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Friday Slide Show: Original Joe's Westlake Share This on LinkedIn   Share This on Google   Tweet This   Forward This

22 July 2016

There used to be a yellow billboard on the hill overlooking Daly City that tallied the number of people living there in big red numerals. The number kept climbing. Daly City was the place to be.

Original Joe's Westlake. More than new paint for an old favorite.

Places to be need restaurants but Daly City has always been bereft of such refinements. It's the ticky-tack development of Malvina Reynolds' Little Boxes of 1962, except Henry built the homes to last. We know. We lived in two of them.

But there was always Joe's of Westlake at the corner of Lake Merced Blvd and John Daly Blvd. An unscenic spot, no question, with a mall, apartment buildings and a fast food joint as neighbors. But the location had lots of parking.

And the place needed it. Because it was always mobbed.

Doelger had persuaded Bruno Scatena to open a Joe's in Westlake in 1955 by building the restaurant for him.

The food was American-Italian. Big platters of whatever you ordered swimming in whatever sauce was called for. The ravioli in meat sauce. The petrale in butter. The sweetbreads. The veal piccata.

And the french bread was so good it was always a fight to lay off it before your meal arrived.

There was always enough to go home with another meal. And you could get home because the cocktail glasses seemed inspired by the tiny cups of childhood tea parties and the wine, likewise, was served in the modestly small glasses of an older generation.

Once a year you didn't have to wait two hours to get a table because at Our Lady of Mercy's parish festival, Scatena would dish up the spaghetti feed.

It all ended, though, on Jan. 26, 2015.

Scatena's daughter Melinda Scatena had to sell. So she sold to the Duggan family that remodeled the old place and updated the menu, keeping some of the favorites like the Steak ala Bruno and the ravioli with meat sauce.

Joe's of Westlake. Your editor waiting for a table in 2013. Photo by Rachel Mundstock.

They took their time rennovating the place. They kept much of the exterior intact while redesigning the interior. Still, the interior maintains the original layout of a bar to the left, the Cascade Room to the right (without the old aquarium that used to entertain children bored with dining out), the main dining room with the counter straight ahead and the Garden room beyond that.

They reopened earlier this year but we hadn't visited until just a few days ago because the wait was up to two hours. People missed their Joe's.

What we found, when we did finally return, was a nicely updated place. The bar had been opened up with windows to let some light in. The sagging brown leather booths had all been reupholstered in plush green leather. The Cascade Room was a bit more elegant with a fireplace. The counter was still there.

And the cocktail napkins looked exactly like the old napkins -- except for the name. A very nice touch, we thought. Echoed throughout the place.

The tables were missing the cheese shakers, but that's a good thing. It's freshly grated now, by your server.

It's very rare such a transition occurs that respects and honors the past while improving it.

Outright prolonged applause.

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