140 Barrington Place (just south of Sunset)
Brentwood, CA 90049
The conversation went something like this:
GlitteryLiz: How are you?
GlitteryLiz: Oh no!
** insert Sarah with about 20 minutes of juicy-licious details about...well, I can’t tell you, now can I? **
GlitteryLiz: Oh, sweetie...
DeliciousSarah: I feel very....destructive.
GlitteryLiz: That’s it. I’m coming over. Girl’s night.
So gorgeous glittery Liz trekked all the way up the 405 to rescue me from myself, and rescue me she did. First, spa treatment. Who needs essential oils and mud baths to heal the outside when you can go for a therapeutic soak from the inside out with....cosmopolitans?!?! *evil chuckle*
Then some comfort food. I didn’t have it in me to go somewhere complicated. I didn’t want to change into “clothes” or put on makeup. I didn’t want to feel watched. I didn’t want to be on my best, or even second-best, behavior. I just wanted to sit down, have someone else feed me, eat without thinking, and rant. Purge. Cathart (is that a word? the verb form of catharsis?) Gossip like the catty little tramp I was. Yes, it was that kind of girl’s night. The therapeutic kind.
Mystic tanning, dressing up in wispy tank tops and wedge-heeled espadrilles, downing three cocktails in the span of a half hour, and hiding out in broom closets with boys is a girls’ night reserved for Phase 4. This is a twelve-step program, and I just started.
I’ve written about my recent first visit to the Culver City outpost of San Gennaro, but I’ve been to the Brentwood location many times before that. San Gennaro is not a glamorous place. It’s not spilling over with hipsters. I doubt a single hipster has ever set foot in San Gennaro. And to be quite honest, the food isn’t even all that outstanding. It’s Italian food, but it’s not the Emilia-Romagna Mario Batali ricotta gnocchi brand. It’s more along the lines of New York Italian Chef Boyardee spaghetti and meatballs brand. That’s exactly what I needed.
San Gennaro’s front covered patio was a little less crowded, so we took a table there tucked away in the corner. It could be quite romantic. Or, it could give us privacy to make snarky, catty remarks about our “friends” without being overheard, even though none of the rich retired Brentwood fellow diners within earshot of us have any interest in our ridiculous conversation whatsoever. But yeah, it could be romantic. *sigh*
The servers and staff are all familiar faces. There’s an older, silver-haired, crispy brown man that looks like an Uncle Vito. He smiles like he gets a Botox injection as an added bonus each time he visits the tanning bed. Uncle Vito is the one who seats us, but our server is a younger guy. He’s big, loud, but he’s warm and friendly. I have no idea what his name is, but I just want to call him Frankie. If I had been adopted and had an older Italian brother from New York, it’d be Frankie. I am quite certain that everyone there is related to each other and to whomever Gennaro might be. Okay, so I know Gennaro is not a person. San Gennaro is the patron saint of Naples, and the Festival of San Gennaro is a world-famous multi-day street fair in New York city’s Little Italy that is a continuation of an Italian tradition that commemorates the day that San Gennaro was martyred. It’s very New York. Now I see the connection.
We’re sort of half looking at the menu, half engrossed in conversation. But when Frankie brings over a basket that’s covered over with a napkin, I have to pause. I lean across the table with my hand on the basket. “Liz,” I whisper, “this is the bread.” I unfold the napkin to reveal the treasure trove of little herb-studded golden bricks inside. They are pieces of the softest, doughiest, focaccia bread I’ve ever tasted. It’s so oily that tiny shiny puddles have gathered in the dimples, that it’s practically oven-fried, that when you bite into it, it’s like biting into an olive oil soaked sponge. It’s almost...juicy. From the beginning, I have to pace myself, otherwise I’ll inhale the whole basket before we even order our food. I poured a silver dollar of balsamic vinegar on my bread plate, sprinkled it with salt and pepper, and dipped my bread in it. Is that totally blasphemous? If so, then *looks toward the heavens* San Gennaro, pray for me!
One of the beauties of San Gennaro is that they serve wine like water. There is a wine list that has the *ooh la la* wines, but they also have a list of wines that are $10 a bottle. And they’re not bad wines. They’re not $2 wines that are marked up 500%. No, they are $10 wines that are probably not marked up at all. We are at a bit of a loss, mostly because yet again, we have not been paying attention to the menu, so we ask Frankie for some help. He brings out a bottle. I don’t remember what it was other than that it was red. But that’s precisely the point. It doesn’t matter.
It was hard to concentrate on the fairly comprehensive menu because really, two girls getting together specifically to gab? We felt bad for our server Frankie because he probably came back to check on us at least three times and each time, we said we needed a few more minutes. Finally, we ordered a starter, just so Frankie wouldn't give up on us - roasted red peppers, which I had never tried at San Gennaro, and seemed healthier than anything fritti and more interesting than an artichoke or bruschetta. Frankie was never impatient nor pushy. He was just being attentive.
When he brought the peppers out to us, finally, we were ready to order. After all the time we took, he should have kicked us right out the door for ordering...salads. But that’s what girls do when they get together. Either – they throw all dietary discipline to the wind because, if everyone else is eating chili cheese french fried fettuccine alfredo with extra grated parmesan onion rings then it doesn’t really count. Or – they eat salads. It was a chopped salad with salami and a Caesar. Besides, I didn’t do so well on pacing myself on that sinful bread. *full*
The roasted peppers were laid out like the petals of a red daisy and sprinkled with something, but I wasn’t paying attention. Herbs? The first bite, *mmm*, then off we were again gabbing a mile a minute.
The salads were what they were. I’ve had the chopped salad before, and I could probably very safely say that I' ve tried all the salads and they're all reasonably good. Normally it’s anchovies on the Caesar for me, which San Gennaro piles quite generously atop the extremely garlicky salad. The family always knows when I've had the Caesar at San Gennaro the night before. That's how strong it is. But this time it was grilled chicken so that Liz could share. Nothing remarkable, just reliable. The point here again is that we went to San Gennaro to go together, to be in a comfortable, non-threatening place with Uncle Vito and brother Frankie, to talk and listen to each other, to drink wine like water, and that’s that.
Dessert? We were tempted by tiramisu and other very naughty homestyle desserts that Frankie showed us, but we had to pass. The tiramisu is always good at San Gennaro, but isn't tiramisu always good anywhere? Besides, we still have to pour ourselves into tank tops for Girls' Night in Phase 4. ;)