Spago customers now have a new maitre d' to kiss up to. Bernard Erpicum, maitre d'-sommelier at the West Hollywood celeb hangout for 10 1/2 years, has departed. The Belgium-born Erpicum is being replaced by Michael Dargin, a former Spago waiter.
"Leaving was very emotional for me, but you reach a point where you have to fly on your own," says Erpicum, who was at Ma Maison before Spago. "Gene and Patty Kelly came in to say goodby. (Dodger owner) Peter O'Malley also came in with his wife and kids. He said, 'You know, Bernard, you work so hard, it will take 10 men to replace you.' I was overwhelmed."
Erpicum and Spago-trained chef Serge Falesitch (he now cooks at Delicias in Rancho Santa Fe) plan to open their own place in December. Right now, Erpicum is negotiating for two locations--one on Robertson and another on Melrose. Erpicum has yet to decide on the name--he's says he's torn between Bernard's Place and Eclipse.
He does know that the California menu will feature pizzas and pastas, and that he plans to emphasize fish, "with maybe an Asian or an Italian touch," says Erpicum. "Something different than Spago." Of course, Spago is known for its Asian and Italian touches on California food.
In the meantime, the Creative Artists Agency-represented Erpicum is completing a second video for Columbia TriStar, "Celebrity Guide to Entertaining," with cameos by Merv Griffin, Steven Seagal, Kelly LeBrock, Whoopi Goldberg, Jon Voight, Rod Steiger, Tony Curtis and more. "Tony Curtis is explaining how to cut the turkey," says Erpicum, "and Kelly LeBrock shows how to open a bottle of wine."
There's more. Erpicum is also writing a coffee table book on the food and wines of California, Italy and France. And he is assisting Steven Seagal on the release of the star's Cabernet Sauvignon. Sanford Winery's Richard Sanford is supervising the winemaking, which is being done at Edna Valley Vineyard. Lambert Monet, great-grandson of Claude Monet, is designing the label. "It will have Steven's portrait on it," says Erpicum. What about Seagal's stunning wife/model Kelly LeBrock? "Kelly has a very sophisticated palate," says Erpicum, "but it is actually Steven's venture."
Erpicum, who is still on Spago's payroll through November--he's assisting the restaurant with its wine list and situating the tables--is also doing wine cellars. For example, he says, "I built the wine at the Hotel Bel-Air." Erpicum, who at age 21 in Switzerland placed second in what he calls "the most difficult wine contest in the world," built Spago's wine list on what celebs prefer. He knows that Dabney Coleman loves 1982 Chateau Giscours, and what Michael Caine's favorite Chardonnays are. "And," says Erpicum, "I am going to order all of their favorites for my new restaurant."
NO TRUMPS: Trumps was considered shocking when it opened in 1981. The colors were neutral, the tables concrete, the art world-class, the food avant-garde. Now it's gone--building and all. Peter Morton bought the Trumps space a while back so he could move his restaurant, Morton's, across the street. For years, he'd wanted to open Morton's for lunch but couldn't because of strict West Hollywood parking regulations. Apparently, he valued Trumps' parking lot more than the building because the structure has been demolished. "It's being reconstructed," says Morton's Missy Wagnon. "The new Morton's will open for lunch and dinner anywhere between October and December."
"I think Peter is very smart to totally change it," says the former Trumps chef/owner Michael Roberts. "Trumps is a very powerful ghost, and I don't think it's something he wants to live up to."
BABETTE, BIS: Last year, clothing and restaurant magnate Jerry Magnin and his partners (they also own Engine Co. No. 28) sold the 17-month-old Red Car Grill in West Hollywood to their landlord, RWH Holdings, which runs the Ramada Inn chain. Now Babette and Christian Royere (they owned the shuttered Babette's in Marina del Rey) have taken over the formerly meaty restaurant and changed the name to Trigo. Babette Royere says the menu will be California-style with a touch of Mediterranean. Trigo, expected to open sometime this week, will be like the old Babette's, Royere says, "just a bigger baby."