People often ask me what my favorite restaurant is, and maybe I still have too much Kenny Shopsin running through my veins (though you wouldn’t know it to look at me), because my first thought is always: Why do you want to go to my favorite restaurant? You should go to your favorite restaurant. My favorite restaurants are my favorites because they’re near to where I live, because I know the menus and maybe also the owners, and because I go often enough that the people who work there show me the love.
The first thing I do when I touch down in New York is stop in to Barbuto Barbuto, around the corner, not the least of which reason is because I receive my packages there. (This isn’t a service they provide to the public, but maybe your favorite restaurant would do this for you.) The last two times I flew back to Los Angeles from New York, before even dropping my bags, I stopped at one of my two favorite restaurants there, Mozza. I count both the Pizzeria and Osteria as one, which I call The Mozzeria. (My other favorite restaurant, because I know you’re dying to ask, is Angelini.) When I landed in L.A. today, I went to the Pizzeria. A few weeks ago, I landed at night and stopped into the Osteria. Both times I had a bite to eat (tri-colore saald; a riff on pasta alla norma–with tomato sauce, eggplant, and ricotta),even though I wasn’t particularly hungry either time. I stopped in, and I got a bite to eat, as a way to touch down, to connect. I’m tempted to compare it to taking the host at mass but I’m sure somebody—lots of bodies—would find that offensive, so I wouldn’t dare. Neither time did I look at a menu because I know the menus, not by heart but well enough to conjure something I feel like eating. Besides, I wasn’t there on an epicurean rendezvous. I was there for the very opposite reason: Like the theme song to Cheer’s:
Be glad there’s one place in the world
Where everybody knows your name,
And they’re always glad you came;
Yeah, yeah, easy for me to say, when my familiar little neighborhood pizzeria has a brilliantly conceived menu, where every item on it is perfectly executed, and just happens to be one of the most coveted reservations in Los Angeles, if not the world. But I like to think that wherever I lived, I’d find my own simple picture of perfection nearby, someplace where they were just glad I came. And, of course, where they serve really excellent food.