“I came from New York, and I wanted to feel like I was in New York,” says Frank Competelli, owner of Frankie’s on Melrose. “So I opened a restaurant on Melrose Avenue 30 years ago, and I pretended Melrose was Broadway,” he laughs.
Today, he feels like a Californian, but the warm vibe of his restaurant still evokes the feeling of New York City Italian favorites. From calamari to clams and oysters on the half-shell, thin crust pizzas, steaks and chops, eggplant Parmesan, and a bevy of pasta dishes, there are plenty of delicious choices. There’s a full service bar, too, and of course, what classic Italian spot wouldn’t offer espresso and cannolis? Naturally, Frankie’s does.
Appetizers include favorites such as bruschetta made with garlic toast, fresh tomatoes and basil, and a hot antipasto served for two with tastes of calamari, shrimp scampi, mozzarella marinara, and baked clams. And don’t miss the Neopolitan-style Pasta Fagioli with pasta and white beans. When it comes to the main course, from ravioli ricotta to osso bucco and Linguini al Frutti di Mare with mussels, clams and calamari in a Napoletana sauce, no diner will leave hungry.
Competelli explains that he wanted his restaurant to be the place where people came when they needed the feeling of family, to enjoy classic recipes made with fresh ingredients. “Today, I am still the neighborhood place to go,” he notes. And he prides himself on treating his guests as if they were members of his own family.
Both the good food and friendly service have paid off. “We built a clientele where the children and their children come in. Their parents came in, and now they do, too. Our patrons come from all over Los Angeles, and anyone who comes from New York finds me, I have a great reputation.” Above all, Frankie’s has a strong local following, where many patrons know each other. “It’s like an Italian ‘Cheers,’” he asserts.
With such an extensive menu, it’s hard for Competelli to name the most popular, but he relates that the restaurant’s “peasant dishes” are top of the list. “Things like red sauce pasta, chicken Parmesan, seafood like shrimp, lobster, and clams, people really enjoy those.”
His own personal favorite? “Linguine and clams,” he reports without hesitation. “On the simplest level, it’s just olive oil, garlic, and eighteen fresh clams. Shazam, that’s what you’ve got. No canned clams or clam juice ever, everything’s fresh.”
Competelli describes his comfortable restaurant setting as an “old school, Ratpack-era environment. In fact, Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra used to come here in the day.” He notes that celebrities still enjoy stopping in for a meal. “We’re a bit off the beaten track, so celebrities will come in and no one infringes on their privacy. But they don’t make the restaurant. It’s my regular patrons who make my restaurant.”
Frankie’s on Melrose is open until midnight, and many diners stop by after the theater or a night on the town. “People know there is a good place to eat after 11 p.m. other than Pink’s,” he jokes. “They can come in, sit down, and have a great meal. We have a real reputation for late night dining.”
Tasty any time of day, Frankie’s Place is located at:
7228 Melrose Ave.