Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Colombo's Italian Steakhouse in Eagle Rock

Colombo’s is the kind of place a middle-aged man takes his ninety-year-old father on a Friday night, gets a table near the baby grand at the front of the dining room, and asks the piano player to play “Don’t Get Around Much Anymore,” telling the piano man that it’s his dad’s favorite song. As the piano player plays the song, the good son sings along, at full tilt, as his father, ancient, irreparably shriveled, mouths along – his eyes glittering with happiness.

It’s the kind of place where, on a slow Columbus Day Monday night, the musical trio serving as the entertainment for the evening call out to friends in the dining room to come up and take a turn on the mic, on the piano, or on the drums. Their friends make their way up to the stage, hugging their other friends in the dining room and the musicians in the trio.

It’s a strange place -- something between an office from the 70’s, an Edgar Allan Poe story, a SOPRANOS episode, and a pirate ship -- with red leather booths, black wrought-iron chandeliers, huge rococo paintings in massive gold frames hanging on a wall of fake wood paneling. A half-wall of more fake wood paneling and dark tinted glass separates the dining room from the bar.

And it may be the very soul of our fair neighborhood.

Salmon with black pepper crust

I’m not going to try to sell you on Colombo’s food. The food here is decent Italian steakhouse fare. No real surprises. It’s perfectly fine. I’ve had the pasta and the fish here (a nice pepper-encrusted salmon special on Columbus Day), and it’s always been okay. (Apologies again that my no-mammal rule precludes a verdict on the steak.) It’s not super cheap – you’re likely to spend around $50 for dinner for two, with drinks and appetizers.

But the food is not really the point of Colombo’s. You don’t come here to be blown away by the kitchen’s artistry or creativity.

You come here, order some pasta or some steak, maybe a baked potato and a cocktail, sit back, and absorb the groovy scene: couples on dates, weathered regulars, families crowded into booths sharing lasagna, musicians checking out their friends’ sets, and the occasional amazed thirty-something neighborhood blogger, all listening to the sets, watching as people get up from dinner to sing an old jazz standard, take a turn on the drums. Everyone’s welcome, and everyone belongs.

When you are feeling down, come here, and get a bit of joy, of people singing and playing old standards in a little dining room in Eagle Rock, warming up the dark, empty L.A. night. There’s no other place like this in the neighborhood. It’s a warm little society, but one that’s always welcoming, ready to accept you in its plush red-leather embrace. It’s live from Eagle Rock, every night. You’ll know the songs, and you’ll want to sing along. Take someone you love.


Adam said...

This review is 100% spot on. Thanks for delving into our wonderful neighborhood with all these fantastic reviews!

Anonymous said...

can't post about Columbo's and not mention Frank.

"just closing up here boys..."