08/08/1994 at 01:00 AM EDT
WHEN STEVEN SPIELBERG'S stomach growls, people listen. The director of Jurassic Park and Schindler's List couldn't find a submarine sandwich in all of L.A. that measured up to the ones he ate as a kid growing up in Phoenix, so he simply opened his own restaurant. Now Dive!, co-owned with pal Jeffrey Katzenberg, chairman of Disney Studios, and restaurateurs Mark and Larry Levy, is the splashiest eatery in movieland.
Permanently docked at L.A.'s Century City shopping mall, Dive!, decked out like a submarine, serves equal portions of haute hoagies—like the Sub Rosa Sicilian and the Fajita Sub Cucina—and Spielbergian special effects, including a simulated dive. Henry Winkler and Pierce Brosnan are becoming regulars, and Warren Beatty, Rob Reiner, Tom Hanks, Candice Bergen and Michael Keaton have also taken the plunge.
The $7 million restaurant is a nod to all that's nautical. Pressure gauges, throttles and bubbling, water-filled portholes detail the interior, while a periscope offers a panoramic view of Century City. Hourly voyages through the waters off Micronesia, Bermuda, San Salvador and Florida—courtesy of a 210-square-foot projection screen—take diners past giant sea turtles and sharks and into underwater caves. "A lot of people say we could just charge admission and not have to serve anything," says Larry Levy.
But with a second Dive! scheduled to open in Las Vegas next year and 10 more projected by 1996, Spielberg (who, finding the vinaigrette too oily, offered wife Kate Capshaw's recipe to the chef) is hoping that his sandwiches don't become substandard. "What's important to me," he says, "is the food. All the themes and gadgets and music aside, the food's the thing."