La Dolce Vita
Frank Sinatra kept a lot of restaurants in business by the mere mention of his once being there for dinner. And if he was with the "Rat Pack," (mostly Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Jr) it was a done-deal. I think writer, Richard Rushfield, once summed it up when he wrote that having been patronized by Frank Sinatra, became the "George Washington slept here" of our times. However, I had dinner in a lovely booth at La Dolce Vita, facing Barbara Sinatra, Louis Jourdan, (Gi Gi) and a mixed party of "Who's What."
Three producers, Alessandro Uzielli, Ben Myron, and David Simmer have revived the 38-year-old Rat Pack restaurant of choice to its original luster. The "old girl" had a seven-month face-lift. And now as a neighborhood dining room and supper club to Hollywood's elite, the beloved restaurant has become a movie production boardroom by day and ultra-cool celebrity haunt by night.
They have hosted every sitting President since the Kennedy's, and besides being a favorite of Frank and his friends, it drew the Reagan's, Pecks, Douglas's, and Lancaster's; now a favorite of a new generation of studio executives and young "foodies."
Early photos around the room recall "Dolce's" roots, and a brass plaque with George Raft's name is installed in the room's center booth. He was a former owner as well as a regular diner. Just for a bit of irony, down the street at DaVinci's, Dean Martin's plaque is on the booth where he spent his evenings. Whatever trivia you would like to know, Maitre d' Ruben Castro, a veteran of 32-years probably has the answers. But the story about Dean is mine, dating back to his previous booth at La Familiar.
The owners of La Dolce Vita have managed to resurrect the glamour of Old Hollywood, even retaining the restaurant's original menu, recipes and décor. Think of the ambience as a step back into time, or perhaps a step back to the future. "Le" dining room is cozy and intimate with large dark red leather booths over carpeting, surrounded in walls of brick and vintage shaped decorator mirrors. In fact, an entire wall is mirrored so festively that it looks like gift-wrap. In addition, contrasting rhythms of light and shadows are effected by softly lit tiny shaded table lights, faux candle sconces, and living room lamps, adding a sense of privacy to each diner's space. Wine displays are seen throughout the room sectioned in arty wrought iron dividers, certainly a highly stylized scene. And upon entering, most noticeable is the swarm of waiters greeting persons of importance, while the mega celebrities kiss, (or at least hug) the Maitre d'. Well, that's what it's all about, even more so than the cuisine. The service couldn't be more attentive, with bits of tableside cooking and good old fashioned Italian comfort foods. Moreover, the kitchen will prepare any dish requested.
We began our meal with excellent Scampi from a list of eleven appetizers, followed by "Insalata Tre Colore" with shaved Parmesan, (fennel, arugula, and radicchio lettuces). However, other salads include Caesar for two; Shrimp & Avocado; Calamari; and Mushroom. Our pasta was an unusual preparation of Eggplant stuffed with Angel Hair Pasta, paired with fresh chopped tomato & basil.
There are over two dozen entrée choices, with 7-veal varieties; 6-chicken selections; fish; and 4-kinds of steak, plus the "Sinatra Prime." Several broiled sausage dishes are offered combined with different pastas. We shared the Chicken Sausage with mustard sauce; and a second entrée of Sand Dabs, which was my favorite. The kitchen also features Calf's Liver.
Appetizers, Salads, and Soup; $10-$24; Pasta: from $24, for Puttanesca, named after the "ladies of the night," to $36 for Lobster Diavolo; Entrees, $27-$43.
This is one of those places to restart an old flame, and if it doesn't start, at least you would have had a terrific evening. 9785 Santa Monica Blvd., Beverly Hills; Monday through Saturday from 5:00pm. Reservations strongly recommended; (310)278-1845. Valet Parking & public meters in rear of street. Major credit cards accepted. For more information, visit www.ladolcevitabeverlyhills.com