are also the best bargain on the menu. (Note: while still cheaper than the upscale neighbors, the majority of Joanie's menu is a bit overpriced.) Grab a cup of rich, hot chocolate, dig into their hearty portions and enjoy the cozy atmosphere. RC

Best Place to Break the Bank on Mouth-Watering Ravioli

La Villa Delicatessen
1319 Lincoln Ave., S.J. 408.295.7851

Nine out of 10 stockbrokers agree that La Villa Delicatessen in Willow Glen is the best place to invest in some mouth-watering ravioli. The gourmet Italian hot spot earned its reputation with the ravioli recipe it has used since it opened in 1947. The secret, say the friendly men working behind the counter, is to use only the very best fresh ingredients. The assortment of handmade ravioli includes meat, cheese, feta, spinach, chicken and lobster. La Villa also carries a number of other feasts for the tummy, like deep-fried calamari, garlic cheese bread, marinated artichokes, eggplant Parmesan and, of course, its famous meat or vegetarian lasagna. Locals say the deli resembles delis only found on the East Coast. Customers can also stock up on red wine, boxed pasta, rich chocolate bars and fresh meats, cheese and breads. Dine on the patio or take it home. Don't let this investment get away. CL

Best Place to Cure a Stock Market-Induced Hangover

Holder's Country Inn
1424 Saratoga Ave., S.J. 408.378.6022 2008 El Camino Real, Santa Clara 408.244.6267

Traces of Long Islands and Cosmopolitans have been known to disappear at this family establishment, following a hearty serving of breakfast goodies and sandwiches. It's hard to go wrong with an omelet soufflé stuffed with sausages, tomatoes, chopped bell peppers and cheddar, and a pile of greasy potatoes mopped up with a helping of biscuits and gravy. Head still pounding? Perhaps a hamburger steak, a two-egg and sausage breakfast, a mushroom burger, a club sandwich, or a piece of homemade pie might do the trick. Those still hurting over that investment that should've spelled retirement should just order a stack of pancakes instead of toast to go with that oh-so-carnivorous omelet of ham, sausage and linguica. Pass the ketchup. GR

Best Eggs With a Side of Venture Capitalism

Il Fornaio
520 Cowper Street, Palo Alto 650.853.3888

It's not that we're all that in love with Il Fornaio. It's fine, you know--spacious, antiseptic, huge, fresh Cal-Italian menu, extended hours--but it's not the loveliest cafe in the world. However, the digerati of our fair valley seem to absolutely crave the place. It swarms with executives breakfasting over biz-dev meetings, developers ripping on java and startup kings lunching with angel investors. It may be a chain, but it's attached to one of the most dotcom friendly hotels on the planet, the Garden Court Hotel, and it's right smack in the heart of Palo Alto. TB

Most Optimal Chai-Making Performance

Mission City Coffee Roasters
2221 The Alameda, Santa Clara 408.261.2221

There are reasons Mission City serves the best hot chai in the South Bay. Keep in mind, though, that it's not on the menu. This baby's only made upon special request. For the premier spicy-sweet treat, order the spiced chai with soy milk and--here's the kicker--a shot of vanilla. Now, other joints have a habit of skimping on the chai mix. Some add more to make it sweeter; some add less, and then it loses flavor. But at Mission City, despite who's preparing it, the chai proves consistently and soothingly decadent every time. Gee whiz, who'd believe it?--this stuff's actually healthy. And the charming old edifice and laid-back atmosphere make this the perfect place to sit, catch up on some reading and make that chai last an entire Sunday afternoon--surely a win-win deal. ML

Best Place to Feed Vegan Venture Capitalist Friends

Pizz'a Chicago
155 W. San Fernando St., S.J. 408.283.9400

If it's at all possible to block out the cheesy (bad pun, sorry) wall decor that is somehow supposed to remind us of the Windy City, the eclectic mix of pizza ingredients, soy cheese among them, makes this shop the vegan bomb. Even for those who've not sworn off animal products, the John Dillinger topped with soy cheese doesn't taste rubbery or fake, as staunch cheese lovers may try to contend. How rare it is to scarf down half a pizza and not have that cheese-plugged, oh-my-god-I-just-ate-pizza kind of feeling. For those who prefer not to have Michael Jordan staring them in the face while trying to relish this little slice of heaven, Pizz'a Chicago kindly delivers. ML

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From the September 28-October 4, 2000 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

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