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>The twinkling lights around the patio and the warm glow coming from inside Il Pastaio beckon everyone to come inside this bustling little trattoria in the heart of Beverly Hills. I’m glad I heeded the call. It takes either patience to stand in line at the door (usually for half an hour or more), or planning (by reserving a few weeks in advance at Open Table) to secure a seat at one of the tiny tables, all literally 6 inches away from each other. This is definitely not the place to have a private conversation, unless you want it to be leaked out to the table next to you or a tabloid.

The hostess was fabulous, holding a table for half an hour during the busy lunchtime rush for a prior reservation (traffic in this area is very congested around lunchtime, so plan on lots of extra time to arrive and park*). The service was very efficient and friendly without being overbearing; whenever the waiter was not in sight the numerous busboys filled in instantly.

The food is the main attraction here since the owner is the famous Drago; the twist here is that this is his trattoria, so prices here are about half of the dishes in his signature restaurant, but made with the same high quality ingredients. From the carpaccio di tonno (tuna instead of beef) with whole caper berries, and the shrimp and papaya salad, to the squid ink risotto (yes it is supposed to be black) and the ravioli with spinach and ricotta. Everything was perfectly seasoned, presented, fresh, and expertly cooked. Since the tables were so close, I can say that the prosciutto and the shellfish plates also looked good (but I can not say for sure since I did not taste my neighbor’s plates).

Il Pastaio is definitely worth the wait and the planning. When you go, try to save room for dessert and an espresso so you can linger awhile watching the street scene; it may not be Rome, but it’s a nice facsimile.

*There is free 2 hour covered parking in the city lot on Canon one block northwest of the restaurant.

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The twinkling lights around the patio and the warm glow coming from inside Il Pastaio beckon everyone to come inside this bustling little trattoria in the heart of Beverly Hills. I’m glad I heeded the call. It takes either patience to stand in line at the door (usually for half an hour or more), or planning (by reserving a few weeks in advance at Open Table) to secure a seat at one of the tiny tables, all literally 6 inches away from each other. This is definitely not the place to have a private conversation, unless you want it to be leaked out to the table next to you or a tabloid.

The hostess was fabulous, holding a table for half an hour during the busy lunchtime rush for a prior reservation (traffic in this area is very congested around lunchtime, so plan on lots of extra time to arrive and park*). The service was very efficient and friendly without being overbearing; whenever the waiter was not in sight the numerous busboys filled in instantly.

The food is the main attraction here since the owner is the famous Drago; the twist here is that this is his trattoria, so prices here are about half of the dishes in his signature restaurant, but made with the same high quality ingredients. From the carpaccio di tonno (tuna instead of beef) with whole caper berries, and the shrimp and papaya salad, to the squid ink risotto (yes it is supposed to be black) and the ravioli with spinach and ricotta. Everything was perfectly seasoned, presented, fresh, and expertly cooked. Since the tables were so close, I can say that the prosciutto and the shellfish plates also looked good (but I can not say for sure since I did not taste my neighbor’s plates).

Il Pastaio is definitely worth the wait and the planning. When you go, try to save room for dessert and an espresso so you can linger awhile watching the street scene; it may not be Rome, but it’s a nice facsimile.

*There is free 2 hour covered parking in the city lot on Canon one block northwest of the restaurant.

>Just down the street from the famous Sprinkles on little Santa Monica Blvd., is the Crumbs Bake Shop, which also serves up scrumptious cupcakes. I actually prefer the Crumbs cakes because I find them more moist, tender, and they have that added bonus of reminding me of the cupcakes I ate as a child in New York (I did not know until I saw their website that the bakery actually originated in New York, which my taste buds told me before my eyes did).

For anyone nostalgic for Hostess cupcakes but wanting one made from scratch with love (instead of chemicals), go to Crumbs and get their version (complete with the white swiggle of frosting on top); if you prefer a Twinkie, they have a cupcake version of that famous treat also. For those who want a more adult cupcake (is there such a thing?), they also have caramel apple, red velvet, coconut, s’mores, and a cappuccino versions.

For early morning customers, they carry a wide array of strudels, croissants, scones, and muffins to go with your morning coffee; you will want to savor every last crumb.

Just down the street from the famous Sprinkles on little Santa Monica Blvd., is the Crumbs Bake Shop, which also serves up scrumptious cupcakes. I actually prefer the Crumbs cakes because I find them more moist, tender, and they have that added bonus of reminding me of the cupcakes I ate as a child in New York (I did not know until I saw their website that the bakery actually originated in New York, which my taste buds told me before my eyes did).

For anyone nostalgic for Hostess cupcakes but wanting one made from scratch with love (instead of chemicals), go to Crumbs and get their version (complete with the white swiggle of frosting on top); if you prefer a Twinkie, they have a cupcake version of that famous treat also. For those who want a more adult cupcake (is there such a thing?), they also have caramel apple, red velvet, coconut, s’mores, and a cappuccino versions.

For early morning customers, they carry a wide array of strudels, croissants, scones, and muffins to go with your morning coffee; you will want to savor every last crumb.

>Since yesterday’s post was all about setting up your own business, today’s post is all about how to get PAID once you decide what you want to sell or service.

For anyone who has ever shopped on eBay or any other online merchant, you probably already know about Paypal. However there are some products or services that don’t work well with paypal or are simply prohibitively expense on the paypal system. If you want to sell a download of a music lesson, how would you use paypal? For anyone who sells digital downloads or tangible products, E-junkie may be a better solution. E-Junkie does not charge for bandwidth or transactions, only for number of products listed (10 products costs $5), and they are flexible on what constitutes a product; a different size or color is a variant, not another product. They are also flexible on how you price your items; you can choose a fixed price or allow the buyer to set their own price. All you do is copy the html from their site to set up your payment.

For those who are more service oriented (or who simply want another less expensive way), try SHOPIT. This is a way to create your own ebay or yahoo store without having to pay for a listing fee. Their service is FREE and you can set up the widget on facebook or myspace (or use html) to sell to your network of friends. They allow you create your own store, post your widget anywhere, and collect your money through several well-known payment options like google checkout and paypal, but they also offer a FREE payment option through Revolution MoneyExchange.

Are you creative and want to sell your custom designs on products? Then Zazzle is the way to go. Instead of having to buy products and pay to put your designs on them, Zazzle will do it all for you for FREE. All you do is create a unique design and they will put your designs on anything from skateboards to t-shirts. They do all the printing and shipping once an order is received and you even decide what price and percentage you want for your talent. The more you spread the word and refer people to Zazzle, the more you can make since they maintain your online storefront FREE. You pay nothing upfront and once your designed products sell, they send you a check, so you risk nothing and have everything to gain.

Free shops, what a great way to start a business!

Since yesterday’s post was all about setting up your own business, today’s post is all about how to get PAID once you decide what you want to sell or service.

For anyone who has ever shopped on eBay or any other online merchant, you probably already know about Paypal. However there are some products or services that don’t work well with paypal or are simply prohibitively expense on the paypal system. If you want to sell a download of a music lesson, how would you use paypal? For anyone who sells digital downloads or tangible products, E-junkie may be a better solution. E-Junkie does not charge for bandwidth or transactions, only for number of products listed (10 products costs $5), and they are flexible on what constitutes a product; a different size or color is a variant, not another product. They are also flexible on how you price your items; you can choose a fixed price or allow the buyer to set their own price. All you do is copy the html from their site to set up your payment.

For those who are more service oriented (or who simply want another less expensive way), try SHOPIT. This is a way to create your own ebay or yahoo store without having to pay for a listing fee. Their service is FREE and you can set up the widget on facebook or myspace (or use html) to sell to your network of friends. They allow you create your own store, post your widget anywhere, and collect your money through several well-known payment options like google checkout and paypal, but they also offer a FREE payment option through Revolution MoneyExchange.

Are you creative and want to sell your custom designs on products? Then Zazzle is the way to go. Instead of having to buy products and pay to put your designs on them, Zazzle will do it all for you for FREE. All you do is create a unique design and they will put your designs on anything from skateboards to t-shirts. They do all the printing and shipping once an order is received and you even decide what price and percentage you want for your talent. The more you spread the word and refer people to Zazzle, the more you can make since they maintain your online storefront FREE. You pay nothing upfront and once your designed products sell, they send you a check, so you risk nothing and have everything to gain.

Free shops, what a great way to start a business!

>With so many companies in turmoil and people all wondering if they will have a job tomorrow, it is comforting to know that you can create your own business with free help from the government. For the following organizations, their goal is to serve small business owners looking to generate a successful enterprise, how refreshing!

Most people don’t even know how to get started, so one way to begin is to take the free online business courses at the SBA. If you never took a course in business or got your MBA, this is the place to get your lessons in how to write a business plan, how to market your service or product, and how to deal with all the legal and competitive components of starting and running a business. Think of it as Business 101, but without the tuition costs of Harvard or the School of Hard Knocks.

Do you have a unique product? Do you need a patent or trademark? Find out what the laws are and register for one here, or learn how to protect one you have.

How would you like to get free business advice from a retired business person? Score is a non profit organization which does exactly that; they even have a free podcast with subjects that deal specifically with the economy, like how to plan during a slow economy.

And finally for some inspiration, check out Entrepreneur’s “Great Minds in Business” which showcases what other innovators have done in the past to help you create your new future.

With so many companies in turmoil and people all wondering if they will have a job tomorrow, it is comforting to know that you can create your own business with free help from the government. For the following organizations, their goal is to serve small business owners looking to generate a successful enterprise, how refreshing!

Most people don’t even know how to get started, so one way to begin is to take the free online business courses at the SBA. If you never took a course in business or got your MBA, this is the place to get your lessons in how to write a business plan, how to market your service or product, and how to deal with all the legal and competitive components of starting and running a business. Think of it as Business 101, but without the tuition costs of Harvard or the School of Hard Knocks.

Do you have a unique product? Do you need a patent or trademark? Find out what the laws are and register for one here, or learn how to protect one you have.

How would you like to get free business advice from a retired business person? Score is a non profit organization which does exactly that; they even have a free podcast with subjects that deal specifically with the economy, like how to plan during a slow economy.

And finally for some inspiration, check out Entrepreneur’s “Great Minds in Business” which showcases what other innovators have done in the past to help you create your new future.

>By now everyone owns a cell phone and could not imagine living without one (some of my friends no longer have a land line); but what if you don’t have a cell phone that works overseas, and you are traveling outside the US?

Only AT&T and T-Mobile offer phones that work outside the US, but if you don’t want to get one of the ones that include GSM (the standard for most other countries except the US and Japan), you can rent one or buy one from Mobal. The company has already gotten good reviews from Time, Inc, and Frommer’s, so they are (hopefully) going to be around for awhile. The nice thing about renting or buying a cell phone for your international use is that you don’t have to upgrade your phone or service contract on your US cell phone to include international calling.

If you buy a phone with Mobal, they allow you to keep an international number and the phone for life with no monthly fees; it is literally a pay as you go plan unlike some of the prepaid phone plans offered here which require minimum monthly fees. The charges are reasonable too; to buy a phone, you have a choice of phones ranging in price from $49-$179 and rates for calls are anywhere from $0.99 cents a minute within the foreign country to $3.95 calling outside the country, (this is the highest price I found for calls to the US from India) and $0.80 text messages. All this is very good value considering that I use AT&T, and my calls from France to the US cost me $1.95 a minute using my US cell phone. If you don’t want to buy a phone, Mobal also offer rentals for places like Japan for only $7 a day (calling the US from Japan costs $1.79 a minute, but text messages are only $0.80 each). Mobal is a UK company so the SIM card they provide with your phone is UK based.

It’s a great option to have a local cell phone when you are traveling abroad, and with Mobal you can leave your US cell phone at home.

By now everyone owns a cell phone and could not imagine living without one (some of my friends no longer have a land line); but what if you don’t have a cell phone that works overseas, and you are traveling outside the US?

Only AT&T and T-Mobile offer phones that work outside the US, but if you don’t want to get one of the ones that include GSM (the standard for most other countries except the US and Japan), you can rent one or buy one from Mobal. The company has already gotten good reviews from Time, Inc, and Frommer’s, so they are (hopefully) going to be around for awhile. The nice thing about renting or buying a cell phone for your international use is that you don’t have to upgrade your phone or service contract on your US cell phone to include international calling.

If you buy a phone with Mobal, they allow you to keep an international number and the phone for life with no monthly fees; it is literally a pay as you go plan unlike some of the prepaid phone plans offered here which require minimum monthly fees. The charges are reasonable too; to buy a phone, you have a choice of phones ranging in price from $49-$179 and rates for calls are anywhere from $0.99 cents a minute within the foreign country to $3.95 calling outside the country, (this is the highest price I found for calls to the US from India) and $0.80 text messages. All this is very good value considering that I use AT&T, and my calls from France to the US cost me $1.95 a minute using my US cell phone. If you don’t want to buy a phone, Mobal also offer rentals for places like Japan for only $7 a day (calling the US from Japan costs $1.79 a minute, but text messages are only $0.80 each). Mobal is a UK company so the SIM card they provide with your phone is UK based.

It’s a great option to have a local cell phone when you are traveling abroad, and with Mobal you can leave your US cell phone at home.

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