Villa Restaurant from “Must Love Dogs”Aug 26th, 2014 | By Lindsay | Category: Movie Locations
Some filming location finds turn out to be a disappointment in person while others wind up to be better than I ever could have imagined. Today’s stalk – of Villa restaurant from the 2005 romantic comedy Must Love Dogs – was a little bit of both.
For several months, I had been on a fruitless search for the outdoor eatery that appeared in the beginning of Must Love Dogs, in the scene in which Sarah Nolan (Diane Lane) showed up for a date with someone she met online only to discover that her date was actually her father, Bill (Christopher Plummer). The bistro was absolutely adorable and reminded me quite a bit of Aroma Café in Studio City, one of my favorite spots in all of L.A. Try as I might, though, I just could not seem to locate it. I finally enlisted the help of fellow stalker Owen, from the When Write Is Wrong blog, and he found the place in record time. A Google search of the terms “restaurant, patio, fountain, San Fernando Valley,” led him to the website for Villa in Woodland Hills. Images posted there proved it was the right spot. Sadly though, the images also showed that the eatery had been remodeled in recent years and, in the process, seemed to have lost much of its charm. I was heartbroken to learn of the renovation, but decided to stalk the place nonetheless. As it turns out, despite the facelift, Villa is still quite spectacular.
The space that currently houses Villa was originally the site of Eckberg’s Steakhouse, which was founded in the 1960s. At the time, the property was a private home owned by Russ and Eleanor Eckberg. Russ worked in the meat industry and, upon retiring, decided to convert the living room of his house into a small ten-table restaurant with an adjacent open kitchen. And yes, Russ and Eleanor still lived on the premises. When they fully retired in the late 1970s, the space was taken over by restaurateur John Makhani. He remodeled and expanded the residence (keeping much of the original framing intact) and re-opened it in 1981.
The restaurant has gone through several incarnations under Makhani’s tutelage. At one point, it was a French eatery named Lautrec and then later it became an Italian spot named Villa Piacere. It was during its time as Piacere that Must Love Dogs was filmed on the premises. Makhani decided to revamp the space again in 2012 and, with the help of designer Thomas Schoos, transformed both the interior and the exterior.
When it was re-opened, the “Piacere” was dropped from the name and the restaurant became known simply as “Villa.”
The filming of Must Love Dogs took place on Villa Piacere’s back patio.
As you can see below, that area, while still somewhat recognizable, looks significantly different today.
Gone are the flowered tablecloths, country-style furniture and tiered water fountain.
While I was originally disappointed to learn of the changes, I was pleasantly surprised when I stepped onto Villa’s patio. In the photographs Owen had found online, the space looked sleek and cold, but in person, it turned out to be quaint, adorable and absolutely charming. I fell in love with it on site! So did Mike, from MovieShotsLA, who had joined me on the stalk, and we both promptly made plans to return there for dinner with our significant others in the near future.
The super-nice server whom we spoke with while we were there informed us that Villa had appeared onscreen numerous times over the years. The interior of the eatery popped up in the 2013 biopic Jobs as the spot where Steve Jobs (Ashton Kutcher) made the decision not to give Daniel Kottke (Lukas Haas) any Apple stock options.
A different exterior was used for the establishing shot of the restaurant in the scene.
In the Season 4 episode of Parks and Recreation titled “Operation Ann,” the exterior of Villa masked as the Bluebell Cafe. Interiors were filmed at the Hamburger Hamlet in Sherman Oaks, though. (Interiors from Season 2’s “Galentine’s Day” were also filmed at the Hamburger Hamlet.)
In the Season 1 episode of LeAnn & Eddie (and let’s hope that there only winds up to be one season of that train wreck of a show) titled “Babes and a Baby,” LeAnn Rimes dined at Villa with some of her childhood friends.
Villa’s tree-canopied parking lot appeared in Buick’s recent “Hmm” commercial.
The parking lot is absolutely gorgeous in person! I can only imagine what it looks like at night all lit up.
You can watch the Buick “Hmm” commercial by clicking below.
For more stalking fun, be sure to follow me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Los Angeles magazine online. And you can check out my other blog, The Well-Heeled Diabetic, here.
Big THANK YOU to fellow stalker Owen, from the When Write Is Wrong blog, for finding this location!
Until next time, Happy Stalking!