Eating with Friends

erc-greenspan-70kb1.jpgI think it must be old age. Once upon a time, when a new restaurant opened, my wife, Peggy, and I were the first in line. We would fight for a reservation, make sure to try the newest new thing, and then tell everyone we knew about our latest dining adventure. We just don’t do that all that much anymore. Maybe we have gotten old.

What we like to do now is eat with friends – the chefs, owners, waiters and bartenders who we have gotten to know because we eat so often at their restaurants.

We have made many friends at restaurants over the last few years. One of our friends is Eric Greenspan, the chef and owner of The Foundry on Melrose and The Roof on Wilshire. Peggy and I met Eric when we were taking a walk on Melrose one Sunday. We saw The Foundry, which was closed at that hour, but as we were looking through the window we heard a “May I help you” boomed from up the street. It was Eric coming to start prepping for the night.

We introduced ourselves and told him we were fans of his cooking from when he was at Patina. We used to go there when it was on Melrose, and we were lucky enough to twice sit at the chef’s table, where we got to watch Eric run his kitchen. Far and away the best theater experience we have ever had.

Eric invited us in to see the restaurant, gave us a quick tour, and then invited us to try out the restaurant for dinner that night. We went and then probably had dinner there on 8 of the next 10 Sundays. By now we have had endless dinners at The Foundry, including a fantastic anniversary party, where Eric designed a menu based on all of our favorite dishes – onion risotto was the group’s favorite. We were at The Foundry the night Eric proposed to his fiancée, Jamie.

From our endless nights at The Foundry, we got to know Lance, our favorite waiter. When Lance moved to Pizzeria Mozza as its maitre d’ we thought we had an in, but even Lance can’t get us bumped in line. We don’t mind, though, as it gives us time to get caught up on his life while we are waiting – he just moved into a new home in the Hollywood Hills that he loves.

Through Lance, we met Steven, our favorite bartender at Pizzeria Mozza, who spends more time discussing wines with us than he should and always makes sure we get a taste of anything new or special. Steven is also recently engaged.

38817501.jpgWhile Eric, Lance and Steven are newer friends, Mario Marino, of Marino’s Restaurant, is an old one. Peggy and I have been going to his restaurant for over 25 years, including on such special nights as when we found out that Peggy was pregnant with our daughter, Sammi – yes, Peggy declined the congratulatory Prosecco – and then, even though Sammi was away at college, we went back on her 21st birthday to celebrate the day. On one of our last visits, Mario introduced us to his newborn nephew. For Mario, everyone is an old friend, and there is nothing nicer than his incredibly warm greeting at the door when you walk in.

Our dear friend Betty Fraser is the chef and owner Grub, the best breakfast and lunch spot in L.A., and now that Grub has started serving dinner we can see her anytime. With Betty, we not only get to see her at her restaurant, but she has gotten us back into trying some new places as we now have a monthly supper club. (She is a bit younger and still has that “let’s see what’s new” drive about her.) Grub has also given us Denise, Betty’s chef/owner partner, and Libby, Grub’s manager.

Finally, our newest friends - and so our newest regular restaurant – are Filippo and Salvatore of Osteria Mamma. I met Filippo and Salvatore at an Italian wine class that I took and when the graduation party was held at their wonderful restaurant, we all became friends over great bottles of wine. Both Filippo and Salvatore are Certified Italian Wine Specialists and Osteria Mamma really has an amazing wine list for a small family-owned and run restaurant. Mama’s homemade pasta is pretty incredible, too.

With age, we have become homebodies who don’t like to stay at home. We like to go out but still be comfortable with those around us. We share births, graduations, engagements and birthdays with our friends, only with this group of friends, we do it in their restaurants while being served great food and wine. It’s not so bad getting old.


Bob Wyman practices entertainment law as a partner in the firm of Wyman & Isaacs, LLP, but spends much of his time eating and drinking in L.A.