Musso and Frank Grill: Hollywood History
March 29, 2017
Classic American cuisine and perfect martinis in a beautiful and historic setting: that’s Musso and Frank Grill, Hollywood’s oldest eatery. While Hollywood may be known for capricious diners interested in checking out the next trendy spot, Musso and Frank remains exceedingly popular. According to manager Bobby Caravella, there’s a reason for that.
“The reason it’s so successful is that it’s not just a restaurant, it’s a time machine. When you walk in you’re cut off from today’s Hollywood. It’s the same room that opened in 1919, it could be then, or 1930, 1945, 1955. You can expect to turn the corner and see the people who dined here, Charlie Chaplin, Marilyn Monroe, Tony Curtis,” he attests. “The other reason it’s so popular is that our quality has really gone up in every aspect in the last several years, the food, the service, the bar, when the fourth generation of the family who owns the restaurant took the reins.”
Opened by Frank Toulet, who partnered with restauranteur Joseph Musso, the team hired French chef Jean Rue to create the menu, a good portion of which is unchanged today. They sold the restaurant in 1927 to Italian immigrants Joseph Carissimi and John Mosso, and today, the restaurant is owned and operated by John Mosso’s three granddaughters and their children. Through the years, the restaurant’s name never changed: according to Caravella, John Mosso thought “close enough” and left the name alone. Mosso is the restaurant’s current managing partners great grandfather.
“We had the best year we ever had last year,” Caravella reports. “There is a real family attitude toward all the staff here, you’re not just an employee, you’re a partner, and our owners known that their success is hinged on us and our performance. They take care of us in all aspects, and you want to come to work here.” That warmth and commitment is a big draw to customers as well as creating a significant standard among staff members.
Still a spot where celebrities show up to dine, the restaurant has a strict no-photos policy, and does not display photographs of celebrity customers on the wall. Caravella knows how to treat celebrities with discretion, having spent fifteen years working as an assistant director on a variety of films in New York. It’s all about privacy and respect, according to Caravella, who notes that “Everyone is treated as a celebrity as soon as you walk in the door. And we keep the anonymity of people who dine here. People come here for lunch or a great dinner. If they want to be seen, they go to The Ivy,” he laughs.
Among the restaurant’s most popular dishes are its steak. “We have several different options on our menu. With a grill in the middle of the dining room, people can watch their steak being made. Our grill guy has been here thirty-two years, and never misses. I have never seen a steak go back. He’s incredible,” Caravella reports.
Along with its steaks, there are signature dishes that are authentic classics and authentically popular. “Things like our stuffed celery appetizer, our olive plate, or our features of the day. Over the course of the week we have a different feature every day. Our chicken pot pie is so popular that people call up the day before to order it, and we have to get their credit card to hold the dish for them.” Italian dishes are another big hit with diners. “Our Fettucine Alfredo was introduced to our chef by Mary Pickford,” he notes.
There are plenty of classic drinks on the menu too, but the best known beverage at Musso and Frank is the martini. “We still stir and not shake. Shaken martinis became a sensation in the James Bond film Dr. No. But Bond orders a vodka martini,” Caravella explains.
“Here, our martinis are always stirred, and they’re excellent. One of our bartenders here, Rueben, has been here since 1967 he is a fixture here.”
In fact, Musso and Frank Grill has several staff members on the floor over 40 years, and in the kitchen over 30 years, a tribute to the superior work environment.
Caravella describes the restaurant as a “warmly elegant place, that’s the ambiance. You’re not sitting in a restaurant, you’re embraced by it – the dark wood, the smooth lighting, the absolutely classic look of the restaurant. You’re enveloped by it. You don’t sit in it, you become a part of it, and you meld into it.”
Isn’t it time you melded in, too?
Musso and Frank Grill
6667 Hollywood Boulevard.
See also: Top 10 Hollywood Survivors from Only in Hollywood
Genie Davis is a multi-published novelist and journalist, and produced screen and television writer. Passionate about everything-Los Angeles, you can see her work in the arts on her own www.diversionsLA.com.