Lights Out at Ernie's
Ernie's, the venerable restaurant on Jackson Square, closes for good at the end of the month. The press release trumpeting this news makes it sound as if the place were going out on top instead of downhill — and increasingly neglected. My neighbor, a longtime San Franciscan and canny observer of restaurants, said she'd been to Ernie's recently for lunch and “there was almost nobody there.”

A few years ago there seemed to be hope of a renaissance at Ernie's. Alain Rondelli was the chef, and the restaurant ran a regular ad in the local edition of the New York Times that touted Ernie's as the place for glamorous lunching in the city. But Rondelli left to start his own restaurant, and the ad campaign quietly died.

Owners Victor and Roland Gotti may be getting out of the restaurant business, but they're still in negotiations with the Roxbury Supper Club of Hollywood for the space now occupied by Ernie's. According to Ernie's General Manager Terry Fischer, there's “no chance” that the place will retain the name “Ernie's” under the new management.

Ernie Carlesso opened Ernie's in 1931 as a Barbary Coast trattoria. Ambroglio Gotti became a partner in 1934. On Carlesso's death in 1947, Ambroglio sold the business to his sons, who introduced white tablecloths, French cooking, and wine to the restaurant. Also celebrity. Alfred Hitchcock discovered the place and became a regular. He also re-created the restaurant's Ambrosia Room, with its distinctive whorehouse-red silk wall coverings, for his movie Vertigo. Hitchcock was only one of many cultural and political luminaries (some others: Frank Sinatra, Barbra Streisand, and Walter Cronkite) who ate at Ernie's during its long run. The restaurant will serve its “menu as usual” right to the end, says Fischer. Could that be part of the problem?

Vegging Out
Stop the presses! The U.S. Department of Agriculture reports that fruits and vegetables are the most poorly consumed of the five basic food groups. And research in California finds that only one school-age child in four eats the recommended minimum of five servings daily.

September is National Five-a-Day Month — a campaign sponsored by the National Cancer Institute to raise dietary awareness. As part of the campaign, the California Public Health Foundation is publishing Kids … Get Cookin'! The cookbook, aimed at young people, features recipes and graphics designed to wean kids from Snickers bars and It's-Its.

To order the book by mail, send $6.95 (check or money order payable to the CPHF) to California Five-a-Day Campaign, c/o Nutrition and Cancer Prevention Program, MS-65, Box 942732, Sacramento, CA 94234-7320.

By Paul Reidinger

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