After working a long day at his practice, cardiologist Steve Levine still manages to make it to his second job. This Renaissance man is a doctor by day and restaurateur by night. But despite his hectic schedule, he makes sure his four-year-old pug Maxine is always by his side.
Whether at his office, the restaurant, or during his morning walk, Maxine never leaves Levine’s side. Since she is a “service dog”, Maxine tags along to the office where she uses her charm to cheer up the sickly. “My employees and especially my patients love Maxine. She is by far the star attraction to the office,” Levine said. Maxine, who Levine refers to as Max, has a close knit relationship with her owner, somewhat like that of a father and daughter. “She is like the most irresistible six-year-old (human) child you ever met– a little bit of a brat but too cute for you to care,” Levine adds. Maxine even attracts new patients to Levine’s practice. Although most of his patients are referred from other doctors and patients, Levine insists that Maxine is responsible for at least one referral. “Last week when we were walking outside, a woman was so smitten by Maxine she followed us up to the office and made an appointment. I don’t even know if she has any heart trouble,” Levine says.
After the duo finishes their duties at the office and the hospital, they head over to La Vecchia Cucina, Levine’s restaurant, in Santa Monica. The Italian eatery was Levine’s favorite neighborhood restaurant where he enjoyed spending time. So when the opportunity presented itself five years ago, Levine purchased the restaurant. “I have put lots of energy into renovating the interior and updating the menu, to keep the restaurant up to date with its clientele,” Levine said. And his hard work has paid off as La Vecchia Cucina is a winner of Zagat’s award for “Distinction and Award of Excellence”. The success of La Vecchia Cucina has prompted Levine to open another restaurant, Wilshire, which will serve organic dishes and seasonal American foods.
While her owner is busy fulfilling his duties as an entrepreneur, Max makes herself comfortable outside La Vecchia Cucina. Since she is well known around the neighborhood, Levine says that everyone keeps an eye on her while he is inside the restaurant. Meanwhile, Max uses this time to mingle with other customers’ dogs that are also at the restaurant. “It’s kind of a dog’s world on the sidewalk bench,” Levine said. And if Max is behaving well while she is outside, Levine rewards her with some of his famous cuisine. “As much as Maxine would like to be the official taster tester, we limit her to chicken breast and an occasional steak,” Levine quipped.