Since opening in late January, Jon & Vinny’s Brentwood has become one of the toughest reservations in town. This is unsurprising, perhaps, given the enduring crowds at the original Jon & Vinny’s on Fairfax (go ahead, try to book a table after 4 p.m. anytime in the next month) coupled with the endless appetite that Brentwood residents have for pricey pasta and pizza.
Still, even by those standards, the crush of people outside the Italian-American restaurant’s new outpost on San Vicente has become a little ridiculous. Walk-ins faced with hour-plus waits react as if they’ve missed the last chopper out of Saigon. The desperation at brunch is palpable. There’s even been a dramatic uptick in business at the bar at Vicenti next door, thanks to beleaguered customers weathering the wait with a few of glasses of Chianti.
The good news is that Jon & Vinny’s is offering a solution to the madness, at least for those willing to plunk down a credit card and sign a few papers. It’s called the Fusilli Club, which provides members a weekly standing reservation at the time slot of their choosing. Say you want to book a table for four every Tuesday night at 6 in perpetuum? Pay the $250 annual membership fee, sign a contract, and you’re set. The only catch is if you forget to cancel: Do it less than 24 hours in advance and you will be hit with a $100-per-person cancellation fee, plus an 18 percent service charge. Two late cancellations or no-shows will get your standing reservation revoked. On the advantage side, members do have the option of transferring their reservation to another party, provided the restaurant is given notice.
How has tight-knit Brentwood society responded to the Fusilli Club? According to one frequent patron we spoke with, who asked to remain anonymous, it’s been the talk of the neighborhood. “The [club] contract is everywhere right now, at least among my Brentwood friends. One person mentioned that they have their own table at Jon & Vinny’s and the rumor spread from there. It’s the new [Brentwood] Country Club membership essentially, except a lot cheaper.”
Reached by phone, restaurateur and co-owner Jon Shook says the Fusilli Club has actually existed in an informal fashion since the early days of the owners’ Fairfax location. It wasn’t promoted, but it wasn’t a secret either. When preparing for the opening of the Brentwood outpost, Shook says, they sent out an email to inform frequent catering clients in the area about the program. “It’s not like Soho House or anything. We actually offer standing reservations at most of our restaurants, but we decided to give it a fun name at Jon & Vinny’s.” Shook says that the club has seen a major spike in interest since the opening of the Brentwood location, but it hardly makes up the majority of their business. “It doesn’t even represent ten percent of the reservations we do every day,” he says. “People have asked if we’re going to put a cap on membership, but right now that’s so far off we’re not even thinking about it.”
For restaurateurs, the appeal of standing reservations is obvious: You can lock in a certain amount of business each night; you cultivate loyalty among regulars; and in the case of the Fusilli Club, customers can charge their meals to a card that’s already on file, removing any hassle of a bill dropping at the meal’s end (Shook does point out that club members may pay however they like). It’s easy to imagine the arrangement appealing to a certain class of Brentwood diner, too: entertainment types that want to host clients, celebrities who want to quietly slide in for brunch, etc. Industry favorites like Craig’s and Tower Bar have offered preferential treatment to well-connected regulars for years—this is L.A., after all—but Jon & Vinny’s might be the first place to formalize the system in a way that appears democratic (or at least staunchly capitalist).
As Fusilli Club membership has grown, publications like the Hollywood Reporter have reached out Shook to inquire about some of its more famous members—a request he’s politely declined. He does offer that most of the members so far are, in fact, families. “We have one that has a reservation every Sunday after church,” he says. Shook is also quick to add, with egalitarian emphasis, that the Fusilli Club is not “Jon & Vinny’s Elite.” “It’s open to absolutely anyone who wants to apply,” he says. “Just ask a manager when you come in and they’ll set you up.”
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