Phil's in the News
Phil Trani's Restaurant
Written by Nick Diamantides
Photographed by Matt Fukushima
Phil Trani's restaurant is not just a great place to eat good food. It's an all inclusive social club, where on any given day you can rub elbows with sports super-stars from the past, present, and future.
"My family has been preparing food for big league football, basketball, and baseball players since the 1950s", says Trani.
Trani's father opend a restaurant in San Pedro in 1925. His four older brothers played in the Los Angeles Municipal Footbal League and became friends with members of the two local professional teams: The L.A. Dons and The L.A. Bulldogs. Later, many of those players became members of the Los Angeles Rams, but continued their friendship with the Trani family.
By the early 1950s, the Trani restaurant in San Pedro was the regular hangout for the entire Rams team and coaching staff. "Eventually we had 'Rams Nights' every Thirsday, and that lasted until the Rams left Los Angeles", Trani says. "Because so many professioanl players were coming, many USC and UCLA atheletes came too."
Over the years, Trani became very close to many UCLA, USC, and NFL football players and well-known atheletes from other sports. Joe Namath and Yogi Berra used to come to the San Pedro restaurant regularly.
When he opened the restaurant in Long Beach in 1990, the atheletes started going there almost immediately. "I was very glad that, without my even asking them, they decided to continue the tradition", he says. "We still have many famous atheletes, head coaches, and boxing promoters coming here. I could give you hundreds of names. You can see many of their autographs on the kitchen walls."
Trani's son, Phil Trani III, noted that Mark Sanchez used to work in the restaurant. Sanchez, former star quarterback for USC, was recently drafted by the New York Jets.
"Jason Compono also used to work here", the younger Trani says. "He still come in once in a while." Compono was a UCLA basketball player who is now playing for the Philadelphia 76ers.
The restaurant itself is characterized by unpretentious elegance. Dim lighting, soft colors, candles on every table, and easy listening recorded music give it a very relaxing atmosphere. I start my experience with a smal dinner salad, and am pleased with the crisp freshness of all the ingredients.
Next, I have the pepper steak. Every mouth-watering morsel releases tantilizing, robust flavor. The dish comes with spaghetti covered with fresh tomato and basil sauce. Crunchy steamed broccoli flavored with olive oil and salt is on the plate too. All of it is excellent.
"We have lots of Italian dishes, but this is not an Italian restaurant," Trani says. "We are California eclectic with European infusion, and we even have a Lebanese dish."
For dessert, I have a slice of lemon cake. It's sweet, slightly tart and creamy with a chewy crust -- a delightful experience. The restaurant has a full bar and a great selection of wines and beers. It has live music and dancing on weekends and acoustic music every other Wednesday.
Trani gre up in his father's restaurant business and learned it from the bottom up. To this day, he still does much of the cooking. His son cooks too, while his daughter Andrea manages the floor.
"I make my customers happy by serving them good food and training my staff to give them the best service," Trani says. "What brings me the most satisfaction is when people say, 'Hey, thanks for a great evening', as they are walking out the door."