When restaurateurs Marc Rose and Med Abrous set out to revamp the compact and clubby La Dolce Vita, their goal was to liven up it. They gave the Beverly Hills Italian joint, which dates back to the ‘60s, a snazzy makeover with design flourishes (hello, leopard print carpets), expertly crafted cocktails, and well-above-par red sauce fare.
Now, a few months into the reopening, a table at LDV is one of the hottest in town. Given that the restaurant has only 60 dining room seats and that the menu boasts Caesar prepared tableside and a giant, head-turning Veal Parmesan, nabbing a Resy is no easy feat. So we called up the man who keeps the books, La Dolce Vita’s maître d’ Christos Kalabogias, for tips.
Kalabogias was born in Greece, raised in Chicago, and grew up working in the restaurants that his parents owned, so he has hospitality in his bones. When he moved to Los Angeles 14 years ago, he trained under Dimitri Dimitrov at the Sunset Tower and later, put his expertise into play at the exclusive San Vicente Bungalows. “And now I’m here at La Dolce Vita, controlling these books,” he says.
Here’s Kalabogias on how to best approach getting into La Dolce Vita, and what to expect after you’ve slid into one of the Beverly Hills hotspot’s storied leather banquettes.
Resy: How many seats are there at La Dolce Vita?
Christos Kalabogias: In the restaurant, there are 60 seats. That’s not including the bar or the lounge. So it’s really romantically intimate in here.
And how many seats are there in the bar and the lounge?
CK: The bar has six stools, and the lounge seats about 10 comfortably. Whether you sit at table five or nine, it’s the same type of booth everywhere. Even the ones in the lounge are the exact same, just the tables are a little smaller and more meant for two-tops.
When do reservations drop on Resy?
CK: 30 days out. The best way to be accommodated is to book at least three weeks out. The more time you can give us, the better, because we are booked so constantly.
How quickly do they get snatched up?
CK: Right away, as soon as they’re released [at midnight].
Do you leave any seats open for walk-ins?
CK: Yes, we do, always. The earlier [you come], the better.
That includes the dining room, as well?
CK: That includes the bar and lounge. We will try to get you a table in the dining room if you come early enough, but there’s always going to be a little bit of a wait, and it’s not guaranteed. You have a better shot at the bar, but it’s definitely possible for the restaurant as well.
If someone was planning to walk in, what time and day of the week would they have the most luck?
CK: The day of the week doesn’t matter because it feels like Saturday night in here every night. But I would say either the earliest right when the doors open [at 5 p.m.] or after the rush, which is usually by 9:15 p.m. on a Friday or Saturday. On Fridays and Saturdays, the kitchen is open later, and usually, we have a little bit of availability with a slight wait around 9:30 p.m.
The day of the week doesn’t matter because it feels like Saturday night in here every night.— Christos Kalabogias
When are you busiest, and what is the average wait time during peak?
CK: The peak time really is all the time. As soon as we open, we start off very hot, we start off busy. And from 5 p.m. literally, until 9 p.m., it’s busy. The average wait time for the bar is 90 minutes. The dining room is reservation only.
How long is your Notify list?
CK: It ranges depending on the day, but it’s usually between 250 and 500.
Are there any other tricks or tips for getting a table?
CK: If you give us time in advance, we will always be able to accommodate. Also, if you dine here and want to come back, make a reservation for your next dinner on your way out.
What do you think is the best seat in the house?
CK: This is gonna sound corny, but I think every seat is good in here. I don’t think there’s one best seat. If I came in here for dinner, I’d be happy sitting anywhere because like I said, the booths are all the same. And we haven’t changed them since 1966. My secret favorite table is a table called L2, lounge two, and it faces the whole restaurant. You can see the bar, you can see all the way down the dining room lane, you can see the front door of who’s walking in, and you have a corner booth, so you have a bit more space. It’s like a four-top that’s a two-top. Rumor has it might have been Frank Sinatra’s favorite table, too.
What is the experience like dining in the bar room compared to the dining room?
CK: I don’t think there’s a different experience because the place is so small and quaint. There’s always a rhythm everywhere. I guess the lounge can be a bit more romantic because it seats smaller groups, two-tops or three-tops, whereas the dining room has bigger booths for four, five, or six people.
Are guests able to request specific tables?
CK: We try to accommodate anything and everything, to be hospitable always, that’s the first rule of thumb. But we don’t promise or guarantee anything. For instance, a lot of people come in here, and they want to sit at the Sinatra booth, and if we can make it happen, we do, and if we can’t, we don’t, but we will try.
Do you have a lot of regulars from the past iteration of La Dolce Vita?
CK: Definitely, and they all come with stories. ‘I had my first date here. My dad closed a deal on this booth. My grandpa used to bring me here.’ We have many, many, many regulars. A lot of locals, too.
What percentage of the dining room is filled with recurring guests?
CK: I would say more than half.
It’s Friday night at La Dolce Vita. Can you set the scene: what music are you playing, what dish is on every table?
CK: So a Friday night in here, you have the beautiful amber lighting, you have a mixture of Copacabana music, and maybe we sprinkle in a little Frank Sinatra “L.A. Is My Lady.” You will see the Caesar cart at full force, making Caesars everywhere, and the homemade focaccia on the tables, maybe some LDV Gibsons, which is our martini with our own pickled vegetables that vary depending on what’s in season. You might see some people you recognize here and there.
If someone is visiting for the first time, what should they definitely order?
CK: Caesar salad because it’s fun to watch it being made at the table and you get to meet Rubirosa, our big pepper mill. I think the branzino piccata is delicious. And obviously, the primetime winner is a split between the spaghetti and meatballs and the veal Parmesan.
Is there anything else about the La Dolce Vita experience that you think diners should know about?
CK: Something that doesn’t get touched on as much is that we have a very unique wine list and a very talented wine director, Gabriel Perez. He can find a glass of wine to go with anything you order. And then just some helpful advice for everyone who is making early reservations: our valet doesn’t start until 7 p.m. It’s not our choice. Beverly Hills won’t allow us [to start earlier], but we’re trying to find a way to do it. There’s free parking on Santa Monica and Roxbury after 6 p.m, so that’s my tip.
Emily Wilson is a Los Angeles-based food writer from New York. She has contributed to Bon Appétit, Eater, TASTE, The Los Angeles Times, Punch, Atlas Obscura, and more. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram. Follow Resy, too.