×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

‘Eat Pray Love’ Pizzeria Takes Over Cafe des Artistes Space in Hollywood

It took a former film finance pro to figure out how to bring back to life the space that once housed Café des Artistes, a favorite Hollywood hangout throughout the ’90s and ’00s. After the cozy restaurant closed in 2011, the spot sat empty until first-time restaurant owner Francesco Zimone bought rights to open the first U.S. location for Naples’ famous L’antica Pizzeria da Michele.

Da Michele gained worldwide fame when “Eat Pray Love” author Elizabeth Gilbert had a culinary epiphany there, then appeared in the film adaptation. In the book, she posits that it could possibly be “the best pizza in the world” — an extremely debatable statement, but one that turned the name into an international success.

Zimone first came to America from Italy to work in finance at Lionsgate, then worked for Dino de Laurentiis at Universal before turning to home design and development. While he’s been out of the industry for a while, he remembers it fondly, saying, “Jon Feltheimer is an inspiration every day.”

So why license the da Michele concept? “I just really loved this pizza, for ever and ever,” he says. Head pizza maker and partner Michele Rubini is a Naples native who was trained with the Association Verace Pizza Napoletana.

At first, Zimone looked for restaurant spaces in Venice, but couldn’t find what he wanted — an outdoor courtyard was a must for the kind of atmosphere he sought. When he saw the former Café des Artistes location, he fell in love, but “the space was a disaster,” he said. Raiding his savings, he designed everything himself. The front door is just off Sunset Boulevard, yet seems like a secret entrance. It opens onto a front patio that flows into a casual lounge with a fireplace and couches.

A long bar serving beer and Southern Italian wines (cocktails are coming soon) stretches toward the brick-lined rear courtyard, where another fireplace warms rows of tables. On the side, a separate building houses the wood-burning pizza oven, where diners can watch the pies being baked through large windows.

The double-fermentation pizzas take just 45 seconds to cook in the uber-hot coals — which should help speed things along when customers start to clamor for the signature Margherita or the Bianca with mozzarella and pecorino, sans tomatoes. There’s also Pizza Fritta, a popular Naples street food that resembles a puffy calzone. The soft, chewy pizzas are simple and satisfying, but there’s plenty of other things to try, from a salumi plate with Prosciutto di Carpegna and capicolla to lamb meatballs, tuna tartare, seared scallops and octopus with tomatoes and lentils.

“If you don’t have the flavors right, if you don’t have the quality, then you’re missing the boat,” he says.

“It was a struggle,” Zimone says of the long road to opening the restaurant. But he has lots of plans in store, including working with at-risk youth to introduce them to the restaurant business.

He still hopes to find a Westside location — and has rights to open da Micheles in the U.S., Canada and Mexico — but for now just getting the first U.S. da Michele off the ground is enough. “This place gives me great vibes, I don’t know whether I’m in Hollywood or Italy,” Zimone says.

More Scene

  • Dan Stevens

    'Legion' Star Dan Stevens Says His Character Would Fight Thanos, 'Wreak Havoc' in MCU

    Dan Stevens said his powerful, telepathic mutant Legion would do some serious damage if he ever crossed over from the eponymous FX series into the Marvel Cinematic Universe. “Legion would wreak havoc. He’d probably take on Thanos, let’s see that,” he told Variety on the red carpet at the premiere of the trippy, mind-bending superhero series [...]

  • Anthony Anderson LADF

    Why Anthony Anderson and Billie Jean King are Giving Back with the Dodgers Foundation

    Celebrities and athletes came together at the Dodgers Foundation Blue Diamond Gala to celebrate the team’s commitment to supporting youth and to catch a glimpse of the event’s headliner: Bruno Mars. Billie Jean King and Ilana Kloss were honored at the fifth annual event, which raised over $3 million for programs benefiting Los Angeles youth. [...]

  • Shia LaBeouf poses at the premiere

    Shia LaBeouf to Host Birthday Fundraiser for Slauson Rec. Theater Company

    Shia LaBeouf is celebrating his 33rd birthday by giving back. The actor, who turned 33 on June 11, will host a fundraising concert later this month for the Slauson Rec Theater Company, a 10-month-old free performing arts program he co-founded in downtown Los Angeles. The night will also include a preview of the Slauson Rec [...]

  • Awkwafina, Lulu Wang Celebrate New York

    Awkwafina Wants 'The Farewell' to Break Boundaries of Cultural Differences

    Family dysfunction is universal despite cultural differences. That’s what writer and director Lulu Wang wants audiences to take away from her film “The Farewell” starring Awkwafina. “This movie will teach us universality out of specificity. There’s something that we can all kind of relate to across cultures. There’s something we still have to learn about [...]

  • Elizabeth Debicki

    Elizabeth Debicki Talks About Being Supported by Other Women in Hollywood

    Elizabeth Debicki is looking to the future — which makes sense, since she was named Women in Film and Max Mara’s “Face of the Future” for 2019. “No pressure,” Debicki laughed when Variety asked the actress about the honor on the red carpet. “It means a great deal. I have always deeply respected the work [...]

  • Carla Gugino Jett

    How Carla Gugino Is Redefining the Anti-Hero in Cinemax's Crime Drama 'Jett'

    “This is like no character I’ve ever played,” Carla Gugino told Variety on the red carpet at the premiere of Cinemax’s “Jett” on Tuesday night. “I think television is filled with great roles for women, which is such a godsend these days. But the anti-hero — there’s still a double standard there.” In the new series, Gugino [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content