La Scala Beverly Hills turns 60

Alison Martino Hollywood

La Scala Beverly Hills turns 60

La Scala celebrates its 60th anniversary this April. This old-school legendary institution is not only popular with celebs, but with neighborhood locals and tourists. I have ordering La Scala’s most famous invention, the chopped salad, since the 1970s. I sub out the salami and cheese and add in tomatoes, onions, and extra garbanzo beans. The fried mozzarella was always on the table when I was a kid. Now I love the classic Bolognese.

La Scala is a classic Italian eatery located in the heart of Beverly Hills that feels like a private club. The restaurant doesn’t take reservations for lunch because they just don’t need to. It’s packed six days a week and everyone wants to sit in one of those big red leather booths. Pictures of show biz celebrities from its entire 60-year history hang on the front wall. Suzanne Pleshette, Natalie Wood, Judy Garland, Warren Betty, Robert Wagner, Judy Garland and Barbara Rush are some of the celebs that hang over the front entrance. “I always feel at home here,” says actress Barbara Rush. “They’ve had my caricature of my face on the walls for decades”.

Tony Franciosa, Zsa Zsa Gabor and friends. standing with owner Jean León at the original La Scala

Owner Jean Leon was born in Spain and migrated to the United States in 1951. He began his career at Villa Capri in Hollywood at 17, and opened La Scala in 1956. Leon. Leon’s daughter Gigi now manages it, and maintains the ambience of the original. “Employees who worked for us through the years went on to open their own places such Mateo’s, La Familia, Dan Tana’s and Valentino’s.”

The restaurant has had its fair share of celebrity encounters. “My father was the last to see Marilyn alive. He brought her dinner on that fateful night. The words to ‘Moon River’ were written at La Scala and Elizabeth Taylor had my father send her food to the set when she making Cleopatra in Europe. And the lunch clientele has always been full of big shots making deals”, says, Gigi Leon

The restaurant has been extremely popular with show biz legends for decades. Everyone from Charlie Chaplin to Leonardo DiCaprio Gigi. “My father was the last to see Marilyn Monroe alive. He personally delivered food from a La Scala on that fateful night. Robert Wager proposed to Natalie Woood in one of the booths, The words to ‘Moon River’ were written here, and Elizabeth Taylor had my father send her food to the set when she making Cleopatra in Europe.”

La Scala’s Brentwood location even made a brief 1985 appearance in episode 3 “The People Vs OJ Simpson”. “The producers called and wanted to film inside, but I traditionally don’t allow it because I don’t want to distrupt people’s privacy”. But that doesn’t stop TV shows from mentioning their love of La Scala. It’s been mentioned on the “Real House Wives of Beverly Hills”, “Keeping Up With the Kardashian’s” and “The Obsbourne’s”.

Leon adds. “I’m proud to say we are one of the last old restaurants around. It survived all these years. It never lost its cozy and comfortable tradition”.

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Alison Martino is a writer, television producer, and pop culture historian. She founded the Facebook page Vintage Los Angeles in 2010. Alison muses on L.A’s. past and present on Twitter and Instagram.