"Can you recommend a restaurant with a private dining room we might book for a party?"
This time of year, that's the most frequently asked restaurant question. And we do have a few unusual answers. Hotels, of course, have banquet facilities, and if your group is really large, those may be the best bet. But if you want to make your party sparkle and are eager to do things a little differently, the following are a few of the many restaurants offering interesting options for smaller private parties. (Most suggest booking at least two weeks in advance.)
CHIANTI CUCINA (7383 Melrose Ave., Los Angeles, (213) 653-8333). The kitchen of Chianti has been turned into a hip little restaurant serving up a lot of noise and good northern Italian food. But the pastry room in the rear of the restaurant has also been turned into an eating place--a very special private dining room seating from 12 to 22. The chef will make a special set menu for private parties for approximately $25 per person. They have a full bar, but if you want to bring your own wine, the corkage fee is $7 per bottle. All major credit cards are accepted. Valet parking.
COLUMBIA BAR & GRILL (1448 N. Gower St., Hollywood, (213) 461-8800). Located next door to the former Columbia Pictures, Wayne Rogers' restaurant is quickly becoming a luncheon place for the TV and film crowd. California cuisine served here includes steaks, salads, chili and grilled free-range chicken. There are two private rooms: the Parlor, which seats 16-25, and a larger banquet room that seats around 60. Prices range from $15 to $30 per person, food only. They have a full bar and the corkage fee for private parties is negotiable. All major credit cards accepted. Valet parking.
REBECCA'S (2025 Pacific Ave., Venice, (213) 306-6266). The beautiful people go to this beautiful designer restaurant for some beautiful upscale Franco-Mexican food. This is the in spot. The private banquet room upstairs, with alabaster walls, seats between 15 and 20. A special menu can be arranged with the chef or you may order off the regular menu. Prices average $15 to $20 per person. All major credit cards are accepted. Valet parking.
SADDLE PEAK LODGE (419 Cold Canyon Road, Calabasas, (818) 340-6029). This mountain peak lodge is filled with trophy heads, roaring fires, timbered walls and handmade wooden furniture. The menu leans toward grilled meats, game and fish. They cater to private parties from 6 to 300, which includes taking over the entire restaurant--even the outdoors on a nice day. (No parties larger than 16 people are accepted on the weekends.) Price range is $27-$50 per person, food only. There is a full bar and bringing your own wine is discouraged; if you do, the corkage fee is $10 per bottle. MasterCard and Visa. Valet parking.
SHAIN'S (14016 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks, (818) 986-5510). This little restaurant in the Valley was formerly Bud Abbott's cottage. The private dining room seats between 80 and 85, but it can be subdivided to accommodate smaller parties. There is an extensive Continental menu; for private parties, they suggest either buffet service or a set menu. Prices range from $5.50-$12 per person at lunch and $10-$20 at dinner. There is a full bar with a $3 per bottle corkage fee for private parties. All major credit cards are accepted. Valet parking.
TICK TOCK RESTAURANT (1716 N. Cahuenga Blvd., Hollywood, (213) 463-7576). Tick Tock is a 50 year old Hollywood restaurant/landmark filled with . . . clocks. The menu offers traditional American food. The private room can accommodate from 20 to 100 people. Table service at lunch and dinner consists of your choice of items from their banquet menu. Prices range between $9 and $12. Wine and beer are available; corkage is $3 per bottle if you bring your own wine. All major credit cards are accepted. Parking lot available.
TRATTORIA ANGELI (11651 Santa Monica Blvd., West Los Angeles, (213) 478-1191). This new Westside restaurant is a chip off its Melrose Avenue block. Entrees include salads, pasta dishes, roast chicken and superb pizza. Trattoria Angeli's private dining room, located upstairs, is called the Pompeii Room and has a 14-person seating capacity. For parties there is a set menu at $25 per person, food only. Beer and wine are served, and patrons are discouraged from bringing their own wine; if you do, a corkage fee of $10 per will be charged. All major credit cards. Valet parking.