Surveying the richly painted, ornate molding that covers the ceiling over the bar at Fellini's restaurant, owner Gary Michael Gilson smiles with pride.
"It's all hand-painted, you know," he said. "It was especially designed just for here--everything was. The mahogany bar, the paneling, the mirrors. . . . It was truly a labor of love. The whole concept was like a dream, but the actuality is better."
Gilson has reason to be proud. In a town where restaurants, clubs and bars come and go with almost predictable rapidity, Gilson's Fellini's--a kind of combination of the three--has been going strong at 6810 Melrose Ave. for nearly 12 years. And it shows no signs of losing its appeal.
A Homey, Cozy Bar
The reasons for such success are evident upon entering the elegantly paneled mahogany doors. The barroom of Fellini's is renowned for its homey, Old World atmosphere--a dark, woody coziness. At one end of the long, narrow bar is an elevated stage, the setting for some of the finest local rock, blues, jazz and reggae around.
The live music begins at 10:30 p.m., Friday through Sunday, and at 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday. You never know who might get up to sing. Bonnie Raitt and Dennis Quaid have recently grabbed the mike for a couple of songs.
Add to all of this a great selection of imported beers, a lively, friendly crowd of regulars, and you've got a winning combination. Of course the soul of any good bar is its bartenders. Nighttime bartenders Paul and Rick work hard to maintain the feeling of good will and fun throughout the evening, juggling drinks, waitresses' orders and conversations with customers as if it were perfectly natural to have six arms and two mouths.
Only five years ago the barroom was an old antique shop next door to the original Fellini's, an Italian restaurant Gilson purchased in 1976. Even then, Fellini's had a reputation for serving some of the finest Italian cuisine in Los Angeles. This was largely due to the efforts of outgoing chef Leny Longo, and Gilson is confident that the standard will be maintained by the chef-in-training, Nacho Arreola.
The restaurant area has not changed much over the years, save that Gilson added a cozy back patio with a broad skylight for an out-of-doors feel during the day, and candles for a more intimate atmosphere at night.
All in all, Fellini's is a great place to stop in just about anytime. Dinner is served until 1:30 a.m.--where else can you find that?--and the bar has managed to cultivate a regular neighborhood following.