It’s been a decade since hospitality veteran Tommy Salvatore started charming diners at Craig’s in Los Angeles. “He’s the ultimate maître d’,” Tracey Tran says. “He knows everyone.”
And now he’s got his own restaurant that reflects his big vision and even bigger personality. Tommy’s Beverly Hills in Beverly Canon Gardens (formerly the Bouchon space) opened in February to serve Californian Italian cuisine from Salvatore’s strong point of view.
“I’m an Italian American from a tight-knit community in New York City,” Salvatore says. His heritage inspired everything about the new restaurant from his endearing way with the guests to the menu. Chef Vartan Abgaryan filters this inspiration through a California lens. Think: everything you love about Italian food but a little bit lighter and brighter.
The restaurant encompasses several distinct spaces with their own vibe, but Salvatore’s presence as host ties them all together. “I have to admit that he’s in control of the dining room,” general manager Tran says.
“Over the past ten years, I’ve made a lot of good friends, and at any given time, 75 percent of the restaurant’s guests are my friends,” Salvatore says.
Tommy’s is almost like three venues in one: the cafe, the dining room, and the living room.
The cafe, on the ground floor, is open during the day as a casual lunch spot. It’s largely outdoors, with tables set up in the garden amid tiled porticos and shades of green with pink accents. Inside, there’s a bar and some additional seating. “It’s friendly and approachable; a neighborhood place,” Tran says.
By contrast, the dining room is more of a special occasion venue you’d plan for in advance. “Very Old Hollywood meets 1970s New York,” as Tran puts it. “In one corner there’s a navy blue sofa with cheetah-print pillows like you’d see at a friend’s house, and then there’s an ornate chandelier that looks like something out of a luxury hotel. Somehow it all really works together.”
The living room, a clubby kind of space with plenty of comfortable seating, is home to live jazz performances seven nights a week. Though separated from the dining room by a long hallway, the music floats into the elaborately decorated dining room as well, adding to the ambiance.
“The atmosphere here makes it stand out from other Beverly Hills restaurants. We built it to satisfy the community. We want people to feel comfortable,” Salvatore says.
Though there are separate menus for the cafe and dining room, both share the same Italian-Californian sensibility. “Vartan Abgaryan is an incredible chef of many talents, and California cuisine is his speciality,” Tran says.
The cafe menu features quintessentially Los Angeles dishes such as avocado hummus, hamachi crudo with passion fruit and citrus, and a salad of farmers’ market lettuces beside Italian staples like an antipasti platter, cacio e pepe, and housemade cavatelli.
It’s a concise menu compared to the upstairs dining room menu, which includes more elaborate preparations. “The cafe is for a quick power lunch,” Tran says.
The signature chicken parmesan is an area of overlap, and Tran says it’s the dish that best exemplifies Tommy’s cuisine. “Our version is a big piece of chicken on the bone, and we don’t melt the cheese completely,” she notes, which highlights the fresh quality of the mozzarella and prevents it from disappearing into the dish.
On the dinner menu, starters include beef carpaccio with porcini mushrooms, fennel, mustard seeds, and arugula as well as other light bites. The pasta section features standards like potato gnocchi with lemon and parmesan plus more creative interpretations, such as a seafood-centric riff on carbonara that combines squid-ink shells, uni, trout roe, bottarga, basil, and chipotle.
Salvatore’s favorite dish is a hearty wagyu pot roast with cannellini beans, horseradish, and gremolata. “The flavors are absolutely amazing,” he says.
Menus will change seasonally, an event that’s happening for the first time now. “It’s very exciting, seeing those wintery items come off the menu to make room for what’s ahead. The snap peas are coming,” Tran says.
Holding true to the Old Hollywood spirit, the beverage menu excels at classic cocktails such as manhattans, negronis, and martinis. “A lot of locals come by at 5 o’clock for a drink and to wait out the traffic,” says Tran. The wine list is evolving, but there’s currently a focus on California wines.
The Tommy’s cafe is open weekdays from 11:30 am to 5 pm and at 11 am on weekends. The main dining room is open from 5:30 pm to 10:30 pm Monday through Thursday and Sunday, and stretches to 11:30 pm on Friday and Saturday. Reservations are recommended for dinner—there’s little to no capacity for walk-ins.