LUNCH CLUB’S SNEAK PREVIEW OF MADEO

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October 1, 2017 · Posted in Commentary 

Lunch group with Madeo owner Gianni Vietina (standing). All photos by Barry Stein.

 

By Bob Vickrey

Our monthly lunch club decided to check out Madeo Italian Restaurant in West Hollywood after it was announced that our town will have its own branch of the famous trattoria when the new Palisades Village Project opens in 2018.

Madeo is known as one of the best Italian restaurants in the city of Los Angeles and it also has a reputation as a place where first-time customers may flinch at their menu prices. But our group appreciates fine food, so we forged ahead after draining our bank accounts beforehand.

I took a quick look at the online menu before arriving and noticed the Dover Sole, which is flown in from Holland—and is all yours for $72. Maybe their printed menu would offer a trout amandine entrée (“trucked in” from Malibu Creek) at a slightly friendlier price.

Our special guest this trip was longtime Palisadian Alan Eisenstock who was a former television comedy writer before becoming a successful author. He remains a passionate Red Sox fan after growing up in Western Massachusetts. He went to graduate school at the University of Michigan, which also happens to be the alma mater of our founding lunch club member Josh Greenfeld.

After college, Alan headed to Hollywood to write comedy, and rather miraculously, landed a job in his first week writing for the Smothers Brothers television show. He worked in television for 26 years, writing and producing numerous shows, such as “Sanford and Son,” “Mork and Mindy,” and “Family Matters.”

He has written 15 books including “Ten on Sunday,” “The Kindergarten Wars,” and “Raiders! The Story of the Greatest Fan Film Ever Made.” Next April, his new book written with L.A. Lakers legend Elgin Baylor: “Hang Time: My Life in Basketball” will be published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

I was pleased that we were going to Madeo for a mid-day meal instead of at dinner time when we might risk being hounded by the paparazzi that are known to stalk the Hollywood elite who frequent the restaurant at night. Our lunch club likes to keep a low profile during our monthly outings, so we wore our dark glasses just in case.

The interior of Madeo offers an old-school setting featuring authentic Northern Italian cuisine and served by waiters wearing white dress shirts and vests. The entrance has a bunker-like feel as you descend the stairway and enter the dimly-lit basement. The adjoining dining room beyond the entrance features comfortable booths that offer relative privacy.

While we carefully studied the menu, Arnie sat patiently with his menu closed waiting for the rest of us to make up our minds. He always cheats and studies the online menu the night before and knows exactly what he wants.

Alan decided on the “Fusilli Puttanesca” with olives, capers, and tomato sauce, while Arnie opted for the “Ravioli Ricotta Spinachi” filled with Ricotta cheese and spinach in a butter sage sauce. Barry and I both decided on the same dish—the “Risotto Mare” with shrimp, clams, and crayfish. (Later, he would describe his risotto as simply “good,” while I went a step further and dubbed mine “sensational.”)

We topped off our excellent meal with cappuccinos and ordered a dessert combination of Cannoli and Millefoglie (Italian custard in a puff-pastry cake.)

Special guest Alan Eisenstock faces dessert dilemma.

Alan was good company and made us laugh just like he had done with television audiences in years past. And what would a “guys” lunch gathering be without the obligatory discussion of who was the greatest ball player of all time—Mantle or DiMaggio? Alan had the audacity to introduce his favorite Red Sox player Ted Williams into the argument. The nerve!

It later occurred to me how much these lunches represent escape from the real world for our group when I realized there was not one mention of North Korea, hurricane disasters, or Donald Trump.

We met Madeo owner Gianni Vietina, who will manage the Palisades location. I asked him the sensitive question about their upscale pricing and whether this model would work in a neighborhood setting. He assured us that prices there would be tailored to a more family-friendly audience. He also added that the Palisades location would serve breakfast, as well as lunch and dinner.

I was relieved to find out the atmosphere would be more informal at the Palisades site where we won’t have to worry about the paparazzi bothering us. I found out how difficult it can be to read a menu in a dimly lit room while wearing dark glasses.

 

Bob Vickrey is a writer whose columns appear in the Houston Chronicle and the Waco Tribune-Herald. He is a regular contributor for the Boryana Books website. He lives in Pacific Palisades, California. 

 

Alan and Bob decoding L.A. parking signs on Beverly Boulevard.

 

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