BREAKING: Morton’s to become Cecconi’s; Soho House moves to Sunset

Soho

Remember how Soho House was taking over Morton’s? Now it seems the private members’ club will occupy the top floor of 9200 Sunset Blvd., across the street from the old Hamburger Hamlet (it’s the office high-rise that’s home to a host of smaller talent agencies, just west of Doheny — the turn where Sunset becomes Beverly Hills).

First up is Oscar week, during which Soho House will throw a minimum of three parties and  thereby aussauge Hollywood’s pain of living Vanity Fair-free.

And the old Morton’s, at the corner or Melrose and Robertson? As Variety’s Sharon Swart reports, it will become an Italian restaurant, Cecconi’s — an offshoot of a London restaurant by the same name, owned by Soho House Group since 2005. Says Swart:

Cecconi’s, the famed Mayfair-area eatery, opened in 1978 and is a London industry mainstay. On Friday, Working Title held its third-annual pre-BAFTA dinner there, with guests including James McAvoy, Vanessa Redgrave, Hugh Grant, Emma Thompson, Thandie Newton and Rhys Ifans.

The L.A. Cecconi’s is set to open in early 2009. The 9200 Sunset space will undergo significant renovation, with the club set to open in 2009. Both venues must still receive final planning approval.

This bums me out for a couple of reasons and they both come down to various forms of(my) chauvinism.

Athough the Morton’s/Cecconi’s space is hardly a mile away from 9200 Sunset, it’s like comparing a sleepwalker to a meth addict. Neither is an ideal dining companion, but I’ll go for the one that’s least likely to wreck my car and steal my wallet. And to me Sunset is synomyous with impossible traffic, style over substance and the food that goes with it. (That said, 9200 is certainly on a quieter part of Sunset, the last gasp before the 90069becomes the manicured lawns of 90210. But with Soho at its anchor, I don’t know how long that peace can be expected to last.)

Cecconis

As for Cecconi’s… another highfalutin’ Xeroxed import? And it’s an Italian restaurant? Really? (That’s the London Cecconi’s, above.)

Nothing against the highfalutin’, much less Italian restaurants. (Xeroxed imports, that’s another matter and a rant for another day.) But together they’ve become a Los Angeles cliche. Pane e Vino, Ca del Sole, Il Sole, Ago, Orso… These places aren’t bad, but they’re largely interchangeable, equally acceptable to industry diners; you make your reservation based on what’s closest to your office (or their office, if you’re trying to make a good impression). These restaurants’ owners are successful, and smart, so they calibrate their menus accordingly. The result is excellent service and solid, if ordinary dining.

Granted, that’s hard to argue as a bad thing. But I dream of a new restaurant that takes pride in its salumi, rather than another place that offers a "special" chicken palliard on a bed of arugula.

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