Walking into the new restaurant and lounge the Nice Guy, with its mod yellow and white floral-patterned booths and wood paneling, is like taking a step back in time. You half expect to see Warren Beatty walk through the door, flanked by a young Diane Keaton.
The throwback restaurant, which is scheduled to open Friday, is the latest venture by John Terzian, Brian Toll, Markus Molinari and Adam Koral of The h.wood Group, which opened Bootsy Bellows, Hooray Henry's and Shorebar. It's what Terzian calls a passion project that he's been wanting to do since he started in the restaurant and club business 10 years ago.
"We wanted to stick to the theme of the nice guy, family atmosphere, dinner with grandma and friends hanging out," said Koral.
In the corner, there's a piano with a microphone stand, ready for an old-school lounge singer with big hair. The space was designed by John Sofio and Sormeh Azad of Built Inc. Sofio said he went for a late '70s, early '80s look, describing the space as having a "Good Fellas lounge vibe."
"With the name, Nice Guy, we thought how can we make it seem like the mafia, or our mafia family?" said Koral. "And we've got a good reputation for being some of the nicest guys in the industry." "We just try to finish first," added Terzian.
There's a large marble-top bar with chevron-stripe paneled mirrors, a small lounge area in the back, a main dining room and two patios. There's also a special chef's table in the kitchen called "the surveillance room." Behind the table there's an evidence board with photos of crime bosses mixed in with members of the restaurant staff, and under a couple boxes of linguine sits a vintage recorder.
John-Carlos Kuramoto, formerly at Michael's in Santa Monica, is helming the kitchen. In step with the warmed-over mob conceit, the menu is Italian-skewed, but with more to offer than pizza. There's a selection of charcuterie and cheese, oysters, salads, a burger with candied bacon, housemade American cheese and caramelized onions, and a thyme and garlic-infused flat iron steak.
In addition to a classic Margherita or pepperoni, you can order the duck banh mi pizza with house duck confit, Fontina, pickled carrots, Thai basil and Sriracha. Of course there are meatballs, served with spicy house tomato sauce, basil three ways and an option to add burrata. For dessert, made to order doughnuts, warm ricotta and more.
Koral and mixologist Brian Stewart created a list of drinks that include the Capone's cocktail, made with Bulleit rye, fresh lemon and cayenne pepper, and the Dean, made with Aberfeldy 12-year Scotch, fresh grapefruit juice and organic honey. The Bobby Soxer, a reference to the name given to younger Sinatra fans, is Casamigos Reposado, blackberries, fresh lemon juice, honey, Campari and Fresno chiles.
The restaurant, bar and lounge is reservation-only. Reservations can be made by calling (310) 360-9500 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. The Nice Guy will be open Tuesday to Sunday from 6 p.m. to 2 a.m.
401 N. La Cienega Blvd., West Hollywood, (310) 360-9500, www.theniceguyla.co.
I like my martinis extra dirty. Follow me on Twitter @Jenn_Harris_.