San Pedro Meets France with a Delightful Neighborhood Bistro

French twist.

  • Category
    Eat & Drink, People
  • Written by
    Darren Elms
  • Above
    Chef Pierre, Loni and Thomas outside the San Pedro bistro

Just outside Compagnon Wine Bistro on 7th Street in San Pedro, a long deck seats a number of patrons enjoying a seasonally warm June evening. The streetside atmosphere—a welcome remnant from an otherwise challenging pandemic for the restaurant industry—transports a small café you might find in the South of France.

It’s shortly after the spring reopening, and you can sense from the nearby tables the joy and relief of enjoying a glass of wine and a delicious meal with good friends. It was not long before the pandemic that Thomas Compagnon acted on his dream to open his first restaurant, after working in the industry for decades.

Born and raised in Lyon, France, Thomas studied wine and later became a sommelier. For several years he worked the summer season in Saint-Tropez and headed to Chamonix for the winter. He left France for London and worked in a fine dining establishment for two years. “I served the most amazing wines—the ones I could only dream of laying down in my cellar,” he recalls.

In 2000 Thomas crossed the pond for the States and took a job at Ocean Trails Golf Club, which later became Trump National Golf Club. He stayed at the property for 19 years, serving as both bartender and beverage director.

It was at Trump National that he met his wife, Loni. “I told her to leave her boyfriend—not something I had ever done before,” he shares.

With Loni’s support, Thomas began considering the reality of opening a restaurant. They looked at venues in Rancho Palos Verdes and Long Beach before deciding on San Pedro. “Having worked at Trump for so long, I met a lot of San Pedro and RPV residents,” he says. “I was able to let them know of our new endeavor. This would definitely be a good base for us right from the start.” But he held off on signing the new lease so he and Loni could get married.

Thomas hired Chef Pierre Gornes to head the kitchen at Compagnon Wine Bistro. The offerings pay tribute to classic bistros in the South of France, with traditional favorites like mussels mariniere, steak frites and beef bourguignon. As expected, the restaurant also features a stellar international wine list.

“My passion was always to try to select some amazing wines to complement our dishes,” says Thomas. “Pierre and I often discuss the wine pairing. As a matter of fact, most of our dishes including our weekly specials are created with a specific wine in mind, and vice versa.”

Having shut down right after opening, Thomas and Loni are working hard to get back where they left off. Judging from the nice crowd assembled on a weeknight, the future looks good for the charming and friendly addition to San Pedro’s growing scene. They hope to one day also open a French bakery.

“We will continue to be creative,” adds Thomas, “in the way the pandemic forced us to be.”

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