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The Black Forest Restaurant returns to Los Altos with an international flavor

The Black Forest European Restaurant on First Street reopened about a month ago. Established more than 35 years ago, it's one of the oldest restaurants in Los Altos. And when it came upon hard times and closed its doors for awhile, lovers of German food couldn't get their sauerbraten, wiener schnitzel or bratwurst unless they went out of town - far out of town.

Ron and Darlene Barone recently picked up the Black Forest lease and became the new proprietors. Since they already manage the Adobe Mexican Restaurant in Cupertino, the Barones needed some help getting the Black Forest up and running again. They hired chef Marc Crowe, who knew German food preparation, and Gina Barone, a chef who specializes in Italian cuisine.

It is safe to say the food has been steadily improving since they took over. The two chefs are mastering the kind of cuisine that delight German expatriates who live in our area and Italian food lovers who scour the restaurants for good American food with an Italian influence.

"Los Altos needed a family restaurant with a family atmosphere," Ron said. "So we changed the interior decorations, put in new kitchen equipment and murals of German scenes in the dining room and patio."

Darlene arranged for new decorations, carpet, air conditioning and music system.

"It's been a blessing to us. We are getting a lot of the previous customers and many come down from San Francisco and Palo Alto," Darlene said. "This is a hard working business, but it's a satisfactory business because of interesting employees and the customers you meet."

Gina made a career change to become a restaurant chef. After working in the grocery business for many years, she attended California Culinary Academy in San Francisco and graduated in 1994.

Gina said it's fun working in Los Altos and she's getting to know the people. Many customers who came in for years are asking for special menu items served in the past. "I try to accommodate all those requests," she said.

Crowe served in the military in the Bavarian Alps in Germany. As a military chef he went to numerous German cooking schools and after the service he was chef at Rickey's for German cuisine banquets.

"I'm looking forward to serving Hausenphefer in the next few weeks," Crowe said. "The roasted rabbit will be served in a hunter's sauce which Germans enjoyed."

The most requested item at the Black Forest is Sauerbraten. Marinated, the braised round of beef is served with red cabbage and potato pancakes. Bratwurst (grilled Swiss veal sausage) and wiener schnitzel (veal cutlets) are requested frequently, but the smoked pork chop (Kassler Rippchen) is the house delicacy.

"Not everyone likes German food because it is heavy, so we have a lot of men ordering German cuisine, and women ordering Italian or pasta specialties," Darlene said.

Chicken marsala, an 8 oz. breast of chicken, sautéed in marsala wine, is the number one item served on the Italian side of the menu and linguini with portabella mushrooms is the pasta most requested.

Lunch fares average $6 to $12, and dinner averages $10 to $16. The restaurant is closed Sunday and Monday and serving hours are 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. for lunch, 5-9 p.m. for dinner.

The Black Forest European Restaurant is located at 376 First St., in Los Altos. For reservations, call 948-8687.

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