It's been 3 years since I last wrote a post in a series I called "Dining Out With Mad".
I don't know why I never continued it. Could it have been a subconscious response to a pattern developing with the first 2 entries (Cafe Ruba RIP and Woe is Burger King )? The 3rd entry didn't see the pattern continued, afterall. :-D
Besides...the "pattern" actually got its start a few months after I began blogging, in 2002 and anyway, even though I blogged about the experience at the time, I didn't learn until 2007 the fate of the restuarant in question!
In oct. 2007 I sat down to make a few additions, and slight rewrites, to my original story, in light of this news, but the rewrite has sat in a file on my computer, all but forgotten until today when I came upon it once again. :-D
I think it's time I share that new version at last.
When in Rome...
Enjoy a fancy and tasty meal...
In June 2002, while leisurely perusing the Los Angeles Times, lo and behold but what should I see? A 2 page ad with a coupon for a free meal! Now FREE is The Mad Macedonians favorite 4 letter F-word in the whole wide world, you understand, so I just had to know more. There was a new Italian Restuarant in West Hollywood and, just so there's no doubt it's Italian, there was a menu in the ad to prove it!
The place was called Rome Italian Cucina and was located at 9000 Sunset Blvd., West Hollywood.
World reknown Executive Chef Shad Davis opened the place the previous month and apparantly decided to spend a week giving out free 4 course meals to anyone waving one of these coupons and who either came alone, or dragged 1 to 3 other people through the door of the establishment with them.
The meal included choices of appetizer, salad, entree, and dessert. As far as drinkies were concerned, you would be on your own so come prepared to pay the piper. :-D
The Mad One is here to tell you that, while my evening experience was amazing, I didn't feel like I was visiting an exotic land ( West Hollyweirds' undeserved reputation not withstanding ), and the dining experience itself wasn't unique. The food and the service was, well, let me begin at the start of the evening, 8 hours before chow time...
I decided Monday night that going to Rome would be an interesting experience. So I hopped the bus for a 2 1/2 hour trip, that got me there at 530pm. The line was a block long, with a street to cross toward the front. Not a good sign. There were people who had been in line since 2pm. Another bad sign. As a reference point I noted I was 3 trees from the corner.
Yup, you guessed it! Not a good sign!
By 6pm the line was 2 blocks long and looked like it could eventually threaten to interfere with the access of decent folk to the entrance to Hugh Hefners' Hustler Emporium down the street. :-D
Not long after 6 a nice gentleman came out and went down the line, for the first of numerous times thru the night, detailing how us poor saps 3 trees back, and beyond, had a remote, if that, chance of even getting seated for the last call to the trough at 1am ( this is my fancy way of saying he was kindly breaking the bad news to us and hoping it would persuade some folks to seek sustinance elswhere ), and anyone with health problems, or the inability to stand for long periods might want to reconsider their options for the evening.
He wasn't trying to fool us or anything, just covering his behind in case the more stubborn and hardy among us stuck around long enough to be inside still waiting for a table at 1am, and were told for the last time it wasn't gonna happen.
As the evening progressed alot of people ahead of me in line, and even more behind, lost their urge for a free meal, and left. Interestingly that didn't stop folks from showing up as late as midnight and as the ranks ahead shrunk, I found myself standing on the corner by 1030pm optimistically following the advice of the very Reverend Jesse Jackson and keeping hope alive. :-D
Over the years each time I saw lines like this, outside Clubs and Restuarants, I'd laugh and shake my head at the folks in line. Now, here I was experienceing how the other half lived! :-D
The conversations and cameraderie one developes with ones fellows in these circumstances is part of the charm of enduring it. As passers-by asked us what the heck we were doing, we, for the most part, did what was expected of us and were living advertisments for the restuarant. But after 3 hours we did begin to vary our responses a bit, and enjoyed the reactions of the askers:
Bush was giving a speech!
Russel Crowe was making an appearance!
Ditto Britney Spears!
We were actors auditioning for a porn shoot!
There was a free give-away of "toys" at the Hustler store!
A few intellectual souls, such as myself, brought a book along to help pass the time.
Maceyugoserbulgarigreekadonians have strong constitutions, and a stubborn streak, but still...
We had no idea we'd be in line for 6 hours on the sidewalk and be inside, waiting, for nearly another 2. My immediate neighbors, behind me in line, for the last 4 hours were 3 nice young ladies named Wendy, Julie, and Teresa, and as we munched on the occasional tiny morsels brought out on trays to the line, we talked, laughed, and sent out the occasional scouting party to the restuarants restrooms to drool in envy at the diners already inside, count the folks in line, and then guess our chances of getting one of the available 110 or so seats for dinner.
Finally inside, we claimed a spot near the bar, and settled in to wait, fully understanding our chances were slim. I nursed a $4.50 bottle of Corona, Wendy had a more expensive and potent libation, and Julie fell asleep on a couch. Teresa? She was our scout and bringer of increasingly worse, and worse, news as time marched relentlessly on.
Upon entering we had added our names to a 2 page waiting list: Me, Wendy and Julie, then Teresa in that order.
As we got to 1230am the 4 of us decided to sit together if it increased our chances of being seated, and settled on our menu choices based on what was listed in the ad. Admittance inside seemed to have been stopped at midnight and the remaining folks in line sent home.
As we got closer to 1am Teresa scoped out who was finishing up their meals and who was still stuffing their faces with no end in sight, and calculated the odds of our names being reached. The news was not good. We decided to let Julie sleep until the last possible moment, and waited. Right before 1am I spotted a solitary person being seated, and my companions urged me to see if the guy would share a table with me.
What did I have to lose, they said. I came the farthest and they could afford to go to these places whenever they pleased, so go for it, they said. We had just learned that we were moments from being turned away.
I asked the man ( named Paul ) and he said, sure if the folks up front said yes. They did, and I was in! ( That famous MM Charm, heh, heh! )
So, apparently, was another man, who it turned out showed up at midnight after the line was gone and was let in, saw what I just did, and followed in my footsteps. 3 minutes later the bad news was given to the unlucky few survivors of this nights marathon, and I think some sort of compensation was agreed upon to send them all home somewhat happy, though still searching for dinner.
Paul, Don, and I appeared to have been the last ones seated.
My 3 Lady friends, and I, said good-bye and they were genuinely pleased that at least one of us made it to the Promised Land as my 2 new acquiantances, and I, settled in to order and eat.
The prices of the 4 items I ordered would normally be, in order of appearance, $8.75, $8.50, $17.50, and $7.
Prices on the menu ranged from $6.75 to $26.50 [ For the Philly Mig Non, ya know! :-D ], and as for the drinkies, the booze was $4.50 and higher depending on your poison. :-D
I ordered the following items:
1. Antipasti Alla Romana: A sampling of Italian favorites including Bruschette, Caponata, Crostini, Finocchione, cheeses, & other tasty morsels.
2. Cesare Salad: Hearts of Baby Romaine with Ceasar dressing and freshly shaved Parmigeano-Reggiano.
3. Scaloppine Di Vitello: Several pan seared, thinly pounded Veal Cutlets with mashed potatoes and sauteed spinich, in lemon, caper, and butter pan sauce.
4. Budino Di Cioccolata Bianca E Nera: White and dark chocolate mousse with fresh raspberries in a warm dark chocolate glaze.
I ordered 2 glasses of coke to wash it all down with, and my companions stuck to guzzling water with their choices.
Now, I'm no expert food critic, sniffing and staring at the munchies, looking for every bad smell, burn mark, redness, and wrinkle, swirling things around in my mouth in order to judge its fragrance, bouquet, and what not, thereby, in my mind, taking away considerably from one's ability to simply enjoy a decent meal, well prepared.
I can only give you the considered, cultured opinion of a person of my ethnicity, so bear with me... :-D
All 4 dishes looked far too beautiful to spoil by eating. I was reminded of several 17th, 18th, and 19th century watercolours of food dishes that I once saw at the Getty Center.
But, it's a dirty job, and I came to Rome to do it and so, do it, I did.
The servings were plentiful and that goes for all the dishes I saw around the room. All 4 dishes were delicious! The Cesare was the best I've ever tasted. The Scaloppine was outstanding, and I especially savored the Veal Cutlets. The Budino was to die for! The chocolate tasted different than any I'd had before.
Our waiter, Eric, was excellent. He was friendly, and helpful in answering questions, and took my teasing question about the sex of the Moose, in good natured stride.
The seating in the restuarant was plentiful, and they had 2 waiting areas, in addition to a well stocked bar. You gotta love a place with a bartender sporting tattoos, and a bartendress with turquoise colored hair. :-D
Fine wooden tables and plush blue velvet seats made for a pleasant and comfortable space to sette in to eat. The ceiling was covered by 43 religiously themed paintings, or frescoes, with a handful of tasteful nudes, and semi-nudes, among them. The walls had about a dozen imported Itallian Battle Shields. around the room.
We finished dining around 215am and I was pleasantly suprised to learn I didn't have to pay the $4 for my cokes when we got the $0.00 bill.
I left $4 as my part of the tip for our waiter.
A $45.75 dining experience cost me absolutely nothing, and for me the 8 hour wait was well worth it.
I rarely have had the opportunity to munch on fancy food in fancy digs, and this was a wonderful evening out on the town. I had just enough money left for bus fare home. :-D
Since Paul lived near downtown LA we walked the 20 minutes to the nearest all night bus together, and when we reached his stop we shook hands and went our seperate ways. I arrived home at 530am, that morning, and promptly went to bed until noon.
I'd heartily recommend Rome to anyone visiting the LA area, and I'm quite sure your wait to dine, if any, would have been miniscule in comparison to what folks had to deal with back then, except for one thing.....
Rome Italian Cucina came to LA planning to take the highly competitive Restuarant scene by storm, with their bold offer. They ran the Free Meal Promotion for a week, hoping they'd get repeat customers who would pay the regular prices the menu reflected. Something, unexpected by the brain trust, happened on the way to Dining Immortality, that I only recently learned about...
The restaurant folded within 90 days. :-D
Look, I in no way want you to think that you will have to dash out the door, as soon as you read a posting, and make a beeline for an eating establishment before it closes for good, all because I, the Greatest Food Critic with Maceyugoserbulgarigreekadonian blood in his veins to bless America with his opinions, graced the place with my presence.
The 3 fine estabishments mentioned in this post were exceptions.... honest. :-D
As for Shad Davis...He went on to other restuarants and bigger and better things, still a major player on the Los Angeles dining scene, to this day.
Want a professional journalists opinion of his own experience?
Big Sell on Sunset: At a new restaurant, the price is right. And five hours later, your table is ready by Russ Parsons of the Los Angeles Times