Hold the Garlic
Out of the restaurants in the city, Perino's was probably the most elegant. This was a place where you dressed to eat. The menu was incredibly rich and often decadent. Numerous stars ate at Perino's, and some had a permanent table for certain nights of the week, including Bette Davis and Mae West. My Grandmother was there in the 30's but always called ahead to be sure that Garbo wasn't coming in that night. My mother was also there in the late 40's. Her husband, my father, was from an Italian family and the Spaghetti at Perino's may have altered her own Sauce recipe, because it was good! The only missing ingredient was Garlic, because Alexander Perino had banned the herb from the entire restaurant since it opened - he hated it. The fact was surprising because Perino was Italian, and Garlic is arguably just as synonymous with Italy as Pasta. Born in Northern Italy and the youngest of twelve children, his father died when he was young, and it wasn't long before his mother sent him to apprentice in a pastry shop on the Riviera. There, he became enamored with great food and not just pastry. When his mother died only two years later, he got on a ship as a steerage passenger on the S/S La Lorraine at the tender age of 15 and sailed to New York. After working a number of restaurant jobs in New York, he finally made it to Los Angeles in 1925, where he eventually got a job as the Head Waiter at the very elegant Victor Hugo's Restaurant. Victor Hugos was, at the time, one of the top restaurants in Hollywood but Perino wanted to open his own. He convinced a friend of his to lend him the money and opened Perino's for $2,000 at 3927 Wilshire Blvd where it stayed until 1953 before it moved down the street to a larger location.
The Chef at Perino's was Attilio Balzano. The story is that this young man just stepped in one lunch time and told Perino that he was an excellent Chef. Perino, impressed by his moxie, gave him a shot and they stayed together for the next 37 years. There was no doubt, that despite the lack of strong spices (Like Garlic) the food was considered some of the best in the city. There were celebrities there every night, and in addition, Perino's was considered a Mafia hot spot. Bugsy Siegal had a table toward the back of the restaurant to be a little out-of-sight, and no doubt sat with his back to the wall! The police broke up a Mafia meeting in one of Perino's private dining rooms on the second floor in the mid-thirties.
Perino's ended up being so popular (despite its high prices), it didn't need much advertising. The Los Angeles Times and Variety reported on who ate there almost every day. Perion's did run a small add weekly also. One of the interesting marketing ideas was to open a very limited pasta booth at the famous Farmer's Market at 3rd Street and Fairfax Avenue in the mid-forties. Perino's "Pasta Booth" was popular, and they reduced the portion size to make the food more accessible, charging .50c for a plate of their Spaghetti or Raviolis. Of course this only increased the popularity of the Restaurant.
In keeping with the reviews, our chosen recipe for this restaurant is Spaghetti Bolognese. Now this is good, very good. But it's not Chef Boyardee. This is a slow cooked sauce made with the freshest ingredients. If you can't get the best, don't try making this. It only works because of the vegitable tastes that come through without sugar or a ton of salt. This is one of the reasons Perino didn't use Garlic because it masks the other flavors.
1 1/2 Lbs. of Lean Ground beef. This should be 90/10 in fat content and be either Top-round or
better. If grinding your own, be sure the meat you are using is well-trimmed.
1 1/2 Cups of Medium chopped onion
1 Large Carrot Medium Chop
1 1/2 Cups of Medium chopped Celery, use some leaves.
Leaves from three sprigs of fresh Thyme
Leaves from two sprigs of fresh Oregano
Prepare a cup of softened unsalted butter (you will use it several different times). Try to get the best
butter you can.
1 1/2 Cups of a good Burgundy Red Wine.
5 Cups of really good Beef Stock/Boullion. I recommend "Better than Bullion" Brand if you haven't
made your own.
3 Cups of Tomatoes, Pureed. The best is in the can from Italy, unless you have home-grown and
were picked when fully ripe. Be sure to blanch them and peel them. You can also Puree whole
tomatoes from Italy.
Sea Salt (Do not use iodized salt!)
1 Lb. Dry spaghetti. If you can make your own, all the better, but adjust the timing of the recipe to
meet the special needs of fresh pasta.
1/4 - 1/2 a cup of grated FRESH parmigiana cheese.
A basil leaf for garnish.
In large, deep, frying pan (or a Dutch oven) melt 3/4 cup of the butter. When it bubbles, add the thyme, oregano, onion, celery and carrot. Soften the vegetables and herbs for five to seven minutes at medium-high heat. Stir often.
When you begin to smell the herbs, add the ground meat. Break it up as much as possible. Try and mix it all together well and lower the heat to medium. Cook until the meat is no longer pink.
Add the Wine - Remember to never add alcohol to a hot pan ON the stove. Lift it away, pour in the wine and then put it back on the stove. Stir well. Lower the heat to Medium-low and simmer for 15 minutes.
Add two cups of the tomato puree. Simmer on low for at least 2 hours until thick. If you put in on too high a heat, you can add some filtered water - you don't want it to burn.
Start the Pasty as per package instructions or altered for Fresh Pasta. Remember to well salt the water with SEA salt. Cook until desired bite.
(Secret Alert!) In a separate pan, melt the remainder of the butter and the last cup of tomato puree. Heat thoroughly, but do not boil.
When the Spaghetti is done, use a pair of tongs to remove the Pasta to the pan with only butter and tomato puree. Coat well.
After a minute or two, add the first pan's contents into the new pan with the pasta. Stir very well and be sure to get any bits left in the first pan.
Serve individually or family style with a sprinkle of parmesan and a basil leaf or two. Try and do a good green Salad with this and a hunk of Crusty warm bread!
Now, to be clear my mother (now 98) still makes the best Spaghetti ever, and her menu collection will appear on these pages a little later, along with Marlene's and other relatives and friends from the period (like Betty Comden, Marty Stevens, Dolly Hirschfeld and others). Meanwhile, though this is a very unique approach to a classic, and definitely worth giving it a try. Thank you, Mr. Perino and Mr. Balzano!