Kid Hit Menu Items: Going to weekend brunch at Campanile means setting the bar dangerously high for the kids. For a long time, even before we had kids, we pretty much gave up on going out to brunch unless it was a special weekend meal every now and then at Campanile. Because for just a few bucks more than your average Hollywood joint where the crowds spilled out onto the sidewalk for an overstuffed omelette and puffy sweet blueberry pancakes, we could have amazing butter-crisped eggs in a hole in olive bread, perfect poached eggs with prosciutto, sublime fried potatoes, and creamed spinach that holds onto its identity as an iron-rich leafy green while being totally decadent. With the original La Brea Bakery right next door, you can go crazy with sweet and savory baked goods. Based on the theme alone, Campanile’s tradition of Grilled Cheese Night on Thursdays means you can’t go wrong. Just as long as you arrive early and make a reservation. If all else fails, request an order of Campanile’s outstanding fries and house-made ice creams with any meal.
Adult Perks: The changing menu reflects the seasons and chef/owner Mark Peel’s pioneering interest in California-inflected Mediterranean cooking. If we’re here on a date night, then chances are I’ll order an Aviation cocktail before even thinking about what food and other drink will follow. Campanile is known for its wine program (keep an eye out for the very occasional half-off wine bottle night). Cocktails have always been solid, and they’ve been further updated to reflect current tastes for retro classic drinks. At brunch, I love the delicious burn of a Bloody Mary with fresh horseradish.
Pros: There are lots of reasons why Campanile is one of the safer Fancy Restaurants to Take Kids. It’s spacious, and you can request a table either out front by the fountain, or in a rear corner of the back dining room. They actually have cute decorated plastic cups with lids. (Circus train ones were a big hit.) The many kid-energy-overflow safety valve outlets are a huge bonus. We wind up going upstairs to explore the hallway, private dining rooms, and windows overlooking the kitchen and restaurant below. Or we go outside to run around the sidewalk and peek into the bakery. And then there’s that beautiful fountain covered in Malibu Potteries tile. Even if its entire population consists of three little fish, that modest number doesn’t diminish their entertainment value. Peel told me years ago when we were having dinner with our then 5-month-old that he thinks of his place as relatively family-friendly, which was good enough reassurance that our judgment hasn’t been too off.
Cons: Sometimes it’s hard to lure the kids away from the fountain and back to the table. It is an upscale place, so there’s a risk of clientele who don’t expect or want kids around. A loud laugh or scream can really echo in there. But during brunch or Family Dinners on Mondays, I think the vibe relaxes a bit more.
Changing Station: No, but nice bathrooms!
High Chairs: Yes
Parking and Access: Valet lot ($6.50) but metered parking usually available on La Brea or 6th Street, except for early weeknight dinners when you’re probably looking at a valet situation. (No parking allowed on La Brea during evening rush hour until 7 p.m.)
Other Tidbits: The bright, airy building with high ceilings and flooded with natural light is tied to Charlie Chaplin’s local architectural legacy. (Charlie Chaplin Built This category is Los Angeles’ George Washington Slept Here equivalent.) The various spaces in Campanile, which charts the evolution of L.A. restaurant design from the 80s era of Schweitzer BIM’s prominence through Ana Henton’s most recent imprint, together have a blend of old Hollywood class and modern L.A. casual chic. It’s a classic but definitely not stuffy, more reasons why Campanile is in and of Southern California.
Fried chicken Family Dinner night this past Monday for my mom’s belated birthday dinner wasn’t paced as quickly as we’d hoped. The meal took almost two hours total, even with a waiter who was aware we needed to “move things along.” We got up and down a LOT, especially during long stretches between courses. (I’ll have to try to recreate the incredible succotash with bacon and purslane at home.) Not that we expect Sizzler salad bar pacing, and I understand they don’t want to rush customers and prefer a level of civilized dining. But I thought — and I could be mistaken — family-style dining can also imply that if people with little kids need to eat efficiently, then it should happen for the benefit of everyone. Especially for those who arrive when the lights dim and the vibe distinctly changes. Thankfully, not an issue at brunch.
624 S La Brea Avenue, Mid-City
Cuisine: American/Market Driven, Italian
Hours: Monday – Friday, 11:30 a.m. – 2:30 p.m.; Monday – Wednesday, 6 p.m. – 10 p.m.; Thursday – Saturday, 5:30 p.m. – 11 p.m.; Saturday – Sunday. 9:30 a.m. – 1:30 p.m.