This Week’s L.A. Happenings: Stella Barra Opens, George Clooney’s Tequila, & The Coen Brothers

WEDNESDAY: Jeff Mahin’s Stella Barra Opens In Hollywood 
ABC’s The Taste may have been disappointing, but contestant Jeff Mahin’s new pizza joint Stella Barra in Hollywood is redemptive. Expect a bigger menu and plates than his Stella Rossa Pizza Bar in Santa Monica, in addition to handmade pastas. The 120-seat restaurant will serve breakfast, lunch, and dinner. While you won’t find a wood-fire grill, Chef Mahin is all about perfecting his popular dish: burrata with wood-grilled grapes. That’s good enough for us.

Stella Barra (6372 West Sunset Blvd., Hollywood) opens on Wednesday the 8th. To make a reservation, visit the listing at BlackBook Guides.

MONDAY: George Clooney, Tequila, & Four Seasons
In celebration of Cinco de Mayo, The Spa at Four Seasons Los Angeles at Beverly Hills has partnered with ultra-premium Casamigos Tequila, owned by longtime friends George Clooney, Rande Gerber, and Mike Meldman. Until May 12th, guests can choose from two exclusive Punta Mita treatments and enjoy the Casamigos Reposado Tequila either topically in the treatments or served in a margarita afterward. We say go for both.

The Punta Mita Casamigos Tequila promotion is available May 5th to 12th and based on availability at The Spa at Four Seasons Los Angeles at Beverly Hills (300 S. Doheny Dr., Beverly Hills). To make a reservation, visit the Four Seasons listing at BlackBook Guides.

MONDAY: The Coen Brothers (Sorta) At Rockwell LA
It’s not often you make it out to Los Feliz, but we’ll give you two good reasons: Coen. Brothers. For The Record—a fusion of theater, community and supper club—Rockwell L.A. brings the directors’ movies to life in a 360-degree live, theatrical concert experience, featuring O Brother, Where Art ThoughFargoHudsucker Proxy and The Big Lebowski.

For the Record at Rockwell L.A. (1714 Vermont Ave., Los Feliz) runs until May 19. To book tickets, visit their web site. For more information on Rockwell, visit the listing at BlackBook Guides.

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Lady Gaga’s Favorite New L.A. Hotspot & More

Is it really possible that west-siders will crawl through three congested highways to Studio City just for a pretty restaurant/lounge? Maybe. Possibly. Well, probably not. But… XEN Lounge, an inviting and versatile space put together by actor/producer Duane Martin, has everything you want in a West Hollywood or Santa Monica lounge. There’s an elegant private dining room, a glitzy bar, flat screens dedicated to NFL Sunday, and three outdoor spaces that include an intimate rooftop lounge and a rustic backyard spot dominated by a giant Buddha statue. Even if the coast crowd may shy away (they shouldn’t), the stars have already come out in full force. Will Smith, Stevie Wonder, and Lady Gaga have been by for the specialty cocktails and new American comfort food, like the mac and cheese muffins.

Speaking of Lady Gaga, the designer of Sixty-Six, the Thursday- and-Saturday-night only nightclub that opened last week in West Hollywood, has designed videos for the mega pop star – and it shows. Mirrors and golden hues and centrally-located DJ booth, oh my. This is an after-midnight kind of place. And then in Santa Monica, raw-food god Matthew Kenney opens M.A.K.E., a rooftop restaurant promising nothing cooked over 105 degrees.

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Los Angeles Opening: Osteria Drago

The Sunset Strip is the last place you’d expect to find a beachy Italian spot with bleached white walls and an intimate front porch, but maybe that was chef and owner Celestino Drago’s intention for opening Osteria Drago, August 1st. If you weren’t paying attention this past winter, Drago Santa Monica closed just after celebrating its 20th anniversary, leaving the area with just one or two fine-dining spots left on the coast. We’re looking at you, Michael’s.

With Osteria Drago, the chef has gone casual with small plates, offering a limited menu of regional and traditional Italian cuisine with a contemporary twist. We’re talking sea urchin panna cotta, squid ink spaghetti, and spinach lasagna with prosciutto and reggiano. The place is perfect for private parties, or for fooling yourself you’re on the Italian coastline.

Color Your World: Our Top Five Art Hotels

There’s something to be said about surrounding yourself with great works of art. Take advantage of the fact that more and more hotels understand this, and are eschewing the generic sunset watercolor that’s long been a hotel staple, for more refined pieces. Here are the top five hotels who take art seriously. 

If you dream about Renaissance elegance: The Rome Cavalieri, owned by Waldof Astoria, sits perched over the hills of Rome, and while it plays up the palatial atmostphere, it’s the $700 million dollar art collection that will truly have you feeling royal. Works from the old masters abound, from the lobby to the spa. But things get more modern with Andy Warhol originals adorning some of  the rooms.

If you wish you could dive into a David Hockney: Popular with both Los Angeles natives and those looking for a quick SoCal weekend escape, Shutters on the Beach has a lot to recommend: the prime Santa Monica real estate has easy access to the beach and the pier, as well as an award-winning restaurant serving fresh California cuisine. But it’s the all-American art collection, including luminaries like Jasper Johns, Roy Lichtenstein, and Frank Gehry, that really gives the property a sense of style, as well as a sense of place.

If you’re sad you missed out on the Chelsea Hotel’s glory days: The New York art scene has always been transient in nature, with talent coming to feed off the city’s creativity. So it makes sense to capture that spirit in hotel form. Ian Schrager’s Gramercy Park Hotel was designed by artist Julian Schnabel (himself a fixture on the downtown art scene) and is adorned with pieces from provocateurs like Damien Hirst, Jean-Michel Basquiat, and Richard Prince, as well as serving as a clubhouse for the new class of creative types and those who love them.

If you wish you could do contemporary art like a Chinese mogul: Design in Hong Kong is an integral part of the city’s fabric, from the attention paid to feng shui in the business district, to the museums and public art that have grown along with the city’s presence on the international art circuit. Hotels have followed suit, creating art and design-focused hotels from the small (like the boutique Upper House, centered around Hiroshiwata Sawada’s atrium piece, “Rise”) to the Langham Palace Mongkok, a massive 42-floor tower housing more than 1,500 pieces of contemporary art—there’s a free iPod tour to help you work your way through the collection as you move about the hotel.

If you’d rather step inside the artist’s studio: The James Chicago has fostered local artistic talent since it opened about a year ago, with works like the wall installation by Demarcus Purham in the lobby, and the installation “Room 28” by Joel Ross in the permanent collection. They’ve also been collaborating with the Monique Meloche Gallery to find work to rotate through the hotel’s other public spaces. Most recently, that was done through an artist-in-residence program, where five young artists competed against each other to come up with a work for the hotel’s collection. Winner Kristina Estell took the mandate to find inspiration in the hotel literally, sealing leaves from the hotel’s shrubbery in tape, and incorporating them into a work between two panes of glass.

Santa Monica Dispatch: The Best Sunsets Are at Casa Del Mar

I love Santa Monica, especially the boardwalk alive with (in no favoring order): straight rollerbladers, scraggly electric guitar players, lesbians with armband tattoos, the shirtless, water-bottle toting college student that just jogged past me in flip-flops, and the array of homeless men who actually look happy. The sun has made a cameo and commanded the beach. It’s all sun here. And it’s all sun in my room at Casa Del Mar.

Casa Del Mar (a member of Luxury Hotels of the World) is one of two hotels that are actually on the beach (the other, Shutters on the Beach, is apparently Gwyneth Paltrow’s favorite, just next door and the same owners).

The 127-room boutique is 85 years old, with interiors more old-world than not (four-post beds, heavy window drapes, antique mirrors). I watched the sunset from inside (it’s still chilly at night) but I love how my view is unobstructed. The sun literally floods my room (718) with a golden, fairylike glow. Considering how many cookie-cutter hotel rooms I stay in, this room-drenched glow actually reminds me where I am, perhaps the best hotel amenity that comes at no charge. Well, there’s also that complimentary Jaguar service, but…