NORA'S CAFE FALLOUT . . . It was not a pretty sight. Just five days before Christmas, a Santa Clara County deputy sheriff had to walk customers, some in the midst of their meals, out of Nora's Cafe at 201 South California Ave. to lock the doors and legally evict the café's owners, Nora and Patrick Joulain, who had been unable to pay their rent for several months. The French bistro and crepes restaurant opened in October 2003. "I was devastated, but I had no choice. I had to do it," said Susan Ross, property manager for the corner of the California and Park Boulevard site. "I finally had to file for possession. I just had to. My family has owned that building for 40 years," Ross said. The Joulains could not be reached for comment. But the restaurant may have been an innocent bystander to an unrelated venture. The Joulains were hoping to open a bakery on El Camino but ran into problems, according to Joan Plastiras, a California Avenue retail agent. Paying rent on both properties could have become too much of a burden. So what's next for the corner cafe? "I've had a lot of interest from other restaurants. I'm going to put a great tenant in there," Ross said. "It might be an upscale French bistro, or maybe a Kosher restaurant and deli," she said. Expect a decision "in about a week." The fashionable spot has seen a variety of restaurants over the years. California Crepes restaurant failed to thrive, as did an earlier pasta restaurant, Cafe Maremonti, under the same owner. In the mid-1990s, the "Flying Baguette" restaurant occupied the space, and morphed in 1996 into a more sedate French restaurant, Chez Sophie.
NO SEDER AT SPAGO . . . It had become a tradition. It was the popular Passover Seder, personally prepared by famed chef Wolfgang Puck at his critically acclaimed and pricey Spago restaurant, 265 Lytton Ave. The Passover event was sold out every year, with diners feasting on such items as homemade matzah ball soup, gefilte fish wrapped in cabbage leaves, slow-cooked brisket and coconut macaroons. Passover at Spago's started six years ago when Palo Altan Carol Saal came up with the idea. "It began as a dinner conversation with Wolfgang Puck. His children are Jewish, and he has adopted Jewish tradition. He was already doing a Passover Seder at his Beverly Hills restaurant, so why not here?" Saal recalled. The Seder began the following spring. So why is this year different from all other years? "It just didn't work out this time. Maybe we'll do it again next year," a Spago employee, who asked not to be identified, confided. The disappearance of the Passover Seder at Spago's caught many in the Jewish community by surprise. "I'm very disappointed. I went for the first time last year, and it was great," said Shelley Hebert, head of the Campus for Jewish Life. "I was hoping I wouldn't have to cook this year," said another Palo Altan, a single mother with three sons who has been attending for the last few years. "My boys loved it. We'll all miss it."