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Stars celebrate Chicago at Windy City West bash

Rich Melman (second from left) with son R.J. (left), wife Martha, daughter Molly and son Jerrod at the 25th Windy City West party at the M Street Kitchen and Stella Rossa Pizza Bar in Santa Monica, Calif., on March 5, 2012. Mitchell Canoff photo.

The 25th annual Windy City West party in Santa Monica, Calif., on Monday night gave a number of weight-conscious Hollywood stars an excuse to chow down on such Chicago food classics as deep-dish pizza, Garrett’s Popcorn, Eli’s cheesecake, Italian beef and Vienna hotdogs.

“Luck” star Richard Kind said, “I’ve been eating salads all week, knowing I’d really pig out tonight.” That brought a big smile to the faces of both Lettuce Entertain You head honcho Richard Melman and Harry Caray’s CEO Grant DePorter, who were standing nearby.

The party, held at the M Street Kitchen and Stella Rossa Pizza Bar – the neighboring West Coast outposts run by Melman’s kids, R.J., Jerrod and Molly Melman – was well-attended by Chicago-connected stars including Kind, Joe Mantegna, Chris O’Donnell, Marilu Henner, Amy Landecker and Jeff Garlin, as well as leading Chicago restaurateurs and food purveyors who joined the Melmans in sponsoring the party.

Event producer Brenda Sexton – who admitted, “I will be so busy tonight I don’t think I’ll even have time to eat!” – was spied busily greeting sponsors DePorter; Gibsons’ mainstays John Colletti and Kathy O’Malley; Portillo’s “hotdog king” Dick Portillo and his wife, Sharon; Vienna Beef’s Jim Dencek; Eli’s’ Maureen, Elana and Marc Schulman; Waldorf Astoria Chicago’s Meg Loomis, and Garrett’s’ Melissa Mikoajczak, Jack Aiello and Mary Ann Young.

While “Curb Your Enthusiasm” star Garlin has been working the past year to knock off the pounds, he said, “Tonight I’m not even going to think about it or talk about it – I’m just going to enjoy myself!”

Chicago native Henner, who eats no dairy and is very veggie-focused, stressed, “I really love that town, but I can never eat anything at this party.” She did slyly glance at pieces of pizza being passed by a server. “Oh, God!” she groaned. “This will take every ounce of my willpower!”

Bill Zwecker