Tuesday, June 11, 2013

OPEN LETTER TO THE LA WEEKLY RE: DAMIANO'S PIZZA & THE THREE DUDES

Dear Editor,

I read the LA Weekly more-or-less cover-to-cover every week.

Last week, I particularly looked forward to reading your issue with the dim hope that you might cover the forced ouster of Damiano Mr. Pizza by "three of the biggest names in LA's food scene," Ludo Lefebvre, Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo. Your lackluster coverage of their hostile takeover turned out to be a journalistic embarrassment, unbefitting of Us Magazine much less a paper that prides itself on civic responsibility.

I first suspected the Weekly would be shunning its role as a voice for the community when I noticed a full-page review of Lefebvre, Shook and Dotolo's newest restaurant, Trois Mec ("three dudes" in French, as the reviewer Besha Rodell so helpfully points out). As I read the gag inducing hagiography and accompanying foodie felatio (which managed to romanticize a 97-dollar non-refundable reservation!), I started to think about Trois Mec, The Three Dudes and why they suck.

After waxing poetic about the "pure white fantasy" of "a backwards creampuff", Ms. Rodell concludes Trois Mec's food "has moved into a realm where the pure pleasure of eating trumps all…it's hard to pay attention to anything at all, really apart from the exultant melody playing out in the space between your plate, your mouth and your heart."

Well Ms. Rodell, you write great foodie porn, but how about using your head to pay attention to the neighborhood that you're eating in. Rodell mentions in passing, sounding every bit the eco-tourist, that Trois Mec is "housed in a cheap pizza joint in a strip mall." We later find out the pizza joint was called Raffallo's. I see on Yelp that Raffallo's served cheap slices and beer. A local who used to hang out there can now get dinner in that same space…provided that they log online once every "fortnight" and throw down 97-dollars for a non-refundable reservation.

But, alas, my gripe is not even with the restaurant, Trois Mec. I love a deconstructed Bistronomie as much as the next person. What infuriates is what The Three Dudes have done to Damiano's (as it was really called).

If The Three Dudes weren't moving into the Damiano's space, I suspect the Weekly wouldn't have covered it at all, for the only mention was in a short blurb with the breathless headline, "A New Restaurant for Animal's Shook and Dotolo" – of course the blurb was also written by Ms. Rodell.

According to the blurb, The Two Dudes (minus Lefebvre) have no idea what restaurant they're going to open. The real news -- that they pushed the Fairfax landmark Damiano's out of business -- is told to us by Dotolo himself: they decided to take over the building because of a "somewhat difficult relationship with the tenant" and the space is "in pretty bad shape. We need to totally rebuild it." And then as quoted in Zagat, Dotolo goes on to say, "It's pretty appalling that they served food out of this place. That's all I'm going to say."

Dotolo’s arrogance is astonishing. First he unceremoniously puts a restaurant with 50 years in the community out of business. Then, showing no respect what-so-ever for the family or the people they served, he badmouths Damiano’s to the press. And the LA Weekly transcribes everything he says as truth, despite the fact that it is complete and utter bullshit.

Damiano's was in that building for half-a-century, over that time, the previous owners managed to get along with them just fine. As for the shape of things, it rated an “A” so the county thought it was clean enough. No, it was clearly more convenient, and much more profitable, to put Damiano's out of business -- tradition, heritage and community be damned.

And by presenting The Three Dudes' version of events as the objective truth, with not even a word of rebuttal from Damiano's management, the LA Weekly shows all too clearly where its true allegiance lies. At best you are guilty of lazily accepting the demise of Damiano's (and by extension the Fairfax district) as a fait accompli, at worst you are complicit in the thoughtless, unbridled promotion of hipster, foodie empire building.

Now I can already sense Ms. Rodell's eyes' rolling back into her head. "What a boring philistine! If he wants a 'cheap pizza joint' he should move to NoHo."

Well, Damiano's was not another "cheap pizza joint" and that stretch of Fairfax is the heart and soul of the entire area. Damiano's was an authentic late night NY pizzeria that had lived across from Canter's for 50 YEARS. Sitting in the window eating a slice at 2am was one of the purest pleasures LA had to offer. The pizza, the salads, the clams, the assorted microbrews and micro brewed root beer all moved me into a "realm where pleasure of eating trumps all." Having just returned from Italy, I can say without hesitation that it was the real deal --

A place to be treasured.

Or if you're The Three Dudes -- a place to be destroyed.

I understand that a community needs to evolve in order to thrive, but there is a balance that must be struck. New businesses have already pushed out most of the older Jewish establishments on Fairfax, now even the places with broader appeal are getting overwhelmed. There's not much left -- you kill a Damiano's, Canter's, Musso's or Philippe's and the heart and soul of Los Angeles slowly dies with them.

But clearly, The Three Dudes (and the LA Weekly?) don't give a shit about a community retaining the shared history that it's worked so hard to build. In the case of the Weekly, your coverage is particularly tragic given that you once gave us Jonathan Gold. Have you forgotten what makes a city magic?

However, despite your feeble reportage last week, it's not too late. I beg of you to use your pulpit and send a message to The Three Dudes. Impress upon them what they should have already gathered on their own. There is no restaurant they can open at 412 N. Fairfax that will be better for the community than the one that was already there.

Sincerely,

Eric G. Johnson


7 Comments:

Blogger  said...

His arrogance might have been astonishing 20 years ago. Today, disgustingly, as similar behavior is so often seen and heard it can be accepted as some sort of norm.

4:20 PM  
Blogger Adolphe Bullit said...

Such brainless people never realise they can feed no body. I have hEard that Damiano special deer pizza was offert with a cinema ticket. I do not know if it's true but I find interesting that the food be appreciated such as culture but also in link with the other cultures.
The Trois Mec may more let you so hungry than no one will be able to rescue you at dawn.

7:56 PM  
Blogger Laura Mancuso said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

7:48 AM  
Blogger Laura Mancuso said...

Eric and Adolphe,

All I have to say is thank you! My father was Damiano, Mitchell is my brother! Last remaining memories of my father and so devastated to see the doors close. Its amazing when people make such uneducated comments and immature as well. Our loyal dedicated customer base know the truth. . And ya know what? ?
That's all that matters!
Sincerely
Laura Mancuso

7:49 AM  
Blogger West SeedFarm said...

I hope the new restaurant fails horribly. How dare you take the best pizza in Los Angeles away from us.

3:13 PM  
Blogger HEHodges said...

Sad to see it go...worked there over twenty years ago. You can never replace an institution like this, good luck ass bags and I'm glad Mitch gave them some hell!

8:40 PM  
Blogger HEHodges said...

Sad to see it go...worked there over twenty years ago. You can never replace an institution like this, good luck ass bags and I'm glad Mitch gave them some hell!

8:41 PM  

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