Peter Moruzzi‘s keen sensibilities have led to several books on mid-century design and dining, among them Greetings From Los Angeles, Palm Springs Holiday and Classic Dining. As author of Havana Before Castro, he applied his knowledge of the city from the time it was America’s playground and updated it for modern use in our guide Havana: Right Now.
You founded the Palm Springs Modern Committee and have written extensively about the city, tell us about three of your favourite places there.
I frequent Melvyn’s Restaurant as the last, great classic dining restaurant in the Coachella Valley. The restaurant’s seasoned staff have been flaming Steak Diane, Wilted Spinach Salad, and Cherries Jubilee (my favourite) table-side since 1975.
I always find something unexpected at Modern Way, Courtney Newman’s vintage modern furnishings shop. Courtney was one of the first to anticipate the rediscovery of Palm Springs’ midcentury architectural legacy when he opened in 1999.
There are few places as visually arresting as the enormous Salton Sea located 60 miles east of Palm Springs in the Sonoran Desert. Resting 235 feet below sea level, the Salton Sea was promoted as a recreational destination in the 1950s before its reputation was sullied by increasing salinity, algae blooms, and massive fish die-offs. I enjoy driving guests there to witness the abandoned structures and post-nuclear apocalyptic setting that contrasts with the dramatic beauty of the sea surrounded by mountains.
What are three of your favourite places in the world?
Restaurant or bar: Restaurant Chez Georges in Paris opened in 1964 and frequented by chef Julia Child for decades. The bistro proudly maintains its traditional décor and menu even as nouvelle French cuisine dominates discussions by young foodies.
Among the classic dishes that I adore are radishes with butter, escargot, ratatouille, duck breast and tarte tatin.
Shop: I find getting lost amongst the maze of alleys in Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar is a key aspect of this shopping wonderland. When travelling I try to buy an item – often antique – evocative of the country. At the Grand Bazaar, the abundance of choices blended with the bazaar’s smells, colours, banter and commotion all under the dim light of its passageways is magical.
Thing to do: Wandering the Havana Riviera hotel, the best-preserved example of Miami-modern resort architecture in the world. Due to benign neglect, the 1957 hotel retains its stunning mid-century modern design; custom artwork (sculptures, bas reliefs, mosaics); original lobby furniture; nightclub, casino and cocktail lounge interiors; and the entirety of its L’aiglon fine dining restaurant including flatware and place settings. I spend hours strolling the lobby absorbing the details.
What’s your favourite city or place to visit?
Havana. To me it’s a perfect blend of historic architectural authenticity and vibrant contemporary culture.
Would you share a travel tip?
Make restaurant reservations for popular Paris restaurants several weeks before leaving on your trip.