Despite what you may think of this slice of town, where West Hollywood bleeds into Beverly Hills and the rich folks crawl along Robertson, there’s no denying the impact of Cecconi’s. An international success by every measure, this globe-trotting upscale Italian stronghold is at once leafy and refined, relaxed and upkept. Even when you couldn’t spot a notable face inside, there’s likely to be paparazzi out front — mostly just wishing they could sneak inside for a bite.
Not that it’s hard, actually. All it takes to gain entry to the marble-flecked front patio is a wallet. But during Cecconi’s five-night-a-week happy hour, you might not even need that; just grab a couple of bucks off the side table on your way out the door, and be prepared to dine surprisingly well.
Whereas most happy hour plates amount to little more than shelled peanuts or some thin bruschetta, Cecconi’s makes it a point to let value sneak in through the back door, away from the prying eyes of most every afternoon drinker. Their little-discussed 4pm to 7pm happy hour hits every weeknight but Monday and, temptingly enough, on Saturdays, offering a simple assortment of refined dishes that somehow don’t manage to come offt like a kitchen annoyance.
If anything, the dozen strong options seem perfectly at home atop the long, heavy bar. There are tuna and avocado lettuce wraps, fried olives wrapped in mortadella and a single-serving of baked gnocchi — each for the princely sum of $4. Even a small pizzetta, heavy with porchetta and artichoke, comes in at under $5.
But the real deal for happy hour at Cecconi’s has to be their new black truffle burger. Funky, earthy, draped in fontina cheese and sporting a serious pancetta top hat, this $7 burger eats like something you’d find at Umami, but for nearly half the cost. A swirling brioche bun from Bread Lounge is dotted with onions to further the depths, while a glass of the on-draft prosecco (should you so choose, and you should so choose) cuts through the fat and salt to make for a happy hour bar snack that eats like a meal.
Most importantly it’s a burger that really works, by pressing towards excess without falling over the line. Sit close enough to the front window with one and you might even catch the paparazzi snapping away — at the burger, not you.
Cecconi’s: 8764 Melrose Ave., West Hollywood; 310-432-2000; cecconiswesthollywood.com