Diners as Waiters

What's the protocol when the people occupying the table that you've reserved for 7:30 arrive 45 minutes late for their 6 o'clock reservation? Should the management ask them to leave--or keep you standing around while the latecomers finish their meal? What if one of the people in your party really wants to go up to the table and tell these people that her baby sitter has to leave early and that if they are so rude as to eat dessert she won't have time to do the same?

That's what we discussed during our our first 40 minutes at the new Toscana, 11633 San Vicente Blvd., Brentwood, (213) 820-2448. The owner offered us glasses of wine and lots of apologies; what he could not offer us was a table--though it is only a few days old, this restaurant is already packed.

This may be because the chef is Augustino Sciandri, the original chef at Il Giardino. It may be because some of the owners are celebrities. It may be because the room is spare and hip (and noisy) and the prices are reasonable. It may be because the table of antipasti looks so inviting--or it may simply be that Brentwood has more hungry people than it has restaurants to feed them.

By the time we finally got to sit down, we were all pretty grumpy. Which may be why the risotto and the shrimp with white beans were so disappointing. But the service was swell, and we liked the pizza and the pasta and some of the salads. And it was really too bad that my friend had to leave before dessert--she missed a wonderful dried fruit tart.

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