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NYT: "The Once and Future Spago"


Restaurants & Bars 28

NYT: "The Once and Future Spago"

ipsedixit | Oct 31, 2012 10:17 AM

From the article:


Nancy Silverton, an owner of Osteria Mozza and Pizzeria Mozza (and a graduate of the Spago kitchen), said she picked up the telephone the other day to hear Mr. Puck’s unmistakable voice. “He must be under an incredible amount of pressure, with the transition, the expectations,” she said. “But he called me up and said, ‘Mama’ — he always calls me Mama — ‘Mama, how come you haven’t made a reservation to come to my restaurant?’ ”

The very fact that Spago Beverly Hills continues to exist, much less prosper, is striking at a time when the Los Angeles restaurant scene is so dynamic and punishing. Over the last year, some of this city’s most popular spots have announced they were closing: Angeli Caffe, Campanile, Sushi Nozawa and Lou among them. One place on Los Angeles Magazine’s list of this year’s 10 best new restaurants that was all but impossible to get into eight months ago had empty tables on a recent Friday night. The extravagance Mr. Puck championed at Spago has taken a back seat to restaurants that are quieter, smaller, more adventurous and less pricey.

“It’s a very different world now,” Ms. Kleiman said. “It’s not like where it was 10 years ago, when a lot of people could go out and eat at fine dining places on expense accounts. I think people in their 30s or 40s don’t think about going to Bouchon and Spago.”

Mr. Puck has tried to accommodate them. At this latest of Spagos, he jettisoned two staples, the smoked salmon pizza and the Wiener schnitzel (though he said he would be glad to make either for old-time customers who ask) as he dappled his menu with dishes like a veal filet mignon tartare with smoked mascarpone, and a soba pasta studded with pieces of Dungeness crab. His challenge, Mr. Puck said, is rolling out innovative dishes that would bring in new diners without frightening the horses — the patrons who have been eating at Puck restaurants from the beginning.


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