Staff Reporter

It's all in the details, according to Isaias Ledesma.

As service director at the downtown City Club, where some of L.A.'s most prominent business and political players can be seen most any day of the week, it's Ledesma's job to make sure each member is properly coddled.

"Many of our members are workaholics," says Ledesma as he polishes silverware lined up in preparation for lunchtime guests. "So when they come here they want everything perfect, so they can relax. They want a home away from home."

To meet that challenge, Ledesma gathers with the club's senior staff for a 10 a.m. planning session.

One member, who is hosting a dinner party, has asked that she be given a wine list before the meal because she expects her guests to drink a lot and doesn't want the wine to be too expensive. A lawyer who has been using the Santa Barbara Room for business meetings has made his regular request that bread and toothpicks be on hand.

A member planning an early-morning conference has asked for three round tables and scrambled eggs, but will bring his own overhead projector. Then there is the traditional Irish warriors' feast that chef Derek Healy, a native of Ireland, has planned for the Dodgers on opening day.

The receptionist has asked that a box of toothpicks be placed on the front desk. But that idea is rejected.

"We're a club, not a restaurant," says Juan Robles, the maitre d'.

"Anyway," jokes Healy, "our food doesn't stick to your teeth."

The meeting breaks up at 10:30 a.m., in time for the "family lunch," at which the entire staff is invited to eat in one of the club's two dining rooms.

"We think our people will do a better job of serving lunch if they have a full stomach," says Ledesma.

And they eat well. On this day, Healy has prepared a large bowl of spicy ceviche, a South American dish of raw tuna mixed with vegetables, garlic and lemon juice.

The entire staff sits together, dishwashers and waiters, private room managers and the receptionist, amid the crystal and silverware that will in a short time be in the hands of L.A.'s most powerful schmoozers.

While the waiters are finishing their lunch, room manager Rene Monterosa is putting the final touches on the private rooms, where members can both dine and hold business meetings.

An 11-year veteran of the club, Monterosa prides himself on his ability to remember not just the names of members, but what they drink, their favorite dishes and where they like to sit at the table.

"We are very particular here," says Monterosa. "We try to investigate and remember what you like on your first visit and we write it down."

Then comes the "lineup," where waiters gather in the main dining room in full uniform for a military-style inspection. Ledesma, Healy and Robles make sure everyone's pins are in place and shoes are shined. Robles recommends that anyone who ate ceviche use mouthwash provided in the bathrooms.

Each staff member is then encouraged to create a "magic moment" for a guest. A magic moment might be remembering a guest's wedding anniversary, or knowing that he or she prefers salad dressing on the side.

For each successful magic moment, staff members are rewarded a star. Collect enough stars and they can win vacations, movie tickets or trips.

Today, waitress Amytes Arayata receives a star for remembering a guest's birthday. But with just a few days left in the month, it looks like waiter Ernesto Nicodamius will be the big winner for having the most stars in March. For that, he will get a trip to Las Vegas.

Finally, there is a rundown of special requests made by the day's lunch guests.

A cake has been requested by a member for a secretary who is leaving the company. Another longtime member is bringing a special guest who will be wearing blue jeans. Jeans are forbidden under club rules, but a private room is being prepared.

Ledesma is satisfied that all is in order. As the first lunch guests gather in the foyer, he claps his hands and announces to the assembled staff: "It's show time."

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