EXCLUSIVE: Change comes slowly to Hollywood’s venerable Musso & Frank restaurant. The so-called “new room” for dining opened in 1955; the menu didn’t offer a hamburger sandwich until recent times; and waiters seem to serve a lifetime appointment.
But now celebrating its 100th anniversary, the iconic Hollywood Boulevard eatery is about to undergo a major change: sometime late this fall, it will open three private dining rooms with special access entrances, all with an eye toward addressing a long-standing customer desire for more privacy.
“It’s something our customers have been asking about for years,” said Mark Echeverria, the COO and the fourth generation of his family involved in the restaurant’s operations. Plans for the space started germinating back in 2009 upon his appointment, and though it takes a long time to get anything through the city planning boards and to construct in old buildings, it appears that three private rooms will open sometime around Thanksgiving of this year. The restaurant will remain open throughout the construction, which is under the supervision of the Gensler architecture firm.
The rooms will have an old-school Hollywood feel, as befits a restaurant known as the home of the power lunch and the perfect martini. “When you are in them, you will feel like they have been there forever,” said Echeverria.
The rooms will range from an 8-10 person dining experience to two others that can be converted for larger receptions accommodating around 100-125 people, including wrap parties, wedding celebrations, and larger events. A red carpet entrance on Hollywood Blvd. will be available, as will another entrance that will allow celebrities to enter from the rear. And for the ultimate insiders, a secret entrance through the restaurant’s kitchen is possible, although obviously prior arrangements need to be made.
Diners in the main dining room will see a portal leading to the eastern side of the building, where the private rooms will be built. The space was formerly occupied by retail shops, for which the family-run restaurant has long served as landlords. In the foyer for the private area, there will be a display case for Musso & Frank memorabilia, including ancient menus and wine lists and other artifacts from its long history.
That some would desire a different experience is not surprising, giving who has dined there in the past. Memorable guests included Charlie Chaplin, Frank Sinatra, Clark Gable, Charlton Heston, Marilyn Monroe, Orson Welles, Alfred Hitchcock, Jimmy Stewart, Lauren Bacall, Elizabeth Taylor, Steve McQueen, Jack Nicholson, Johnny Depp, and even The Rolling Stones, whose favorite waiter, Sergio, has been flown to many a Stones show throughout the world and ensconced in the band’s hotel.
Beyond its celebrity guests, Musso & Frank has been featured in dozens of films and TV shows over the years, including The Komsinky Method, Bosch, Swingers, the 2001 version of Ocean’s 11, Ed Wood, Mad Men and Ray Donovan, and will be ready for yet another close-up in Quentin Tarantino’s summer 2019 pic Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.
It all started back in 1919, when Frank Toulet formed a fateful partnership with Joseph Musso. The men in 1922 hired French chef Jean Rue, who would showcase his artistry at Musso & Frank for 53 years.
Musso and Toulet sold their restaurant to a duo of Italian immigrants named Joseph Carissimi and John Mosso in 1927, and today, Musso & Frank is owned and operated by the families of Mosso’s three granddaughters: John and Cathy Echeverria and their son, Mark Echeverria; Steve and Anne Jones; and Richard and Kristen Kohlmeyer.
The restaurant has never been busier, Echeverria claims, and there will be some special centennial celebrations in September. The secret to surviving 100 years? “It’s all about the people,” said Echeverria, whose most cherished memory of the place is as a 4-year-old sipping some Shirley Temples in a booth with his cousins and feeling very sophisticated.
And in case you were wondering, there are no plans for franchising or establishing other locations. “We’re here to serve our community,” Echeverria said. “It’s what we do.”
View the gallery of the new rooms here.