GTO 3987 on Mulholland

GTO 3987 on Mulholland

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Cyrano on the Sunset Strip

The celebrated bit of road known as the Sunset Strip has gone through a lot of changes since I first made its acquaintance by watching 77 Sunset Strip on television and having customary Sunday brunch with the family at Scandia or occasionally reserving Scandia's wine cellar for exclusive dinner parties where one is attended by staff separate from the service in the restaurant upstairs. In the mid-to-late 60s, I visited the Strip on weekends--cruising night--in my Ferrari GTO and spent afternoons having (pre-Starbucks) cappuccinos at the Via Veneto hanging out with friends and people-watching--much as I do at Caffe Primo today--and using the Ferrari Breadvan and GTO with Matthew Ettinger to maximum effect, if you can imagine. Gazzarri's would later be memorialized in John Cassavetes' The Killing of a Chinese Bookie where it was seen as The Crazy Horse West. Nicky Blair's still occupied a spot near Sunset Plaza Drive and Dino's Lodge, featuring the likeness of Dean Martin on the front of the restaurant, was a going concern. Long before it disappeared to be replaced, ultimately, as my favorite Strip restaurant by Le Petit Four (where I filmed my 'talking heads' for Elysée Wednesday: Drive!), my dining room on the Strip was Cyrano.

The elegant, mahogany paneled brasserie with low-key lighting offered delicious, continental food and the service was excellent. I always had the same waiter who, given his accent, might have been French, more likely he was Belgian but--if you are a betting man or woman--you would put your money on the probability of his being from Nebraska. He was very attentive and knew our preferences. More often than not, he could place our order without being told what we wanted. Furthermore, he never told us "Enjoy" which is one of the characteristics of a truly great waiter, if I may say so.

Gio, which everyone seemed to pronounce as 'Gee-oo' rather than the correct 'Jo', was the maître d' who knew a thing or two about the restaurant business and hospitality. Many was the time that I arrived at the peak of their busy hour--alone or in company with friends--finding myself behind a crowd of people at the door waiting for a table. Gio would see me and motion us in through the crowd seating us immediatamente. There's no place like home!

Evenings at Cyrano were memorable for the food, the service and the company. I remember one evening conversing with Matthew Ettinger and Warren Oates at the bar. You would think we would be talking about movies but it was more of a philosophical discussion and I'm not sure any of us knew what we were talking about, which made it no less memorable.

If one were to ask me what made Cyrano particularly special, I would have to say that, whenever I dined there with Matthew, it was always a contest to stick the other with the bill. I don't know that either of us kept score but we were well matched as competitors in this game. Since we both knew what was coming, the point was to make our escape in a manner that was unpredictable.

I believe I scored the last shot before Cyrano finally closed. Matthew and I were having dinner with our girlfriends and as the meal was winding down, I advised Judy, my girlfriend at the time, to excuse herself as though she were headed for the powder room and wait for me in the car. A moment or two later, I made the same move but not before letting the waiter know in an aside that it was Matthew's birthday and would he please bring a cake with candles.

Matthew was making his own plan to sneak out with his girlfriend before Judy and I returned to the table but before he could make good his escape, he was met with several waiters singing Happy Birthday and expecting him to blow out the candles. By this time, I was down the road wondering where to go for desert. My car phone buzzed (pre-cellphone) and I confirmed Matthew's suspicions and thanked him for the meal. Let it be said, though, that Matthew gave as good as he got...

There are all sorts of attributes that make a restaurant special. Cyrano had them all.

No comments: