We had lunch in the shade of a white umbrella in the courtyard entrance to the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles the other day, and we can report that the calamari antipasto goes very well with the works of Willem de Kooning and Robert Graham. In fact, Graham's bronze of a woman and horse oversees the outdoor eating area.
Il Panino at MOCA is the latest contribution to one of our favorite diversions--eating our way through the world of fine arts. We know of four of these museum restaurants. Each has the virtue of offering outdoor dining when the weather is cooperative, which seems to be most of the time around here--a fact lost on most other restaurants in the region. Each offers very different surroundings. And each offers relatively limited menus, served cafeteria-style--although more elegant dining is contemplated at a restaurant that will be part of the J. Paul Getty Center in Brentwood.
At the Getty Museum in Malibu, the west porch serves as an extension of the Garden Tea Room, providing the ambiance of the ancient Herculaneum villa that inspired the museum building. Outdoor eating at the Plaza Cafe of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art is in diminished demand these days because of the raucous construction of the nearby Pavilion of Japanese Art, but the porch offers a novel view of the La Brea tar pits. Trays of food from the Patio Restaurant at the Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens in San Marino can be carried to a discrete garden and consumed under an old oak tree, Quercus agrifolia , the native coast live oak, with a special added treat in spring when a hybrid flowering cherry sends pink petals over the diners and sometimes into their soup.