Hollywood Boulevard has come up and gone down and come up again over the past 50 years, and Miceli’s has taken up a spot just south, on Las Palmas, for those same 50 years; I think there must be a Chianti bottle hanging from the ceiling for every meal I’ve eaten there over the last 17 of ’em.
A short chronology:
1982: Graduate from college, move to Hollywood, start going to Miceli’s. I don’t recall how I stumbled upon it — must have been fate.
1982–1988: Me and Tasha, or Liz, or Rachel, and an assorted cast of characters eat at Miceli’s so much that Eddie, the maitre d’, puts a bottle of wine on the table as we walk through the door.
1988: First date with future husband. We go to Miceli’s. He likes it; I like him.
1990: Get married at Blessed Sacrament, everyone (it was a small wedding) parades up to Miceli’s for reception. We all eat in what is now "The Basement," surrounded by the fabulous Day-Glo wall paintings of a grape harvest, complete with the hordes stomping grapes.
1994: Neal and Colleen close escrow, which coincides with my birthday, we go to Miceli’s. I choose the restaurant, because it’s my birthday.
1995: First restaurant outing with 2-month-old daughter, meet George and Deborah at Miceli’s. It’s pouring, absolutely pelting rain, and Deborah’s car gets towed. We end up at the Police Garage on Mansfield, and it’s suddenly become quite the expensive evening.
1997: Anniversaries, out-of-town guests, birthdays, we always go to Miceli’s.
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1998: Liz calls, "Let’s go to dinner." Okay, I tell her, ’bout 7. We hang up and I realize we never even said the words, but that night we met at Miceli’s.
It’s a treat to see a short stint by Keith Caruso behind the bar. He’s half of the famous Identical Twin Bartending Team, Keith and Kerry Caruso, formerly of the much-missed Firefly. There’s none of the infamous bar lighting, even though it is dark inside the place. You can have star sightings, too. I’ve seen Julia Roberts and Jason Patric, and Julia Roberts and The Edge, but that’s not what Miceli’s is about. It’s about a restaurant that feels the same today as when I first walked in, and probably feels the same as it did 17 years before that. It’s about a place where I can always take friends from out of town for a reasonable, dependable meal. My Vancouver musician friends loved the open-mike night we saw not too long ago. Bill and I take our daughter to Miceli’s; we sit in the deep red booths, think perhaps she might do the same one day.
Foodwise, it’s best to keep it simple; pizza, with cheese and onions, is a good bet, plenty of stretchy mozzarella and tangy onions; or spaghetti marinara with a side of big meatballs. There’s terrific blue-cheese dressing on the house salads, peppery and chunky with cheese. But the highlight is the basket of steaming rolls that’s placed on a fire-lit riser as soon as you sit. It’s tempting to plow through every doughy piece, but then you’ll have no room left for dinner. Those rolls and a glass or two of Pinot Grigio, and I’m set. I still order pizza, though, so I can have it for lunch the next day.
The beautiful people crowd into Les Deux Cafes, with whom Miceli’s now shares the parking lot. Hollywood looks to be on its way up again, what with all the improvements in the works for Highland and Hollywood, and the Cinerama Dome project. Maybe this time is the real deal. No matter. As deals go, Miceli’s is the realest. Maybe I’ll call Liz and see if she’s busy tonight. It’s a good night for sipping and chatting, and Pinot Grigio with pizza would hit the spot. 1646 N. Las Palmas Ave., Hollywood; (323) 466-3438.