By Jill Weinlein, 1/17/2013
After 50 years, it’s still “Amore” at Andre’s
“Have you been here before?” asked the affable Aron Celnik as I walked into Andre’s Italian Restaurant & Pizzeria. Shyly, I replied, “No,” even when I lived near Third St. and Poinsettia years ago. Andre’s is tucked in the back of a courtyard between the newer Whole Foods market and K-Mart shopping center.
“We’ve been here 50 years,” Celnik said. “We were one of the first tenants in this shopping center in 1963. Andre’s has outlived all of them in this center.” Andre’s is the only original business remaining after all these years. “
Chef Domenic Andreone (Andre) was raised in Northern Italy and trained at Le Cordon Bleu Culinary School in Paris, France. After graduating, Andre worked in hotel restaurants in Italy, France, and Switzerland.
He was ahead of the curve in Italian cooking when he arrived in Los Angeles and opened his first restaurant, Andre’s in Beverly Hills on Wilshire Blvd. His pasta and spaghetti became the “talk of the town.”
Andre has owned three restaurants in his lifetime. After opening his upscale Andre’s in Beverly Hills, he opened Andre’s on Third St. and one in Westchester, near LAX. He closed the Beverly Hills and Westchester restaurants years ago, yet he still owns his building in Beverly Hills.
Andre’s is a meeting place for residents in the neighborhood. The décor is a little dated; yet the consistency and quality of food, value, and cleanliness keep guests coming back.
About 80 percent of their business is repeat diners who live within a five-mile radius. On the weekends, loyal patrons line up before 11 a.m. to be one of the first to eat freshly made Italian food at reasonable prices. Guests pull out a tray and walk along the counter to choose their selected dishes, cafeteria-style.
The day I visited Andre’s, I selected a plate of green salad with Andre’s famous creamy Italian dressing and spaghetti with meatballs and garlic bread. One can easily enjoy a meal here for under $10.
What makes his creamy Italian salad dressing taste so good is a splash of steak sauce and a few shakes of Worcestershire sauce. I love it! Aron shared with me that Andre donates 25 cents from every bottle of dressing sold to the Hancock Park Elementary School Booster club. He happily donates food and money to help this award- winning school with their educational programs.
When Andre’s opened in 1963, the restaurant was 20 feet by 70 feet. “We were so small, that when the seats were full in the restaurant, we would have to stop the line of guests and wait until a table became available for the next guest to sit down and enjoy their meal,” explained Celnik.
Twenty-five years later they expanded, when the business next to the restaurant closed. Eight years ago, they expanded again to accommodate more guests. “We feed 1,200 people a day,” Celnik said.
Celnik is the manager and a “lifer” at Andre’s. He was hired 35 years ago by Andre’s nephew, Mike Gagliarducci. “I used to shine Mike’s shoes for $1 at my father’s store. Mike hired me when I was 15 years old to come work after school while I attended Fairfax High School.”
I truly believe that one of the key elements to longevity is keeping everyone happy. At Andre’s many of the cooks and servers have been working with Andre, Mike and Aron for over 20 years. Aron told me that Andre has been a great friend, mentor and confidant. “We are all growing old together here,” he said.
I met Sonia Gomez as she spooned marinara sauce on to my plate of steaming spaghetti. She has worked at Andre’s for almost 21 years. “This was my first and only job,” Gomez said with a smile. “Andre and Aron are like family to me.”
With the arrival of Whole Foods, the clientele is younger now. “We have a wonderful Korean following. They love our noodles and chicken,” Celnik added.
The menu is simple with spaghetti, baked chicken and cheese and spinach ravioli as some of the most popular entrees. They sell beer and wine, along with soft drinks.
For patrons who don’t have time to sit and eat, Andres offers sauces, salad dressing and soups to go by the pint or quart. They also sell frozen eggplant, lasagna, cannelloni and cheese ravioli dishes for you to pick up, heat up and enjoy in the comfort of your home.
Come meet, shake hands and congratulate Andre, Aron, Sonia, and Mike on Wed. Jan. 23 from 11 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. for a special 50th Anniversary party. There will be live music, special treats and surprises throughout the day. Parking is free. $ 6332 W. Third. St. # 18. (323)935-1246.