If you've stopped into Dan Tana's, the red-sauce Italian restaurant on Santa Monica Boulevard, anytime in the past 47 years, chances are head bartender Michael Gotovac has served you a drink. He's the man in the red jacket with the neatly trimmed mustache and a Croatian accent.
On Wednesday, the restaurant celebrates its 50th anniversary, and the 70-year-old Gotovac has stood behind its bar for most of his life. Over the decades, George Clooney has used the restaurant to throw a private post-Oscar bash, Liz Taylor and Richard Burton made Dan Tana's a popular dinner spot, and the staff watched Drew Barrymore grow from a baby to punk teen to America's sweetheart.
"It feels like being home," said Gotovac, looking stoic in that jacket with the Dan Tana name stitched into the front. It's the same style he's been wearing since he started. "I think I belong here. Great owners, great customers, great food, great drinks and good money," he adds with a laugh.
FOR THE RECORD
An earlier version of this post said Gotovac's accent is German. His accent is Croatian. In addition, the post mispelled Daryl Hall's first name as Darryl.
Dan Tana, a former soccer star from Yugoslavia, opened the restaurant in 1964. Gotovac was in his early 20s when he started a few years later. Back then, he says they would close the kitchen at 11 and he'd often be home by midnight. It was steady, but not busy.
That all changed in the '70s when the Troubador nearby began booking big shows with Elton John, Van Morrison and Cat Stevens, drawing a crowd to the area.
With no other late-night eateries open close by, Dan Tana's became the place to go after a show.
"In the '60s and early '70s you couldn't sell anyone a bottle of wine."
His favorite drink to make? Scotch and soda. And when Gotovac is drinking, it's shots of Pelinkovac, a Croatian bitter liqueur.
If you want to buy him a shot, you'll have to catch him on Thursday or Friday nights. He has cut down over the years to working just two nights a week.