Classic Dining and over one million other books are available for Amazon Kindle. Learn more
Qty:1
  • List Price: $30.00
  • Save: $6.36 (21%)
FREE Shipping on orders over $35.
In Stock.
Ships from and sold by Amazon.com.
Gift-wrap available.
+ $3.99 shipping
Used: Like New | Details
Sold by SuperBookDeals-
Condition: Used: Like New
Comment: Unread copy in perfect condition.
Sell yours for a Gift Card
We'll buy it for $2.25
Learn More
Trade in now
Have one to sell? Sell on Amazon
Flip to back Flip to front
Listen Playing... Paused   You're listening to a sample of the Audible audio edition.
Learn more
See this image

Classic Dining: Discovering America's Finest Mid-Century Restaurants Hardcover – November 1, 2012


See all 2 formats and editions Hide other formats and editions
Amazon Price New from Used from
Kindle
"Please retry"
Hardcover
"Please retry"
$23.64
$18.00 $18.44
Best%20Books%20of%202014

Special Offers and Product Promotions

  • Take an Extra 30% Off Any Book: Use promo code HOLIDAY30 at checkout to get an extra 30% off any book for a limited time. Excludes Kindle eBooks and Audible Audiobooks. Restrictions apply. Learn more.

  • Get a $150 Amazon.com Gift Card: Get the Citi ThankYou® Preferred Card and earn a $150.00 digital Amazon.com Gift Card* after $1,000 in card purchases within 3 months of account opening. Learn more.

Frequently Bought Together

Classic Dining: Discovering America's Finest Mid-Century Restaurants + Palm Springs Holiday
Price for both: $44.85

Buy the selected items together

NO_CONTENT_IN_FEATURE

Best Books of the Year
Best Books of 2014
Looking for something great to read? Browse our editors' picks for 2014's Best Books of the Year in fiction, nonfiction, mysteries, children's books, and much more.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 176 pages
  • Publisher: Gibbs Smith; 1 edition (November 1, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1423607406
  • ISBN-13: 978-1423607403
  • Product Dimensions: 10 x 0.8 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #347,440 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

Silver Lake historian Peter Moruzzi roamed the country in search of restaurants that offer a vintage night out. Classic Dining: Discovering America’s Finest Mid-Century Restaurants (Gibbs Smith, $30) is a culinary history and travelogue that stops in New Orleans, Chicago, and Vegas. Back in L.A., he pays homage to Lawry’s carving cart, the Dresden’s Blood and Sand, and the Dal Rae’s Caesar. (Chris Nichols Los Angeles Magazine 2012-11-01)

Peter Moruzzi’s “Classic Dining” (Gibbs Smith, $30) is a time capsule of midcentury restaurants, the kinds where every dish had two names: Oysters Rockefeller, Steak Diane, Cherries Jubilee, Bananas Foster. (Stephen Heyman New York Times- T Magazine Bookshelf 2012-10-25)

"A time capsule of midcentury restaurants, the kinds where every dish had two names: Oysters Rockefeller, Steak Diane, Cherries Jubilee, Bananas Foster." (New York Times Style Magazine 2012-11-18)

"explore what it was like to swagger one's way into swanky dining establishments in cities including New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Las Vegas, and New Orleans during the Mad Men era. Learn about the establishments, some still with us and many long gone, where shish kabobs and bananas foster were grandly presented in flames, Caesar salad was prepared tableside, prime rib was served from fancy carts, and dishes such as oysters Rockefeller and lobster thermidor were the norm." (Flavorwire 2012-11-18)

"a glossy, full-color, coast-to-coast tour of the restaurants your parents or grandparents went to on fancy occasions -- many of which are still with us, at least for the time being." (LA Weekly 2012-11-18)

"Peter Moruzzi makes your mouth water with a lavishly illustrated trip to the finest historic eateries in America. Your job: eat at them before they disappear."

Skip lunch, ditch the sneakers, and put on your sportcoat, honey, because tonight we're celebrating at the Dal Rae supper club in Pico Rivera.

It's the home of the best relish tray in North America and is one of the last bastions of tableside dining, where the maitre d' or owner wheels a cart over and makes your Steak Diane, Caesar Salad or Cherries Jubilee in front of you.

The Dal Rae is just one of the historic eateries Peter Moruzzi profiles, and Sven Kirsten photographs lovingly, in "Classic Dining: America's Finest Mid-Century Restaurants."

(John Rabe Off Ramp KPCC.org 2012-11-18)

The early-to-mid 20th century saw an explosion of “Continental Fine Dining” restaurants - dark-paneled places with with white tablecloths, where the entrees were named after billionaires, and the desserts were served flaming. Author Peter Moruzzi toured most of America’s remaining examples of these time-machine restos to write his new book “Classic Dining: Discovering Mid-Century Restaurants.” Rico talks with Peter about it over lobster and martinis at LA’s venerable Musso and Frank Grill. (Follow Peter’s map of classic restaurants to a notable eatery near you: http://petermoruzzi.com/classic-dining-map-of-america/)

"The Dinner Party" (www.dinnerpartydownload.com) is a smart, funny public radio show about everything excellent in culture, from the company that brings you "Marketplace." Think NPR meets Vanity Fair. In each episode, hosts Rico Gagliano & Brendan Francis Newnam talk with some of the world's most interesting celebrities, and along the way equip you with bad jokes, fresh drink recipes, hot food finds, odd news items... and etiquette tips from the likes of Henry Rollins and Dick Cavett. Past guests include Michelle Williams, Judd Apatow, Kid Cudi, Sir Richard Branson and others. Wallpaper magazine calls us one of their "40 Reasons To Live In The USA."

(Rico Gagliano "The Dinner Party" American Public Media (NPR) 2012-11-15)

Peter Moruzzi is on a crusade to save fine dining. An admirer of classic, historic restaurants since his youth, Moruzzi, an L.A.-based writer, started to become alarmed in recent years over the ever more rapid disappearance of America's dining history. So he decided to write a book about it.

Classic Dining: Discovering America's Finest Mid-Century Restaurants isn't just a history textbook, but also a living guidebook to the venerable old places that are still around today. "My hope was that a book focusing on the value of classic restaurants might inspire people to locate and frequent those survivors in their areas," Moruzzi says. "It was also to debunk the notion that white tablecloth establishments were deserving of extinction in favor of trendy restaurants with their hard surfaces and minimalist interiors."

Recently we sat down in a cushy vinyl booth with Moruzzi to learn more about his project.

Squid Ink: People who don't have an appreciation for these restaurants might not want to go, either because they think the food is going to be heavy or old fashioned. What would you say to get them to give some of these classic places a try?

Peter Moruzzi: I think people should go just so they can experience what dining was like in America before they were born. It's part of appreciating American history. If people have no interest in how their parents lived or how their parents ate, they're not going to go. But if they do, this gives them an opportunity to truly experience something that is part of our culinary past.

And yes, some of the food is rich and definitely not cutting edge, and the menu is old fashioned, but to me that's part of the excitement of going to places you are unfamiliar with and you want to experience. I like to go to cutting edge restaurants for the same reason. There's plenty of room for the traditional, old-style restaurants and the new. If people are just pigeonholed into eating at upscale or trendy restaurants, I think they're missing a lot. But that's my belief about life. That's why I seek out authenticity in architecture, authenticity in culture, and food in restaurants. It's all the same type of thinking.

SI: Historically, over time, would you say, though, that's it's kind of a good thing that food has generally trended healthier and lighter than it was at that time?

PI: I don't care about contemporary trends. I just don't. Yes, I think it's great that food has changed over time, and people are eating more home grown stuff. But that's not what I'm interested in. If I had my choice, I would eat every single meal at a traditional restaurant.

SI: But you said you like to go to a few newer places too!

PM:That's, right, I do, actually. In Silver Lake, I like Blair's, and I like Barbrix, and I like Forage. And I love Korean food. But the only one I go to is the one that has a charcoal grill in the middle of the table -- I don't like gas. Soot Bull Jeep, on 8th in Koreatown, near the old Ambassador. But there, there's a link to traditional restaurants -- the charcoal grill.

SI: Why do some of these places endure, while other places become tired and people lose interest?

PM: That's a really complicated question. There's a lot of reasons. It sometimes has to do with management -- it's either good or not so good. Quality falters, and people stop going there. The ones that survive are generally the ones that have superb service, a great menu -- and everything has been maintained. Often, the original owners just get tired, or move on, or die, and there's no one else to take over. Once those people go, then the restaurants often go too. Or they try to sell it but the person who buys it doesn't really have the same level of ability.

SI: Which of your favorite classic places in L.A. have the best something? The best waitress, the best bartender, like that?

PM: The best tableside prep is at the Dal Rae. The best lounge is The Dresden. The best traditional steakhouse would be Taylor's. The best theatrical presentation would be Lawry's. The most Hollywood would be Musso & Frank. Everybody on earth went there -- it's sort of the essence of Hollywood. Then Taix -- Taix is Taix. It's kind of quirky and fun and they've got a great bar. The French theme is not one that has survived anywhere else.

SI: At the Tam O'Shanter, I enjoyed the theme, the waitstaff, but the food was ... not great. In researching this book, do you feel like you've eaten a lot of great food?

PM: Some are better than others. Some you go to just for the atmosphere and the character. Others you're lucky to have that plus really good food. The Dal Rae is the best example of that. It's amazing there -- best Caesar salad I've ever had. Taylor's is a typical steakhouse -- I wouldn't say it's better than anywhere else. People go to Musso for different reasons -- I don't think they go there for the food per se -- they may go there for the atmosphere, for the history, for the cocktails. I don't generally rate these places based on quality of food. In fact, I don't ever rate them based on quality of food. It's the whole package. But if the food was realy awful, they probably wouldn't be in business anymore.

SI: So if you were condemed and had to pick a last meal, where would you go?

PM: Dal Rae, or Galatoire's in New Orleans. A completely different dining experience. It's old, it's in New Orleans. Incredible food, incredible atmosphere, the waiters have been there a hundred years, a great location, you have to wear a jacket, and if you don't they give you one. I've never been to a restaurant where the customers actually know each other, and they have their own waiters that they ask for by name.

SI: Do those customers tend to skew older?

PM: No, it's interesting, it's multigenerational. It's been around so long, every generation brings their kids, the whole family. Antoine's is like that as well. New Orleans is its own world. It's completely different than any place I've ever been, and the food on average, the quality is so high. They have to have their quality high, or they will go out of business. People in New Orleans demand it.

SI: Who has the better restaurants, the West Coast or the East?

PM: You can't compare New Orleans to Los Angeles, or San Francisco to New York. In terms of steakhouses, probably New York has better ones overall. The West Coast is definitely better at doing themed restaurants -- there are far more themed restaurants in California than other parts of the country.

SI: What do you think, 40 or 50 years from now, which trends that we have now do you think will be preserved or will stand out to people in the future?

PM: I have no idea. The same question has been asked in architecture, because I'm an architectural historian. They say, "What kind of architecture that's being created now will stand the test of time?" I have no bloody idea. There's stuff that's fairly obvious -- Disney Hall, of course, or you could say some of the buildings at LACMA. But I have no idea what's going to stand the test of time a few years from now. I mean, people in the '50s and '60s, as far as I know, would have never said that Googie coffee shops would have stood the test of time and that they represent an era. Then, they were functional. It drew people's attention, and they would stop. But at the time, people didn't recognize it.

SI: When you go to a contemporary restaurant, do you ever get the feeling that something is missing that restaurateurs could gain by hanging on to?

PM: Yes -- tableside preparation. I think that if restaurants brought that back, people would really enjoy it. I think there's ways you could do contemporary cooking with tableside, if you're clever. And I really like tablecloths and vinyl booths. I don't like these hard chairs and hard surfaces and noisy rooms. I think they should go back to darker interiors, more mood lighting, booths, and white tablecloths.

SI: Yeah -- noisy is kind of trendy, isn't it?

PM: I guess. You can't even have a conversation in some places. The thing about classic restaurants is that they specifically were acoustically tuned so you could hear somebody at the end of a table that had six or eight people at it. Like The Dresden -- it has cork everywhere. they sort though all that noise. You could talk, and you could take a lot more time eating in these classic restaurants. You didn't' just come in and out. And there were a lot more courses, too. People would have dessert, they would have cognac, and they'd have coffee. It's a different way of dining.

(L.J. Williams LA Weekly Blogs 2012-11-12)

From the Back Cover

Over time, the softly lit wood-paneled interiors, starched tablecloths, curved booths, tuxedoed captains, and tableside service that once defined classic continental-style fine dining have gradually disappeared. Equally, the number of historic restaurants filled with character and oldschool ambiance dwindle with each passing year. Yet vestiges cling to life in cities large and small. Through vivid new photography and vintage material,Classic Dining celebrates the great mid-century restaurants that continue to thrive in New York, Miami, New Orleans, Las Vegas, the Chicago area, Los Angeles, and across America. Includes a current directory of over 200 classic restaurants in cities from all 50 states.


More About the Author

As a nightlife historian I'm passionate about the mid-20th century: its nightlife, classic dining, and architecture. I chaired the Los Angeles Conservancy's Modern Committee from 1992 to 1997, then founded the Palm Springs Modern Committee (PS ModCom), a historic preservation organization, in 1999. I'm the author of the illustrated histories "Havana Before Castro: When Cuba Was a Tropical Playground" and "Palm Springs Holiday: A Vintage Tour From Palm Springs to the Salton Sea," both published by Gibbs Smith. I reside in the Silver Lake district of Los Angeles and in Palm Springs.

Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
Share your thoughts with other customers

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By M. Thakery on October 3, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Wow... Another fabulously descriptive, beautifully assembled work from Peter Moruzzi!

I've only had a few short hours to enjoy it so far, but what I've seen has captured the essence of what I recall from my youth as the 'fine dining' that took my family all over The city. I can still remember my Grandfather taking the family to Cattlemen's, or Junior's, or the restaurant at the Skirvin Plaza. The is in the days when men wore suits to eat out, and your food was brought to you for inspection before the chef ever began preparation.

From the diagram of the setup of a Table-side Caesar Salad cart (you can almost hear the wooden salad tongs scraping the inside of the pressed wooded bowl!) to the homage to Tiki with and entire chapter on the Mai-Kai, one of the most famous restaurants in the United States, it is so easy to get a sense of what many of the now long-gone American dining experiences must have been like.

While I've been a great fan of Peter's since "Havana Before Castro...", I have to give a hearty congratulations to his partner in this newest endeavor, Photographer Sven A. Kirsten. It's clear that Mr. Kirsten is passionate for his craft - many of the images that he provides in the book are nothing less than individual works of art...

All in all I see this book as less of a guide to classic dining, and more of a challenge for the reader to experience as many of these windows on the past as they can. This feeling is compounded and confirmed upon getting to the end of the book and finding the ten-page "Directory of Classic American Restaurants" - That, or Peter is just trying to make me fat...

Thanks guys - I love this book...
Comment Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback. If this review is inappropriate, please let us know.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Charlie C. Rose on December 6, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
If you enjoy all things Mid-Century Modern, this book is a must have. All about the looks and feels of a dining era that is virtually gone from our bland society. Top restaurants reviewed from a time when service AND the customer mattered much more. Enjoy the trek down memory lane and visit the locations that still exist. Sven Kirsten also contributed and he knows urban archaeology like no other. The author is thorough and obviously follows his bliss when writing about the subject for which he holds a great passion.
Comment Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback. If this review is inappropriate, please let us know.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
By h on January 8, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I LOVE the old restaurants of the 50's and 60's . Every thing was so classy back then. You don't see many restaraunts like that these days.
Comment Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback. If this review is inappropriate, please let us know.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
By W. Moore on April 13, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I was looking forward to this book and found it to be a fun glance. My overall impression, however, was that it's "slight". Rather than being a sweeping survey of classic restaurants across the country, it is a sampling of a few restaurants from a handful of major cities which really succeeds in showcasing its major flaw...it's extremely subjective. Often I felt that the chapters were wasted real estate where a more complete book might have profiled far more restaurants. It has great illustrations and many of the restaurants included ARE interesting but it's so far from being "comprehensive that, had it not had a chapter on tiki restaurants penned by Sven Kirsten, I would not have kept the book.
Comment Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback. If this review is inappropriate, please let us know.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
By Dr. Marjorie Taylor on December 30, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Having the history of these places made it more fun to go out to dine. There are also memories of those that no longer exist.
Comment Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback. If this review is inappropriate, please let us know.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again

What Other Items Do Customers Buy After Viewing This Item?