Golden Valley, Minnesota
When Irv Schectman stopped into the White House for Chinese food to take home in early 1960, he probably didn’t imagine owning the restaurant a few weeks later. He’d been in Golden Valley looking for a new storefront for his carpet business when he decided to bring home dinner from the restaurant of his friend, Mike Troup. While waiting for his food, Irv asked how business was going at the restaurant. Troup told him business was booming, but he was getting burned out. It was time to sell the restaurant.
Irv replayed the conversation over the next few days as he considered leaving the carpet business and buying the restaurant. There had been restaurants on the site since 1919. In the 1940s, it was a dinner and dancing hotspot that boasted the longest dance floor in the great northwest. It was already named the White House when Troup purchased it in 1954 and introduced Cantonese fare to the menu of American classics.
Around $500,000 and a handshake sealed the deal between Irv and Troup. Irv became the owner and Troup stayed on for a few months. Before long, the White House had a reputation for excellent Cantonese and American food and a fun atmosphere. Nationally recognized jazz bands played the Bamboo Room for 10-night runs, and lesser-known artists from Brazil came for shorter runs.
Then in 1969, the jazz bands were out, along with the laminated paneling and rattan furniture, as Irv took the restaurant in a new direction. A trip to San Francisco inspired Irv to completely remodel the restaurant’s interior with red velvet, antique furniture, and collectible art. The main dining room became known as the San Francisco Room, and the Bamboo Room was renamed the Nob Hill Room. The Nob Hill Room hosted local musical acts on weekends.
Next, Irv began rethinking the menu. His new passion was authentic northern Italian food, so he added tomatoless dishes like those found in the northern region of Italy to the menu. He formed the Midwest chapter of La Societa dell’Elegante Pranzare Italiano or the Society for Elegant Italian Dining.
La Societa dell’Elegante Pranzare Italiano was initially started around the turn of the twentieth century by northern Italian immigrants who missed the food from home. There were chapters up and down the east coast, where Irv was introduced to the group. For around $10 (about $70 in 2022 money) per person, a select group of diners enjoyed an authentic six-course Italian meal with three wines at the White House. Irv planned the meal for 60 members and had it prepared by his chef on the first Monday night of the month. He continued the tradition for 11 years, never once serving the same meal.
After more than 20 years in the fast-paced restaurant business, Irv wanted to retire. He quietly began looking for a buyer, and the right one came along in 1983. The White House served its last meal on January 15, 1983. The new owners opened a new Chinese restaurant that went under within a couple of years. The building was demolished in 1991. Irv moved to California and eventually settled near Palm Springs, where he lived until he died in 2003.
Zuppa Alla Pavese (Bread & Egg Soup)
- 1 quart chicken broth
- 4 slices pumpernickel or other dark bread
- ¼ cup butter
- parmesan cheese
- fresh parsley, chopped
- ground pepper
- Bring chicken broth to a rolling boil.
- In a seperate pan, fry bread in butter; set aside.
- Poach eggs in broth; remove with a slotted spoon and set aside.
- Place a slice of bread in each bowl. Carefully place a poached egg on top of bread. Add steaming soup.
- Sprinkle with cheese, parsley, and a twist of the pepper mill.