San Gennaro Café, which has been serving up its dishes for 12 years now in its downtown Culver City location, is more than just a place to grab a tasty plate of pasta arrabiata. The café also hosts weekly comedy shows which take place in the restaurant’s back are, known to locals as the "Champagne Room."
And if you want some Rat Pack with your rigatoni, you can stop in on Friday or Saturday nights and have your eardrums tickled by the smooth Frank Sinatra-esque stylings of Johnny Recine. He takes the stage from 8:30 to 10:30 p.m. each evening, performing the works of Ol’ Blue Eyes and other tune-smiths, with an assortment of guests.
For those who are monetarily impaired, San Gennaro offers a renowned and quite extensive $12 wine list. The selection has a little bit of everything for those looking to expand their wino skills or get all Sideways on their date. "This does taste a bit of oak, with an earthy bouquet and a tannin-y kick" (feel free to use that one).
On a recent Thursday night when we popped into San Gennaro to sate the rumblings in our tummies and soothe a week’s work of frayed nerves with a drink or two, we were shown to a comfy candlelit booth by the gracious manager and hostess, Mary.
By my side was the beautiful Oiseau, a stunning creature who didn’t hesitate to scan the wine list and select a tasty San Giovese. We warmed up with a hearty artichoke and a mozzarella drenched green salad, both of which were competently prepared and manga-worthy. After polishing off these two dishes and pushing aside the now decimated artichoke leaves, we were presented with dishes of pasta arrabiata and Italian fried chicken.
The pasta was studded with chunks of sausage and flecked with peppers, offering a rich and tangy mouthful of joy. The Italian fried chicken (which was "Italian" due to the special Italian seasonings they fry it in, according to our cheerful waitress Meghan) was meaty, though a bit dry. Both dishes were elegantly plated, and the mashed potatoes served alongside the chicken were a heap of creamy spud goodness.
As the piano man plucked away on the grand stationed front and center in the triangular room, I consulted the waistband of my pantaloons to ensure there was a spumoni-sized region left in which to stuff dessert. There was, but just barely. So we ordered up a wedge of the sweet, refreshing chocolate and maraschino cherry-infused San Gennaro spumoni and dove in, spoon-first.
As we finished off the last surviving dollop of whipped cream, we could hear some yucks beginning to emanate from the comedy room in the back. Our sumptuous Italian meal might have been over, but the night was just beginning for the aspiring Seinfelds back in the Champagne Room. Though there may be no sex in there, according to Mr. Chris Rock, there sure were a whole lot of one-liners, punch lines, silly bits and zany gags – which is almost as good.
San Gennaro Café is located at 9543 Culver Blvd., in Culver City. There is a second location at 140 Barrington Pl., in Brentwood. For more information, call (310) 836-0400 (Culver City) or (310) 476-9696 (Brentwood) or visit www.sangennarocafe.com.