It was 30 years ago next week that Mike and Kathie Gordon quietly opened the celebrity hotspot Toscana at the urging of their dear friend and legendary trumpeter Doc Severinson. It was the first of a soon-to-be boom of Italian restaurants along San Vicente Boulevard and quickly became a paparazzi magnet.
It’s where Tom Cruise took Nicole Kidman on one of their first dates and has been the Sunday dinner tradition for the Affleck family over the years. More recently, composer and music producer David Foster needed a place for a last-minute respite for friends Andrea Bocelli, Josh Groban, Barbara Streisand and others following a long day of rehearsal for the Grammys and brought them to Toscana to relax and share a Tuscan supper.
Still going strong, the Gordons will be on the floor greeting guests and giving a week-long nod from June 10-16 to the original 1989 menu that started the story. The kitchen will offer classic dishes like salsicce all’ uccelletto; ravioli radicchio; scampi e fagioli; pollo al mattone; costolette d’agnello alla trevisana; and fiorentina ala bracie, among others that were featured at the opening of the restaurant. They’ve also installed a new executive chef, Luca Crestanelli of Toscana’s sister restaurant S.Y. Kitchen in Santa Ynez, who aside from being famous for his lamb shank and wild mushroom pappardelle, plans to fill the menu with a fresh breath of colorful produce.
“Because Mike and I are not in the kitchen or on the floor, we can’t recall why some original items floated off
the menu,” Kathie tells L.A. Weekly. “One of my favorites is radicchio ravioli. It’s so delicious, but it’s made with a lot of cream and people in Brentwood just don’t order it. They’re fussy about what they eat and don’t want a lot of fat. There was also a fabulous little calamari soup with parmesan and garlic which disappeared, I have no idea why. But we’re bringing them back for the anniversary.”
The couple — who have been married 32 years — had no restaurant experience at all when they started, only good business acumen and a passion for northern Italian cuisine. Mike’s day job was being a CPA and he took a chance with Kathie at branching out. They attribute family and the ability to select a great team both in the kitchen and the front to their success. But they didn’t just go in blind, they did their homework. Kathy went to UCLA for classes on restaurant development and business management.
It’s advice Mike shares when mentoring kids at his entrepreneurship class at Crenshaw High School.
“I told them, the first thing you
The couple also credits family
“There were about four or five brothers who started with us and one of them stayed with us throughout the years,” says Mike. “Most of them came out of restaurant families. They grew up making cappuccino in the family bar and moved on to food later. Then our son opened Nerano in Beverly Hills, our grandson just opened a BBQ pop-up. Our kids are all foodies and want to carry on the family torch. It’s contagious.”
Neither the Gordons, nor partner Severinsen for that matter (now 92 and still performing after years as Johnny Carson’s musical sidekick on The Tonight Show), have any intention of slowing down. The lease on the space — which expanded with the adjacent Bar Toscana — is up in November, and they’ve signed another 10-year lease with two five-year options.
And then some things — like the traditional Tuscan raw vegetable pinzimonio they are famous for — never change.
“Very early on, we went to a