OLD SCHOOL HOLLYWOOD FARE DOESN’T GET ANY BETTER
When someone recently asked where I wanted to go to celebrate a milestone birthday, my answer, without any hesitation, was Dan Tana’s, hands down the best old school joint in town.
Sure you can make an argument for Musso & Frank, since it’s the oldest restaurant in Hollywood, but personally, I don’t think anyone does it better than Dan Tana’s who celebrated its 40th anniversary in 2004. A tiny restaurant next to the Troubadour, its 20 tables are always packed, often with notable entertainers and Hollywood power players (Phil Spector dined there right before he allegedly shot actress Lana Clarkson). The red-walled Italian favorite is adorned with Jerry West and Vlade Divac Lakers jerseys, and features waiters dressed in tuxedos. Most of the delicious menu items are all named after celebrities who frequent the place, most recently George Clooney who has the Veal Cutlet Milanese named after him.
For anyone old enough to remember the hit series “Vega$” starring Robert Urich, his character was Dan Tanna, named after the restaurateur who funny enough is not Italian but a former soccer player from Yugoslavia.
Be forewarned that the restaurant is very small, it has a ski loft feel to it, and the tables can be cramped so it’s not really an ideal place for a big dinner party. It’s a squeeze for four so make sure you go with people you don’t mind rubbing elbows with.
I suggest starting off with a stiff cocktail, they don’t fool around with their drinks here. And make sure to order the Nika’s Caesar Salad or a la Sara Jayne, it’s the best Caesar Salad in town. Made personally to order by your waiter, this salad has a very strong anchovies taste but as soon as you take that first bite you’re in Heaven.
The portions are pretty big at Dan Tana’s, and since it’s not cheap, you may want to skip on any appetizers besides the Caesar and just get right to the entrees. My favorite dish is the Veal Scaloppine, Karl Malden, served with three delicious portions of veal pounded thin and topped with breaded eggplant. I’m not an eggplant fan but you can’t find a better dish in town. The veal is so tender and the eggplant comes seasoned and prepared in a wonderful sauce with lemon, capers, butter and wine. Make sure to scoop every last drop of the sauce with the bread you get at the beginning of your meal. And do note that all entrees come with a side of pasta with your choice of tomato, meat or garlic sauce so as you can see there’s plenty of food.
Another favorite I’ve found is the hearty Chicken Parmegiana, Ted Demme. Breaded and loaded with cheese and sauce, it’s a simple dish and not as bold as some of the other choices but comfort food doesn’t get any better.
And if you’re in the mood for fish, the White Fish, broiled of sautéed, as well as the Swordfish, broiled or a la Dino Conte, do not disappoint. These both come with a side of steam vegetables as well as a side of pasta.
If you have any room for dessert, believe me, that’s not always the case, the Cheesecake Deanne, as well as the Chocolate Mousse Deanne, and the Spumoni (simple yet savory), are the way to go. Known as the Cheesecake Lady, Deanne has been serving Dan Tana’s with her decadent treats since 1968.
You may find more authentic Italian fare elsewhere, but a night at Dan Tana’s is a combination of a great meal, wonderful ambiance in a damn cool setting. This is Old Hollywood personified without the pretension or the angst.
Dan Tana’s is located at 9071 Santa Monica Boulevard, West Hollywood, CA 90069. Call 310-275-9444. Hours: 5pm - 1:30am daily.