In 1964, Dan Tana, a sometime actor and journeyman professional soccer player from Belgrade, Yugoslavia (born Dobrivoje Tanasijević), got himself mixed up in opening a restaurant. The year before, an art-gallerist friend named Chuck Feingarten had taken over Domenico’s Lucky Spot, a longtime lunch place a few doors down from the Troubadour nightclub, on Santa Monica Boulevard in West Hollywood.
The restaurant was housed in a lilliputian 1929 bungalow, and it boasted a distinctive lucky-horseshoe neon sign. But Feingarten and his business partner hadn’t been so lucky and wanted out: one year was enough to convince them that they no longer needed to be in the restaurant business. The 31-year-old Tana, who’d also worked as a maître d’ at La Scala, understood the impulse. “My father and grandfather owned a restaurant, and my mother warned me to never open a restaurant,” he told me recently, talking on the phone from his home in Belgrade. “It was the last thing on my mind!”