You know a restaurant hinges on closure when there is no soap present in the bathroom. At least the crème de violette from the last drop of an Aviation lingers in your mouth when the following question arises: Did the chef wash his hands before touching the pan-seared scallops? Who the hell cares.
Somewhere between potential psychological affliction and the bells of heaven lies purgatory; i.e. a twenty-five minute wait between a reserved seating and perfected Crisp Flattened Chicken served with mashed potatoes and garlic confit. Usually, I bypass poultry opting for something more rarified. But, everything other than the scallops and chicken felt too autumnal for a warm October evening. The grilled pork chops with saffron orzo and aged prime rib with flageolet beans, bitter greens with black olive tapenade seemed best served in weather under seventy degrees. Welcome to LA.
Once the dishes arrived, we were in ecstasy – minus the moments the waiter reached across the table (instead of serving from the right). This caused the greatest controversy. Yet, what does one expect when most of the staff has fled to secure employment at other establishments?
Overheard: A guest asking an employee the direction of the restroom. The server responded that he did not know. He was hired to help for the night.
The evening turned bittersweet when Campanile’s famed Apple Cheddar Tart was placed in front of us – only to be trumped by the Boca Negra with orange buttermilk sherbet. As the meal unwound, stories were passed around the table about the restaurant’s glory days; when everything ran with a smooth hustling buzz. For the first-timer, dining at the landmark leaves a wistful yearning to pick at the crumbs of potential meals missed. With the constant opening of new restaurants and feeding trends, it is easy to ignore the gastronomic buttresses that Angelenos take for granted – only to unearth them near death.
To experience Campanile for the first and/or last time, make reservations to attend their all you can eat and drink closing dinner. The event takes place from 5:30 to midnight on October 31st. Tickets are $89 and required for entrance.
For more information: 624 S. La Brea Ave., Los Angeles, (323) 938-1447, www.campanilerestaurant.com