Ok, this really is the last bastion of this sort of dining in LA. The maitre d has been there for over 30 years, he has some stories, that's for sure (and willing to tell even the most embarassing ones about Ronald Reagan; we sat in the Reagans booth), but he's incredibly charming. The room is small, no windows, but awesome. It's just not what dining in LA is nowadays. I loved it. The bar is small, but you can definitely sit for a perfect martini, right next to Frank Sinatra's booth (as I did) so I chatted with the bartender and the owner a bit, who had some good stories to tell about the history.
I guess they're trying to modernize just a bit, so there are a few dishes on the menu that aren't originals (risottos, etc.). We ordered the scampi, incredibly rich, perfectly cooked shrimp. We sopped up the buttery sauce with bread. The caesar salad is prepared tableside, the lettuce is coated with the flavorful thick dressing. Fantastic. Thursdays they have osso buco, so of course we had to order. It was so meaty, fall of the bone and fork tender. Nice saffron risotto beneath. Big bone, but I couldn't get the marrow out, unfortunately.
There was one hiccup. My SO ordered the seafood risotto, but that didn't translate correctly in the kitchen, so at first they brought out the wrong dish. When we said, we ordered the risotto, they took our plates away, apologized profusely and came back a little while longer with two piping hot plates of food. The hiccup: the risotto was not cooked all the way. There was great flavor in the seafood and the broth they obviously used, but the rice was still a little hard and starchy. It wasn't creamy, as a good, well-cooked risotto should be. To me, this could have been a couple of things. They rushed because they screwed up the order, or this is a place for old-school pasta. Simple.
I won't let it deter me for a second visit. I just love the history of the place, the waiters, Ruben. It's just a nice change of pace from the modern bastions of cool. We spent about $150 for two, including two martinis, two glasses of wine.