That rustle you've been hearing in the air isn't an early spring breeze but the sound of contracts, bills of sale, real estate listings and out-of-business notices in and about the local restaurant trade in recent weeks.
Two big changes first: The elegant L'Ermitage in West Hollywood--founded by the late Jean Bertranou more than a decade ago and run since his death by a reportedly uneasy coalition of his widow, Liliane, and his nephew, Patrick--has changed hands. The establishment--which virtually introduced, lest we forget, high-quality contemporary French food to Southern California--has been sold to a 27-year-old Tahitian-born pearl-business heiress named Dora Fourcade. Longtime L'Ermitage chef Michel Blanchet, happily, will stay at the ovens--he is easily one of the town's three or four best French chefs--and a major redesign of the interior by Claude Le Court is planned.
Meanwhile, down Wilshire way, the old Perino's building and the old Perino's name have been taken over by Italy's Interconvention hotel and restaurant chain, with the firm's G. Billi and Carlo Bondinelli as general manager and project coordinator, respectively. Old Perino's hands will perhaps be pleased to learn that the decor, though refurbished, will greatly resemble the original restaurant, that 14-year Perino's veteran Mike Olmeda will return as executive chef, that 29-year Perino's veteran Charles Lang will return as maitre d'hotel , and that the food will be "continental" and northern Italian and will include a number of old Perino's specialties. As for the rest of us, we can only shake our heads in wonderment that anybody would be so out of touch with the state of contemporary West Coast restauration as to start up a big-deal eating place in this style in 1986--and to wish the restaurant the best of luck, because it is certainly going to need it.
Elsewhere in the restaurant marketplace, General Mills is either selling off or converting its 43 Good Earth restaurants. The Hewcal Corp. of Encino has bought eight of them, including four in the San Fernando Valley, and plans to run 10 others under a licensing agreement with General Mills. The rest will become Red Lobster or Olive Garden restaurants by May 31. . . . Don Callender is selling his 115-unit Marie Callender's restaurants and pie shops, probably to the Ramada Inn chain. . . . Local brokers say that both the Josephina's and Cafe Casino chains are also on the market. . . . On a more modest scale, Kabakian's in Pasadena, which had been there simply forever , is shuttered; Severino's in Santa Monica has closed; and a prominent local French restaurant in another part of town is also said to be in escrow. Details to follow. . . .
ROME SERVICE: Paula Di Mauro, whose Colli Picchoni winery near Rome produces outstanding Marino and Castelli Romani wines, will be the guest of honor at a special Roman dinner at Valentino in Santa Monica, Tuesday at 7 p.m. The feast, presented in collaboration with Wally's wine shop in West L.A., will include bruschetta (the original garlic bread), seafood salad, some basic Roman-style pastas and porchetta --roast baby pig. Cost is $65 per person. Call (213) 475-0606 to reserve.
THE HARPS OF HIBERNIA: In honor of St. Patrick's Day, Gilliland's in Santa Monica, run by Gerri Gilliland of Belfast, will open for lunch for that day only to serve real Irish specialties, and will then offer Irish tea in the afternoon with Irish harp music, in person, to accompany it. (Gilliland offers a special dinner-cum-cooking-class featuring her own cuisine and the wines of Joseph Phelps, incidentally, next Sunday.)