Andre’s Italian Restaurant — a comforting neighborhood classic

| February 28, 2019 | 1 Comment

It’s hard to believe that a “small” plate of spaghetti the size of my face could be so reasonably priced. Or so delicious. But that’s what Andre’s Italian Restaurant & Pizzeria is all about. Nestled between the Whole Foods and the News Stand off of Third St., Andre’s (6332 W. Third St.) is the ultimate hotspot for cheap and cheerful — but it won’t be for long. Despite its dedication to serving the community authentic and affordable Italian-American cuisine, Andre’s will be closing its doors once the proposed construction of a new residential and commercial complex, replacing the former KMart shopping center, commences. Recently, General Manager Aron Celnik and patrons of Andre’s reflected on the impact the restaurant has had on their lives, and the many reasons why you should enjoy it while you still can. 

Cordon Bleu graduate

Andre’s Italian Restaurant & Pizzeria was cooked up by chef Dominic Andreone (Andre), now 96. A native of Northern Italy, Andreone studied at renowned Le Cordon Bleu culinary school in Paris, France, before immigrating to the United States. With his first restaurant, Andre’s of Beverly Hills — which opened in 1959 and has since closed — Chef Andre served Italian staples, which became known as “continental cuisine.” He then went on to open the Andre’s on Third St. in 1963 — the same year the Larchmont Chronicle went into print. Chef Andre has since stepped down from running the show, but General Manager Celnik says Andre still checks in. “Andre came by, he took a look, made sure everything was OK. Stuck his finger here, tasted that, moved here, moved there, and then he said, ‘Aron, everything looks good. I’m going.’”

Affordably good

In addition to its flavorful dishes, the restaurant also quickly became known for its affordable prices. Celnik cites this as the restaurant’s main pull, even today. “[People] come to Andre’s first and foremost because they’ve heard our reputation as being a reasonably priced restaurant.” With prices as low as $3 for a large minestrone soup, to $10 for chicken parmigiana with a side of spaghetti or ravioli, and a cup of gelato for just $3 (they have 12 flavors to choose from) one could easily piece together a three-course meal for under $20.

However, Andre’s is more than just the affordable meals it serves. It is hailed for its friendly service and welcoming, casual atmosphere. “Comfort,” “home,” and “family” are words that regulars and first-timers alike often use when describing Andre’s.

Stephen Stroup, a social worker who lives in West Hollywood, has been heading to Andre’s regularly for so long, he can’t remember when he first started dining here. “It’s my place to come in the evening if I really want to have a very good meal, at a very good price, and to be really comfortable.” He speaks warmly of the employees and of Celnik, praising everyone’s kind and welcoming nature. “It’s almost like a home away from home.”

“That’s Italian!”

Jenny Robbins sensed the familial atmosphere on her very first visit, noting how many patrons were greeted by name. “It very much has that Italian kind of spirit of welcoming strangers into your house, and being familiar with them, and treating them like they’re a part of your own family,” she observes. 

For many people, the restaurant holds a place in their childhood memories.

Gloria Trasvina, a patron of the restaurant for nearly 35 years, says eating at Andre’s reminds her of her own family’s frequent visits. “It just brings back memories of when we were young,” she says.

Same with Jeff Gold, who grew up dining at the restaurant. “It feels a little bit like home, like family, friends, comfort food. The food is comfort, but the memories are even more comfort.”

The Andre’s test

Sitting with his long-time friend Perry Cooper — who has been coming to Andre’s for 49 years – Gold recounts how they used to put their girlfriends through the “Andre’s test.” 

“After you’re dating somebody a few times, you take them to Andre’s to see how they respond,” Gold laughs. He explains that if they turned their nose up at it, the relationship wasn’t going to last. 

General Manager Celnik especially feels a sense of family at Andre’s. “Working with Andre has been the biggest blessing in my life. He’s become a second father to me.”

With so many memories made inside its walls, it’s hard to believe that Andre’s won’t be here much longer. Stroup summarizes the feelings of many when he says, “It’s simple, but it’s good, and it’s an amazing place. I just can’t fathom it not being here anymore.” 

However, Celnik assures that Andre’s will remain in its current location until at least the end of 2019. 

Canoga Park

But this is not the end. Celnik says that a sister restaurant, Grandi Italiani, is slated to open this month in Canoga Park. While he’s still keeping many details under wraps, he does share that there will be certain nods to Andre’s in this new restaurant. “Grandi Italiani means ‘great Italian,’ and I consider Andre to be one of those great Italians,” Celnik shares. “I hope he’s honored by the fact that so many people care about him. They love him as deeply as I do, and they wish to see the Andre’s legacy continuing, and we’re certainly going to try to do that.”

By Julia Stier

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Category: Entertainment

Comments (1)

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  1. Marilyn Aronsom says:

    It is so sad that they are closing. I are there is in my teens, over 50 years ago. I think I have all this right.

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