In attendance were such screen personalities as Coppola and wife Eleanor, actress Sharon Stone (who also acted as auctioneer the first night), director George Lucas and Don Novello, who played the Father Guido Sarducci character on Saturday Night Live.
"I always wanted to do something like this," Coppola said, gesturing toward the stacked bottles and foodstuffs lining the walls of his new bistro. The casual eatery not only serves light breakfasts, lunches and dinners, but also functions as a tasting room for Niebaum-Coppola Estate wines and as a retail outlet for Coppola's new line of Italian specialty food items. The limited seating inside is augmented by a sidewalk cafe.
Coppola explained that he wanted to create a cafe like those in Europe, where travelers can buy a glass of wine and a snack -- or simply an espresso -- and sit down to enjoy themselves in the midst of a bustling city.
Being a restaurateur is not entirely new to the film director: He is already a partner in San Francisco's Rubicon restaurant (a Wine Spectator Grand Award winner for its wine list), which is named after one of his wines. Coppola purchased Napa Valley's famous Inglenook vineyard, now the source of the Niebaum-Coppola wines, in 1975. Around the same time, he purchased the Flatiron Building, where he houses his Zoetrope film production company and now the cafe as well.
Cafe Niebaum-Coppola is actually the first of about 50 similar establishments Coppola plans to open in major U.S. cities within the next five years.