Call Mom | Exploring Hospitality With Legacy In View

Conversing With Two Boundless Restaurateurs

Written by

Mariam Bagdady

Photographed by

Jonathan Hedrick

Styled by

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Photographed By Jonathan Hedrick

As you turn the corner onto Santa Monica Boulevard in Beverly Hills you are immediately met with a quaint, windowless building with a single entrance. From the outside, it stands alone in all its lilac glory, a vintage sign to the side illuminating the Italian words “La Dolce Vita” – the sweet life. Soon do you realize how true those words stand to be stamped alongside a building filled with more life than one could imagine.

As the cheetah accented doorknob begins to beckon for your hand, you step through time into a dimmed, ageless retroscape. Now inside, you are face to face with Hollywood legends like Frank Sinatra, Ronald and Nancy Reagan, Jimmy Stewart, and Kirk Douglas. You have undoubtedly entered Old Hollywood’s clubhouse, and it welcomes you joyously.  

Here enters Marc Rose and Med Abrous, two restaurateurs whose scope of artistry lies just beyond the horizons of legacy. Long time friends turned hospitality veterans turned name duo ‘Marc and Med,’ their list of ventures include classic venues all over the country such as The Spare Room, Genghis Cohen, and notably La Dolce Vita. Their partnership is rooted in congenial hospitality and blooms with instinct at its forefront. It is the kind that begins with a friendship so untouchable that one late-night drunken dinner can lead to the fruitful beginnings of their hospitality project, Call Mom. Born in spontaneity and nurtured with their New York roots and love for Los Angeles in mind, Call Mom is the cultivation of the many spaces under their care and it’s become the zenith of their inspirations.

For the pair, there is an understood magic in what they do, a genuineness that transcends their physical creations and translates onto the memories that form in their establishments. From the fine detailing in the green tiled floors or Sinatra painted artwork that’s become a pinnacle statement to the rooted red ambiance that surrounds or the revitalized bar that resides as the heart of each restaurant, Marc and Med find and create legacy in all they do. And in the case of one particular Call Mom project, that legacy speaks for itself.

On any given night, La Dolce Vita was a bustling clubhouse eatery where even the most acclaimed of names stood to wait in an overpacked line. It was a mainstay in Los Angeles and the definitive soul of Beverly Hills, the kind of soul that galvanizes a reigning spirit whose impression holds no bounds. And ultimately, it is one so paramount that Marc and Med have left it almost as it was in the early 1960s.

As they take on the ownership mantle for La Dolce Vita or any Call Mom project for that matter, they find themselves cultivating new meaning in nostalgia. A nod to the famed title per se– it is a sweet life here and it will continue to last for generations.

There is a lot of history imbued in La Dolce Vita, carrying a vintage impression that begins with its connections to Frank Sinatra and George Raft to President Ronald Reagan and Tom Ford. How did you approach this space from a new perspective whilst appreciating its history?

Marc: I think we joke all the time with people that we changed everything and nothing at the same time. Red leather booths are an overwhelmingly big part of the design here in the layout. We didn't touch the booths. Aside from a couple of really secretive hidden patches and patch work we needed to do, it's the same upholstery. So I think that alone automatically will give people who were here 30 years ago the same feeling as if “Okay, I'm back in this room again.” But everything else around it has truly been considered and brought forth into a modern day lens. There was always that nod to the past, but we didn't want this restaurant to live in the past. We thought that having that history but showing evolution was really important to not just attract a whole new generation of people that go out and drink in Los Angeles, but even the people that used to come here–to give them a sort of new experience in an old familiar place was really important.

Med: Restaurants are memory makers, and I think that we tried to draw through lines to the past memories but create new opportunities for new memories. That's really what a lot of these restaurants are. They're built on traditions and families coming together. You know, being in and becoming part of the fabric of Beverly Hills in Los Angeles was really one of our goals to set the tone. Certainly respecting the past, but really trying to make it a box for new memories.

It also carries a legacy that spans from the 60s to now. What legacy do you hope it’ll create in the next generation?

Marc: I hope that everyone who's coming here now will want to tell the next generation to go there as well. We can be long gone from this place, but if people were still going in, and people were still enjoying it, we've done our jobs. To take over a place that had so much prior is a big responsibility to not just make sure the people that used to come here are still happy, but so that tons of people to come will be happy generations after us. And each time will have its own stories.

Photographed by Jonathan Hedrick

Would you say there is overlap between food and design?

Med: Yeah, absolutely. And I think that is because the nature of the food is modest. Italian food is simple in its ingredients, and in some cases, its preparation. But how do you do that in such a way that still gives you nostalgia, is still delicious, and still uses the best quality ingredients? And how do you make it chic? How do you make some of these traditional dishes that everybody knows and elevate them? I want to be careful with the word elevate because it's still honest food. But I think that we thought a lot about how to articulate this image from the outside of what we want the place to look like. We want to lean into the fact that we're in Beverly Hills and there is sophistication involved. But with the food, you can take something simple and make it sophisticated as well.

You both are iconic restaurateurs who carry a certain flair in the work that you do, both with the Call Mom project to the re-beginnings of this legacy landmark. However, your appreciation for this culture began long before Los Angeles and rather in New York City with the restaurants of your youth. How have you been able to find overlap between the two?

Med: I think LA is a premeditated city in terms of how you move. You have to get into a vehicle and know where you're going. There's not this kind of wabi sabi of a day that you can have by walking out your door and just going here or going there. When you live there, or you grew up there, like we did, your patterns kind of develop and become more sophisticated. You don't even have to call friends, you're just like, “I'm just gonna do this, run into them, go into the shop and say hello to this person,” and then your day can kind of unfold. LA is super spread out and New York is super dense, which makes you move differently. What does translate is our passion for hospitality, for food, for beverages, and for experiences. That's really what we've brought to LA and people in LA have that same kind of passion.

Is there a significant moment in either your friendship or career that defines how you approach the future?

Med: I think there's maybe a series of moments that constantly progress. We certainly don't have a crystal ball that's going to tell the future, but I think that probably the most critical moment was the spark, the founding moment where we said, “Hey, we're going to fucking open a bar together.” We were looking at different spaces, found the space in the Hollywood Roosevelt, and we were able to make a deal. And from the inception of that, to the opening of The Spare Room, it was only like eight and a half months. But the conscious decision to be like, “Okay, we're going to start a company and this is going to be our first project,” it was maybe our only project. We couldn't tell what was going to happen at that moment, but saying, “This is the idea. No matter where we are in our lives, we're going to actually do this and figure out everything after–” I think that was kind of like the Genesis moment that has folded several times over with every new project.

What does the future hold for Call Mom? How about in regards to each of you?

Marc: I would hope more of the same, you know, we feel grateful. The truth of it is that as crazy as this business is, or can be on a day to day basis, night to night basis, we really love what we do. And we're not going to stop or slow down. So I think I see more growth for Call Mom. You know, we have projects and other markets outside of LA but we're here. We're slightly older now and we have kids, so I think that keeps us here a little more than getting on planes all the time. But I see a bit in the near future for us and more projects in Los Angeles itself, even though our next project is in another city. But I think more things here in our backyard. And we might be born and raised in New York, but we do call LA home. And for that, I see a lot of growth here locally for us in the near future.

Med: More weird things certainly, location wise. Like Mark mentioned, we live here, our families, our kids go to school here, this is our home base. So enriching the city in which we live is super important. And it makes sense for us. But I think hospitality straddles so much. They're not just restaurants and not just bars. We have a lot of experience in the hotel space and there's a lot of natural progressions that we can sink our teeth into next.

Photographed by Jonathan Hedrick

Written by Mariam Bagdady

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Call Mom, La Dolce Vita, Marc Rose, Med Abrous, People, Mariam Bagdady