On any given night, Silvio De Mori or Eddie Kerkhofs are holding court in the far-right corner table of their long-running popular yet under-the-radar restaurant Il Piccolino. Between the two of them, they have over 100 years of experience in the restaurant business.
Belgium-born Eddie started his career in the hospitality industry in his home-land 52 years ago before working in LA during the 1980s at the long-gone French-classic Le St. Germain restaurant on Melrose. He followed that up with becoming an owner at ritzy Le Dome on Sunset which was one of the ultimate music-industry hang-outs on Sunset Boulevard for 27 years. (Fast-casual concept Tocaya Organica Modern Mexican now occupies that space.)
It was there over duck salads and escargot, that he met Silvio who was a regular customer after work because the kitchen stayed open later than most in the neighborhood. Silvio celebrated 50 years in the restaurant business last June and has been in LA for over three decades from Florence, Italy. Il Piccolino has been around for 15 years but prior to that, he owned Pane Caldo around the corner on Beverly Boulevard and across the street from the old ICM building where he served pasta Fagioli to the industry crowd, including legendary director Billy Wilder who was a regular customer.
Silvio would walk around the corner to the current location of Il Piccolino for a break which was at the time a Mexican restaurant. “It took me 22 years to go 200 yards,” he laughs.
The future business partners starting talking and decided they should open a place together. “Eddie and me we love food, wine, and people and we are blessed to have such a nice surrounding and this great crowd,” says Silvio. The successful pair splits their time running the restaurant and long-time employees and customers have noted that Eddie is more flamboyant working the room while Silvio is a little more reserved but both have big hearts and talents to match.
The die-hard crowd includes A-List celebrities and rock stars from Ringo Starr to DJ Cassidy – who was last seen celebrating his birthday with a private bash. They don’t spill the beans on regular stars who frequent the intimate Mediterranean patio-style dining rooms for a meal but some do share their experiences on social media. They flock here not just for the European atmosphere, autonomy, and gracious hosts but also the famous dishes such as the lemon, sage and tomato granita. The main ingredient actually stems from Silvio’s home garden and the huge lemon tree located about a block from the restaurant. “We had so many lemons they were going bad so I brought them to the chef and we made that dish. It has become our signature,” he confirms.
Every Italian restaurant in town might have a pesto dish on the menu but after trying a few it was not what Silvio was used to from his Italian roots. So, he makes his pesto twice a day which is used in pastas and salads such as the Fazzoletto with imported burrata on a fresh sheet of pasta topped with pinenuts- for the lunch and dinner menus. The addictive verdant sauce is always fresh and never in the refrigerator.
Silvio’s personal favorite dish is the crab cake made with only blue crab meat and no filler. “The taste is unbelievable. I was told that Oprah Winfrey said a few years ago on her show that it was the best crab cake in the Nation.”
The light Belgian chocolate mousse topped with whipped cream and fruit – served with a long-stemmed rose – is a must for dessert and perfect for a first date, but they also have an indulgent brioche pudding.
All the recipes for the food are Silvio’s and when he’s not training the kitchen staff to execute his recipes, he loves to paint. The restauranteur has been a passionate artist since the age of 5 and his current work lines the main dining room in the vein of Modigliani or early Picasso–and they are only available to purchase at this location. He has also been known to draw sketches right on the white table cloths.
As for Eddie, he focuses on procuring the wine list with his personal favorites from an Italian Antinori Bramito Chardonnay to a Château Lynch-Bages French Bordeaux. “If they can afford it, they love it,” he jokes about the customer’s regular wine consumption. “My Father taught me [about wine] and on Sunday’s he would give us a quarter glass of wine starting at around 8 years old.” When he was a little older, following an apprenticeship Burgundy, Eddie started collecting.
“Eddie is a very good partner and is a wine specialist – but he also has a say in the food and I do in the wine. We have an excellent partnership,” says Silvio. “Silvio is Italian and they talk with mouth and hands,” notes Eddie. “We both love country food so why not do it together? We know food, enjoy it but it’s not just putting food on the menu — you have to follow the taste of your customers,” says Eddie.
As for the secret recipe for their success. “We try to never say no to a customer. They are King,” says Eddie. For example, Silvio once had a group of British guests from the movie business who came for lunch at 1pm and left at 9pm without skipping a beat. One can only imagine the wine bill.
Eddie, who also lives near the restaurant, loves the mixed clientele. “I’ve always done business in West Hollywood, the atmosphere is great – it’s a young crowd but I love the older ones too because they have money,” he laughs.
“I’m so happy to be here.” says Silvio, “I love the city and the spirit of West Hollywood. It’s an excellent neighborhood and I’m so happy to be part of the history.”