The Palm West Hollywood Closes Its Doors… but don’t fear, it will re-open soon in Beverly Hills. Here’s my story.
The time is New York City, 1926. Two Italians from Parma, Pio Bozzi and John Ganzi, opened their first restaurant at 837 Second Avenue in Manhattan. Immediately, The Palm restaurant was a hit with the New York elite attracting journalists and cartoonists from the New York Daily Mirror, Hearst and King Features, among others. It was the cartoonists who set the stage for the caricatures on the walls as Bozzi and Ganzi had no money to decorate their new restaurant. In exchange for meals, cartoonists would draw cartoons and caricatures of the restaurant regulars and successful cartoons such as Popeye, Batman, and Beetle-Bailey. It wasn’t long before the caricatures became tradition at every Palm restaurant to follow.
The original menu featured crowd-pleasing Italian meals and fine cocktails, yet staying true to their philosophy – treat guests like family, serve great food, and always exceed expectations – just as family would do. Bozzi and Ganzi added steak and in later years, lobster, to the menu by request. The restaurant was such a huge success the duo decided to expand. First to D.C. and then to the west – West Hollywood that is. Opening October 1975, Hollywood stars and studio execs embraced the beloved dining establishment. The walls began to fill up with caracitures of celebrities, studio executives, and loyal patrons alike, which has served as a tribute to stories of Hollywood past and present.
It was these esteemed Hollywood drawings that first intrigued me upon my inaugural visit in the mid-90’s. As a new arrival to Los Angeles, I had never heard of The Palm restaurant nor sunk my teeth into the now famous three-pound lobster, my favorite dish, of course. Dimly lit with a modest and welcoming bar, I felt like I had stepped into someone’s home drawing room or library. Dining with friends had never been more spectacular. The food was some of the finest I had ever eaten. I sat in a booth absorbing the ambiance like a neophyte Angeleno. It was exciting and comfortable, all at the same time. That’s the way The Palm in West Hollywood will always be remembered, even as the restaurant served its final meals on Tuesday, September 30th.
I recently stopped in to enjoy my final meal at what will go down in my personal culinary history as one of my favorite restaurants of all time. It’s not just that my friend, the former good-looking leading guest-star actor of the 70’s, Dennis Cole, and I shared chardonnays and filet mignon there together and that his caricature is right in the front of the restaurant next to his former wife and Charlie’s Angel, Jacquelyn Smith. Nor is it the memories of eating 4 of the three-pound lobsters and enjoying 2 bottles of champagne with my second husband (and luckily neither having to drive). Nor the dinners with clients and friends and nightcaps after a local play. It’s more than just those memories. It’s the hospitality, the inviting personalities that greet you when you walk in the door no matter if you are an A-list celebrity or the guy or gal who loves LA and chooses to live there. It’s the servers that have been a part of The Palm family some for 10, 20 or 30 years. It’s the way they aim to please and welcome special requests like extra char on a filet, and asking the chef just how does he get those lobsters grilled to perfection yet not overdone? What a thrill to be invited into the kitchen — pre-professional-culinary-expert-days — to view his technique firsthand. It’s not just those memories; it’s the feeling of being in a place where you belong with perhaps a hundred other diners you don’t know. Those are the memories I will treasure.
On my last visit, I sat down, in true Palm fashion, with my friend, Genevieve Morrill of the West Hollywood (WeHo) Chamber of Commerce and asked her to share what The Palm in West Hollywood has meant to her and to the City of WeHo. Right out of the gate she blared, “they are making a huge mistake, huge!” which I immediately flashed on another icon, Julia Roberts, in the film “Pretty Woman”. You know the scene. “The Palm is such an institution,” shares Genevieve. “All this nostalgia is going away.” I agree. Even though generations will be able to enjoy the new Palm in Beverly Hills, there is no re-creating the nostalgia experienced in West Hollywood. “This is the Melrose Triangle”, states Genevieve. The Melrose Triangle, she explains, is one of the most significant gateway developments between Beverly Hills and West Hollywood, both signature cities within the Los Angeles community, and both well loved by celebrities, visitors from around the world, and locals alike. “The Palm West Hollywood has been a relevant part of that era,” states Genevieve. “It will surely be missed.”
“But I don’t expect West Hollywood to crumble when The Palm closes,” Genevieve continued. “There is a big demand for locations here. West Hollywood is exploding with notable stars like Oprah, Drew Barrymore, and Will Ferrell establishing offices and more.” Add to the celebrity factor, high pedestrian traffic, spurring economic growth, and more parking development makes WeHo a community to contend with. West Hollywood is not just holding its own among dining and retail establishments but making its mark as a true destination for everything hip, tasty, and fun.”
While we will miss The Palm in West Hollywood, we will look forward to crossing through the Melrose Gateway into Beverly Hills to make new nostalgic moments at their new location. But, for Genevieve and others like me, we will hold dear to our hearts our memories of the first “west” palm location – The Palm West Hollywood. When I asked Genevieve what her favorite meal was at The Palm WeHo, a broad smile came across her adorable face as she replied, “lobster, of course! And the waiters – their professional career is to be your server! Where can you get service like that?!” And so, The Palm has closed and yet, lives on.
Visit the new The Palm restaurant in Beverly Hills opening November 2014. >> ThePalm.com