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Many people in the local community are mourning the death of Edith Carissimi, one of the former owners of Musso and Frank Grill, which opened in 1919 and is Hollywood’s oldest restaurant.
Carissimi died on March 30 at age 95 of natural causes at her apartment in Park La Brea. Her son, Fred Reich, said Carissimi had been suffering from heart disease, but her death was unexpected. Carissimi, who lived alone but had two caregivers, died in her sleep, according to Reich.
Reich said his mother had not been involved in day-to-day operations at Musso and Frank Grill for approximately five years, but had a 50 percent ownership stake until last October, and visited the restaurant often. In 1963, she married Charles Carissimi, the son of Joseph Carissimi. Joseph Carissimi owned Musso and Frank Grill since 1926 with partner John Mosso. The restaurant was founded in 1919 by Frank Troulet and Joseph Musso, who later sold it to Mosso and Carissimi. When Charles Carissimi died in 1969, Edith stepped in to help run the restaurant with Mosso. After he died in 1974, she operated the restaurant with Mosso’s daughter, Rose Keegel.
Carissimi worked at the restaurant nearly every day for nearly four decades, and did just about everything, from greeting guests to running the office, according to Ricky Kaye, the long time bookkeeper for Musso and Frank Grill.
“Everyone should have an Edith Carissimi in their life. I was one of the lucky ones,” Kaye said. “Mrs. Carissimi was one of those people you thought would always be there. I visited her at home the Thursday before she passed away, and we had a wonderful visit. She had a very long and fascinating life.”
Musso and Frank, which is located at 6667 Hollywood Blvd., has been part of the Hollywood scene for more than 90 years. During the 1920s through ‘40s, it was a gathering place for many high-profile people from the entertainment industry. Their clientele included Charlie Chaplin, Mary Pickford, Edward G. Robinson, Bette Davis and Cesar Romero, among others. The restaurant was also often frequented by famous authors of the period, including F. Scott Fitzgerald, Nathaniel West and Ernest Hemingway.
Throughout the years, Musso and Frank Grill maintained its reputation as a Hollywood hot spot, and today continues to be a place where tourists and residents can dine in the same location as celebrities such as Johnny Depp and Sam Worthington. Like Carissimi, many of the restaurant’s employees have worked there for decades. Kaye said Carissimi always treated the staff fairly, which was one of the reasons people stayed for so long.
“She treated us like family,” Kaye added. “This is one of those places where if you are here for twenty years, you are still the new guy. She knew everybody personally, and was wonderful to the personnel.”
Charles Carissimi was Edith’s second husband. She had previously been married to William Reich, Fred’s father, a studio executive who was involved in American International Pictures. Reich said his mother loved the restaurant, and would always think about ways to make improvements, including putting up new wallpaper and installing new carpeting. Reich said she also loved the customers, and would commonly greet them at the front door.
“She knew every actor and actress. She had tremendous charisma and was extremely cosmopolitan,” Reich said. “She was like the captain of a ship. Everyone loved her, and she just lit up the place.”
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