2010 The Year of Valley Adventures
The following are partial comments by Richard Bogy, Toluca Lake businessman, civic leader and San Fernando Valley historian. His insight about the famous Alfonse’s Restaurant offer great insight, especially when coupled with this original Alfornse’s menu donated to The Museum by our Board Member, Gary Fredburg.
“During the 1940’s Riverside Drive in Toluca Lake was known as “restaurant row”. It had more restaurants than I can remember (well, I probably could remember them all), and one of the best was Alfonse’s. Very much of a baby Chason’s, it was dark walnut paneled, a grand fireplace, leaded and stained glass windows, big overstuffed red leatherette booth, and a grand – high-class – bar. Crystal and silver only on the tables. Movie stars and locals alike ate there."
Matchbook cover - Archives of The Museum of the San Fernando Valley - Gift of Gary Fredburg 2009
"Those in the “know” had a house account, so you never received a bill at the table. Also, if you had a house account you never waited when you arrived – your table was always “waiting” (even if you forgotten to call ahead), much to the chagrin of the “unknown guests” who often had to wait an hour or more if they had no reservation.
Only the best prime meats were used, and Alfonse inspected every cut before he would accept it from the supplier. It was a combination of “continental cuisine” and Italian food. Alfonse Sorrentino made all the Italian sauces and ravioli himself each morning. Waitresses were all there for 40+ years and each “regular” customer had their own waitress. Patty, Gildas and Bobby were only assigned to regulars (we had Gildas). Winnie doubled as the hostess and the restaurant baker of all their desserts, including their famous cheesecake.
Caesar salads were made at table – and they still used fresh “coddled egg” (a raw egg set in a silver bowl and hot water poured over it just long enough to warm the contents but not cook the egg). Condiment bottles were forbidden in the restaurant and any waitress caught leaving a ketchup bottle on the table was immediately fired. Every “sauce” was served in a saucier – even ketchup and mustard. Many birthday’s were celebrated there, but being a quality restaurant, no singing…instead, a kiss from your waitress – if you were a “regular” (we hated that as little kids) and a formal handshake and best wishes – along with a complimentary dinner – from Alfonse (he knew everyone’s birth date, so no good trying to fake it).
Alfonse’s was owned by Alfonse Sorrentino (Al) and operated along with his brothers Arturo (Art), Henry and Otavio (Ott – named that because he was the 8th son born in the family). Their cousins owned the famous Sorrentino’s Seafood restaurant, which was just a block away at Riverside and Pass Avenue.”
(click on this image to enlarge the menu)