It’s been an interesting few years for Madeo, the trendy, spendy old school Italian restaurant that moved from its longtime West Hollywood-area location to a temporary home in Beverly Hills back in 2018. Long known for its celebrity clientele — including shout-outs from Drake and a roster of regulars like Sylvester Stallone — the restaurant is now faced with a simple reality during these uncertain times: Despite its popularity, the Vietina family once again has no place to cook, and COVID-19 has nothing to do with it.
Reps for Madeo have confirmed that the restaurant’s two-year-old location on Camden Drive in Beverly Hills has closed, a result of negotiations with a landlord seeking to remodel the building. The space, formerly a restaurant called Doma near Mr. Chow and other popular celebrity spots, opened in the summer of 2018 but was always meant to be temporary as the family worked to eventually return to their original location on Beverly Boulevard (inside a retail building which is also under massive planned redevelopment) — just not this temporary.
“In the best interest of the restaurant and the landlord’s needs,” family owners Alfio Vietina, Gianni Vietina, and Nicola Vietina said in a social media post announcing the Camden Drive closure days ago, “we have agreed to pause operations effective immediately.”
Now, with construction at their 35-year-old home on Beverly ongoing, and no more Madeo on Camden Drive, the future is as uncertain for the family as it has ever been. During a once-a-century pandemic that is causing untold uncertainty across the spectrum, that’s saying something. But then again, everyone has been pivoting lately, so why not LA’s first family of Italian celebrity dining?
The reality is that staying open, being forced to rethink Madeo’s service model, and pushing a star-studded clientele out into a refashioned parking lot dining setup has been rather exhausting for the Vietinas. They’ve also been working hard to rethink business at Bianca, the family’s newer, more casual cafe in Culver City at the Platform.
“The main problem,” said son Gianni several weeks ago while sitting in the restaurant’s parking lot patio in Beverly Hills, “is that every day we have different information. Do this. No, don’t do it, do that instead. No, not that...”
He laughed, because there’s not much else to do right now. “It’s maddening.”
Even six months in, many operators would use similar language to describe the local, state, and federal response to their economic woes. Just last week, state officials gave the go-ahead for Orange County to reopen its indoor dining rooms at 25 percent capacity; restaurants there were given no heads up at all before being told they could open the doors to diners. Those who even knew the possibility of reopening was coming were forced to learn of the immediate change the same way everyone else would: in a live press conference streamed on Facebook out of Sacramento.
Madeo’s low-key nature hardly fits the current climate. Until recently the restaurant has never had much of a social media presence or website, relying on word of mouth, cool factor, and an almost exclusively wealthy roster of repeat customers. Some are still coming, including Stallone, Jeffrey Katzenberg (who just sold his nearby mansion for a cool $125 million), and a few private families from the Arabian Peninsula who keep houses in the area and have known the Vietinas for years, well before Madeo’s publicized pop-up in Riyadh last year. It kept the place humming and reservations remained hard to source, but that didn’t make things much easier when coronavirus struck. Now Madeo is just one of thousands of restaurants fighting not just for visibility, but to stay alive.
“For weeks, I could not find Plexiglas,” said Gianni Vietina in August, after successfully sourcing enough raw material to expand the parking lot patio. Previously simple things like buying the right umbrellas or deciding on how to handle takeout requests are all new for a family unaccustomed to so much change in such a short amount of time. “We have no answers.”
The uncertainty and hardship culminated in the surprise closure announcement several days ago, and the whiff of mutual agreement (“It’s in the best interest of the restaurant and the landlord,” it reads), but the outcome is still disappointing for the Vietina family. “Some of our customers have come to our weddings, to baptisms,” Vietina said. “They have become like friends. They’re still customers, they still expect the best. But we feel more comfortable when we’re with them.” Just like everyone else right now — friends, family members, customers and business owners alike — the pandemic means that people can’t be as close right now as they might otherwise like, and despite the glamour and acclaim that came with the Before Times, the Vietinas are finding this current trial hard to take. Just like everyone else.
The moment for the family won’t last forever, but when specifically it will end is anyone’s guess. As for now, there is no Madeo in Los Angeles.