|Campanile in Chaplin’s Day|
I used to spend a lot of time in Los Angeles, sometimes for weeks on end. As an Advertising Agency creative, I was there making TV commercials for everything from Coca Cola to Johnson’s Baby Shampoo. Inevitably, we had clients along for the ride. It seemed to be their birthright to be wined and dined daily and so I spent a great deal of time in a lot of great Los Angeles restaurants. On somebody else’s dollar. I was fond of a lot of places. High on my list was Campanile. The building it was in looked for all the world like it belonged somewhere in Italy, certainly not on South La Brea Avenue. But it was pure Hollywood.
|Campanile when Peel and Silverton took over|
Charlie Chaplin built the place as an office complex for himself in 1929. He never occupied it. Instead, one of his many wives, Lita Grey, who at aged 19 had been married to Chaplin for 3 years and produced two children, was given the property in her divorce settlement. But its real fame came far later when Chef Mark Peel and his then-wife, Nancy Silverton, opened Campanile to great acclaim in 1989. The restaurant is credited with setting the tone for much of Los Angeles dining in the 1990s. It used farmer’s market ingredients and produced gorgeous food. So I when I came across today’s recipe and saw Nancy Silverton’s name attached to it, I was intrigued.
Nancy Silverton is every bit as well-known as her former husband. She started La Brea
Bakery in the Campanile space, actually opening her bakery before the restaurant had even opened. She was most famous for her artisanal breads. These were made with a recipe she worked months to perfect. She used grapes for their natural yeast. After soaking them in flour and water for days, she mixed the dough, shaped the loaves by hand and let them rise for a two-day period. The resulting bread was so popular that within weeks of opening, she was selling $1000.00 worth a day. The restaurant was just as popular both with the press and the public. I wish this story had a happier ending: She sold La Brea Bakery to an Irish investment group for huge sums of money.
|La Brea Bakery at Campanile|
Her share was $5,000,000 which she promptly invested with a man named Bernard Madoff. Do I need to finish the story? She and Mark Peel had separated in 2005 and she left Campanile in 2007. The restaurant itself became history when Mark Peel could not match the rent two fellow restauranteurs could afford. And so he lost his lease when the building’s owner, Larry Silverton, accepted their rival offer. Larry Silverton was Peel’s former father-in-law.
|Nancy Silverton and Matt Molina|
1. In a mini food processor, puree the peppers. Transfer the puree to a bowl and whisk in the broth and 1/2 cup yogurt.
In a large bowl, combine the lamb, eggs, garlic, 1/4 cup parsley and the thyme and smoked paprika. Add the 4 teaspoons kosher salt.
2. Using your hands, gently mix, then roll into sixteen 2-inch meatballs.
2. In a very large skillet, heat the oil until shimmering. Add the meatballs and cook over moderately high heat until browned all over, about 8 minutes.
3. Slide the meatballs to one side of the pan. Add the red-pepper sauce and the chickpeas and bring just to a boil. Simmer the meatballs over moderately low heat, stirring and turning them occasionally in the sauce, until the sauce reduces slightly, 10 minutes. Season with salt. Transfer the meatballs and chickpeas to a platter, spoon the pepper sauce on top, garnish with parsley and serve with yogurt.