I’m old enough to remember the “good old days” when one of the pleasures of going out to a restaurant was being greeted by the owner; in a fancy restaurant, perhaps a well-trained maître d’ would serve as the owner’s proxy. We would talk about the latest news, wine lists, food selections, and availability. There’s not much of that left anymore. Restaurant owners these days hide in high-rise offices reviewing the financial reports of their several dozen restaurants, and we rarely see the same waiter twice.
It’s different in Europe. I’m writing this from Paris, where we’ve splurged in several world-famous restaurants, each with a chef (and spouse) that peers outside the kitchen to make sure to greet you as you enter the premises. It was disappointing not to see Chef Paul Bocuse at the door of his famous restaurant anymore, nor one of his former wives who took his place since his death. As they say, “that’s life.”
In Santa Monica and the Pacific Palisades, there are some well-known restaurateurs who take pride in being available to greet their guests. One of the owners of Orto is always around to say hello and catch up on family news. Most of the Italian restaurants have an owner watching to make sure everything is running smoothly. Regulars are warmly greeted like old friends in the typical Italian style.
If you’re looking for a restaurant that’s like “the good old days”, try Local Kitchen and Wine Bar. Becky Newman, one of the managers there, is almost always available to greet you with a smile and excellent service. The place is wonderfully managed and I have had delightful experiences with their eclectic menu!
Only in the last couple of years have I occasionally had a cocktail, but the selection here is too good to pass up. And there are about two dozen wines to select from by the glass, none of which are the overly hyped wines on most menus.
The dishes are top quality. I particularly enjoyed the chicken liver mousse and the grilled Spanish Octopus (although I question whether the Octopus really comes from Spain). There’s a genuine pizza oven, but there are so many other wonderful dishes it seems a waste to go there for pizza. I prefer any of the pasta dishes featured on the menu. The duck breast is as good as served in some of the finest French restaurants.
Local Kitchen and Wine Bar is as good as a neighborhood restaurant gets in terms of service, food preparation, and wine selections. I strongly recommend it – and say hello to Becky while you’re there.