I've been to Beech Street twice in the past month. The first visit was while my grandparents were in town, and they wanted a restaurant close to church for an after-mass meal with their Los Angeles-based kin. I thought the menu was limited but adequate, and the food edible. It inspired neither cravings nor nausea and after that meal, I didn't think of it again.
When my sister suggested that I join her and her friend Erica at Beech Street for a meal prior to our weekly "Project Runway" viewing, I first declined. Beech Street serves Italian food (in the most Californian of styles) and eating melted cheese for dinner was not going to help me with my diet. But she badgered me into submission and the next thing I knew we were ordering baked goat cheese, a chopped vegetable salad and a large 1/2 cheese, 1/2 pepperoni pizza.
To share, of course. I'm on a diet.
We ordered a bottle of wine and teased Erica about the cost of text messaging her ex-boyfriend in Australia. The salad came at the same time as the appetizer, and we were barely done with either when the pizza arrived. The restaurant wasn't particularly busy, so I don't think they were trying to rush us; I think their timing was just off.
Its important to note that Beech Street is a sit-down restaurant, complete with cloth napkins and white tableclothes. Granted, this is Los Angeles so jeans, sweatshirts and other workout wear are almost guaranteed to make an appearance. Not long after we sat down, a couple who must have recently completed a very strenuous workout sat down at the table behind us. The woman's hair was dirty and pulled away from her face, and her partner was wearing a bright yellow sweatshirt. Bright, Charlie Brown yellow sweatshirt. In a restaurant. At night.
We didn't really notice them till the woman started to describe how she would like her dish prepared. It went something like this:
Woman: "I'd like it without extra garlic, please."
Waiter: "OK, no garlic."
Woman: "No, I know it comes with garlic in the dish. I just don't want extra garlic."
(She makes a hand gesture to suggest that the chef previously placed a side bowl of chopped fresh garlic on her plate.)
Waiter: "So, you do want garlic?"
Woman: "Just what already comes in it. I don't want extra garlic."
At this juncture, you might want to note that English is not this waiter's native language. He looks strangely at this wannabe Sally Albright and retreats to the kitchen to place the order. Of course, my sister and I motion with our eyes toward the woman to silently ask if we'd both heard the same exchange. We had.
My sister, Erica and I chomped on some breadsticks, giggled about boys and slurped our mediocre bottle of cabernet. The waiter was servicing the other tables when the Woman with Dirty Hair flagged him down again.
Woman: "Can we get some different bread please?"
(The waiter looks quizzically at the full bread basket on the table.)
Woman: "Do you have any soft, doughy bread?"
(The woman brings both of her hands up and begins to rub them together, as if she was kneading bread, taking one palm over the top of the other. She did this repeatedly as she spoke to the waiter.)
Waiter: "You want dough?"
Woman: "Soft, doughy bread. Like this --" (grabs piece of bread from basket) "But without the crust. More of the inside."
Waiter: "The inside?"
Woman: "Yes, doughy. Not this crusty stuff."
Again, my sister and I made eye contact and smiled. I know I should have been paying attention to the conversation going on at my table, but I was just too preoccupied with Dirty Hair Woman and Yellow Sweatshirt Man. She was leaning way over in her seat, henpecking the poor man as he stared mutely in her direction, and shoveling food off of his plate and into her mouth as if it were her own.
The waiter came out a few minutes later, plate in hand. He put it in front of Dirty Hair Woman and I couldn't help but watch in awe. She touched the doughy mass on the plate. "Its cold," she said. The waiter stood silently. "Is this cooked? Its...its dough!"
Yes, yes it was. It was uncooked pizza dough. Luckily the check had arrived and we were able to pay the bill and walk out before my sister and I erupted in laughter.
The lesson? If you want to get exactly what you want -- try Beech Street.
Beech Street Cafe and Pizzeria
863 Swarthmore Ave
Pacific Palisades, CA 90272