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Granita--Spago by the Sea

On the night of the opening of Wolfgang Puck’s fourth Los Angeles restaurant, the question on everybody’s mind was not “How’s the food?” but “What are the good tables?”

At Spago, Puck’s original restaurant, the regulars have had years to scope the place out. But Tuesday night at Granita, located in a Malibu shopping center that in another town would hold a discount shoe store and a take-out Chinese spot, the transplanted Spagoites were confused.

Most of them knew not to dress up--ties showed up mostly on the waiters. But where to sit?

Certainly, there are no boring tables--it’s hard not to stare at Barbara Lazaroff’s design. No surface, it seems, has gone untouched. Some walls are textured, perhaps to create the illusion of water; others are covered with energetic art; windows are etched in some places, embedded with color in others. The open kitchen, where Puck and his crew (headed by Spago alums Joseph Manzare and Kevin Ripley) spent opening night, is framed with what look like wavy tentacles of a sea anemone.

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The tables with the best view are, of course, by the door, where on Tuesday you could have seen a Beverly Hills gossip columnist, dressed like an eccentric beach bum, schmooze with Telly Savalas. Victoria Principal preferred a relatively discreet booth near the bar. Tom Hanks and James Brooks wanted to be close to the kitchen action. Puck and Lazaroff’s 2-year-old son, Cameron, preferred to wander around and work the room in his own way.

The food at Granita is similar to what you get at Spago. There are pizzas (smoked sturgeon, grilled vegetables, spicy shrimp or lamb sausage) baked in a wood-burning oven, an earthy fish stew, garlicky grilled chicken, crisp-skinned duck, good mussels set on top of spaghettini with greens, and a version of the chopped vegetable salad that so many weight-conscious starlets order at Spago.

Towards the end of the night, the female maitre d’, dressed in a power sun dress, could be heard sighing under her smile. Malibu’s reputation as a laid-back town may be in danger.


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