The Villa Capri In Hollywood

The Villa Capri In Hollywood 


A Villa Capri postcard : Vintage Los Angeles Archives
 
Pasquale "Patsy" D'Amore served the very first pizza pies in Los Angeles in 1939 at his first restaurant called Casa D'Amore located at1644 Cahuenga Blvd. 

Original business card from Casa D'Amore

Casa D'Amore menu from way back in the day. Check out the old prices!

Patsy also opened up the very first pizza stand in Los Angeles located at the Farmers Market and it's still there today. 

In 1949 when Patsy (Pasquale) opened the pizzeria, a cut of pizza (otherwise known as a slice) was .20 cents.


By 1950 Patsy opened the famed Villa Capri restaurant in Hollywood directly next door to Don the Beachcomber. It moved to a much larger location in 1957 at 6735 Yucca Street. By that time it became a legendary Hollywood celebrity hot spot. Dean Martin, Lauren Becall, Jackie Gleason, Sammy Davis Jr., James Dean, Joe DiMaggio, Marilyn Monroe, Micky Cohen, Cary Grant, Ava Garnder and other well- known Hollywood notables would frequently dine at the Villa Capri as it was well known that Frank Sinatra was a co-owner. But, Patsy was truly the star to the stars. 

A film of the opening night aired on the "Tonight Show". It was said the restaurant was "built on a foundation of mozzarella, and dedicated to the proposition that spaghetti is fattening, but who cares?"



Patsy D'Amore with Frank Sinatra


A rare Villa Capri menu signed by Frank Sinatra. 


Villa Capri Menu 


Sinatra was often seen singing and goofing around at the piano bar with his pals, Nat King Cole, Sammy Davis Jr., Lauren Bacall and James Dean. 


 James Dean and Sammy Davis Jr., goofing around at the Villa Capri's first location in Hollywood. This is actually the last place Jimmy was seen having dinner. He was tragically killed the very next day. 


Frank Sinatra and Lauren Bacall having drinks at The Villa Capri

The Capitol Records building just a few blocks away, so Frank practically used the restaurant as his clubhouse, dining there often and throwing lavish parties. When he recorded the song, “The Isle of Capri,” he snuck a mention of the Villa Capri into its lyrics: "twas goodbye at the Isle Of Capri" and changed a line to, "she wore a lovely meatball on her finger". The lyric he substituted that for was "she wore a golden ring on her finger". 



Frank Sinatra "Isle of Capri" released in 1957

It is also said that in 1960, when Sinatra threw his support behind John F. Kennedy for president, he held planning sessions there to figure out how to mobilize show business to help J.F.K.


Sinatra entering the Villa Capri on Yucca


Sinatra's birthday at the Villa Capri


Nat 'King' Cole and Sammy Davis Jr. at a bon voyage party for Patsy and Rose D'Amore at the Villa Capri, 1955. Photographer Bernie Abramson. 


A rare color slide of the Villa Capri. Vintage Los Angeles Archives



Good customer and friend Lew Bracker remembers the Villa Capri in great detail, "The Villa, as they called it, opened in 1950, just one year after Patsy D'Amore's tremendous success with his Pizza stall at the Original Farmers Market which is still there today".


Bracker continues...."James Dean spent a lot of time at the Villa Capri. It was his haunt, his hang out, his cocoon, his inner sanctum". 


James Dean rented "the log cabin" in Sherman Oaks from the maitre d' of the Villa Capri, Nicco Romanos



The Villa Capri was a small restaurant with a bar room barely separated from the dining room, where the three walls were lined with booths and a few tables in the middle of the room. My father, Al Martino, actually built their first fireplace in the mid 50s when he was trying to get a record contract. Patsy would often feed him when dad was broke or down and out. 



The fireplace my father built. It was called the Durante Fireplace. 


Patsy feeding costumers. Notice the fireplace on the left. I heard in ended up in Catalina Island somewhere. 
Photo courtesy of Filomena D'Amore 

"The food was very good but old Southern Italy Italian, but then, so were all the other Italian eateries", says Bracker. "The Villa was far more than just another restaurant. It was an oasis in the Hollywood desert for Hollywood celebs, notably Frank Sinatra and the Rat Pack, big time song writers, actors and actresses and of course, James Dean. It was even more to Jimmy, it was his "safe house", says Bracker. "Jimmy and I always entered the Villa through a kitchen door off the parking lot. The chef, Carmine, ruled his domain like a tyrant and we were the only ones he allowed to enter that way and always gave us a big greeting, even allowing us to sample his array of appetizer goodies. The Villa was the only restaurant I was ever in that placed a 3-tiered appetizer tray on your table as you sat down."


Lew Bracker (far right) with Photographer Dennis Stock and director Terry Sanders at the original location in 1955


Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra, sit in a booth, on either side of two unidentified men, at the opening of the new Patsy d'Amore's Villa Capri in 1957. The event was televised for the 'Tonight Show. (Photo by Leonard McCombe/The LIFE Picture Collection via Getty Images)

"Yes, tourists did find their way to the Villa", says Bracker, "but cameras were not allowed nor were autograph seekers. Your booth was your castle, especially Jimmy's. When you walked into the Villa, the bar was on your left where Baron reigned supreme. Right in front of you was the only table in the bar room.  It was long and sat eight. The table faced the door and was definitely separated from the tables in the main room. Dan Tana told me the waiters called it "Siberia."


It's been reported that James Dean ate his last meal at the Villa Capri the night before he was tragically killed.



James Dean & Ursula Andress at Frank Sinatra's birthday party in Villa Capri, 1955


Patsy cutting the cake. This Bon Voyage Party was given by Frank Sinatra, sending Patsy & Rose off to Italy! The photo was taken at the Villa Capri in Hollywood. And yes, that’s also James Dean and Ursula Andres. Photo courtesy of Filomena D’Amore


The original Villa Capri. Check out the cigarette vending machine on the left. A very different time for sure. Photo courtesy of Filomena D'Amore



The Villa Capri's second location 


Bracker continues..."It was at the Villa where important friendship were made during the "Italian restaurant explosion. Jean Leon, Matty Jordan, Sal Marino and Dan Tana, who were all associated with the Villa Capri were to open Martoni's, La Scala Boutique, Matteo's, and Marino's.  Later, Joe Patti and La Famiglia". Also, Peppone, Guido's, and Carmine's. Former Villa Capri maitre d' Ciro Marino also spoke about his fellow waiters who went on to open Dan Tana's and La Dolce Vita. Marino, of course, owns Marino's on Melrose and his son owned Il Grano. They can ALL trace their origins back to the Villa Capri.  


"James Dean wanted to get involved with the restaurant biz too," says Bracker, "but we all know why that didn’t happen. I will always remember, at the party for the the Restaurant's 50th Birthday party, Dan, his daughter Katerina, my daughter Lesley and I sitting in a booth, 56 years removed from our Villa Capri days. And the night at the restaurant when Dan, Katerina and my two daughters, Lesley and Alison, ate and reminisced into the evening. History eerily repeated itself again in 1974. Joe Patti, bartender at La Scala, showed me a failed, closed restaurant at 453 Canon, in Beverly Hills, a block from La Scala. This restaurant was to become La Famiglia, and like La Scala, Matteo's and Dan Tana's, all a big success".


Dan Tana is interviewed about the Villa Capri



Here's one from my personal archives. These are my parents, Al and Judi Martino  at the Villa Capri's second location with  “Patsy” D'Amore in 1969. A place where they always felt at home





Don the Beachcomber located in the heart of Hollywood at 1727 N. McCadden Place. You can see the Villa Capri was at the end of the block.
Photo taken by Ed Ruscha in 1974. Sadly, the Villa Capri building was torn down in 2006

The Villa Capri is long gone now, but Patsy's daughter still runs his historic pizzeria, "Patsy's" at the original Farmers Market on Fairfax in Los Angeles. Now, "That's 'Amore!"



Alison Martino with Filomena D'Amore at Patsy's Pizza located at the Famers Market


Filomena D'Amore shows us some  historic family & celebrity photos at Patsy's Pizza 



Hope you enjoyed this "slice" of history! 




Alison Martino is a writer, television producer and personality, and L.A. pop culture historian. She founded the Facebook page 
Vintage Los Angeles in 2010. In addition to VLA, Martino muses on L.A’s. past and present on Twitter and Instagram and on her website, alisonmartino.com


Alison also writes articles about the history of L.A for Los Angeles Magazine and appears on weekly show called the SO CAL SCENE airing on Spectrum News 1

Alison's book of unpublished photos of L.A.'s past is also currently in production. 



Photo David Wallace Crotty / Getty Images

If you’d like to read more of Lew’s remarkable stories, he’s also written memoirs about his friendship with James Dean which I highly recommend called "Jimmy & Me: A Personal Memoir Of A Great Friendship: JAMES DEAN & LEW BRACKER". It is available on Amazon here.

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