The Villa Capri In Hollywood
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.
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.
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".
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.
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 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
"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.
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".
Alison Martino with Filomena D'Amore at Patsy's Pizza located at the Famers Market
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