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.
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!
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.
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
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.
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