VITELLO'S Italian Restaurant in Studio City has yet to lose its unlooked-for notoriety as the eatery where Robert Blake and his wife had their last meal before she was found shot to death in his car on a nearby residential street. But the modest dining spot is now aiming for a more benign claim to fame -- as L.A.'s cabaret destination.
The restaurant will launch a second-floor supper club, Sterling's Upstairs, on June 9 and 10 with "Broadway: Our Way," a gala revue to be hosted by multiple American Comedy Award nominee Kathy Buckley, whose solo show, "Don't Buck With Me!," went to New York in 1999 after an award-winning L.A. run.
Joining Buckley will be musical stage veterans Bernadette C. Peters (not to be confused with \o7that \f7Bernadette Peters), Eydie Alyson, Joan Ryan and three other performers yet to be announced.
The supper club, created in partnership with Vitello's new owner, Matt Epstein, is the brainchild of Michael Sterling, a local entrepreneur with strong ties to the professional theater community.
Sterling, who has divided his time between producing and directing theatrical productions in L.A. and heading his own entertainment PR company, calls the venture "a lifelong dream."
And the restaurant's Blake-related notoriety may even help: Press releases that Sterling sent out regarding the supper club were picked up nationally and in Canada by wire and Web services, he points out, "largely" because the name Vitello's was attached to it. "There's always going to be the curiosity factor."
Partial proceeds from the opening gala will be donated to Culver City's No Limits Theatre Group, serving deaf and hard-of-hearing children.
Jazz recording artist and Broadway and television veteran Amick Byram ("The Phantom of the Opera," "Les Miserables") will headline June 16 to 24. Ryan will be the Sterling's Upstairs artist in residence, appearing several times a year. The varied roster of nightclub, cabaret, Broadway and musical stage pros will perform at the restaurant twice nightly on Fridays and Saturdays as part of a package that will include a $25 dinner and a minimum $40 cover.
-- Lynne Heffley