When restauranteur Jed Sanford and his partner, chef Tin Vuong, considered opening a steakhouse in Hermosa Beach, they knew they’d surprise many. For a traditional place like Steak & Whisky isn’t exactly the type of fare that had been topping the duo’s South Bay dining docket for the last three years. The pair, whose company Blackhouse Hospitality Management is known for such South Bay spots as Abigaile, Little Sister, Dia de Campo, Wildcraft and Ocean Bar & Lounge, is usually associated with edgier concepts.
“My first place was Abigaile, where all the punk bands used to live,” says Sanford, sitting ensconced in a comfortable leather-upholstered booth at Steak & Whisky while sipping a glass of classic Napa Cabernet. “This is kind of doing the opposite, something really high-end … People love the crazier things we’ve done, but sometimes doing clean, classic food is important too.”
Once the partners acquired the space on Pier Avenue formerly occupied by Hibachi, it took a year to re-imagine it as Steak & Whisky. “We wanted to cover something that was super traditional. Something that’s comfortable for people … Just really stripped down, back to simple, classic cooking,” Sanford explains. “We wanted to kind of go back to an older period, ” he continues, referencing the early decades of the 20th century—that “Central Coast of California cattle ranch meets the ocean” era. This, Sanford adds, along with Nucky Thompson’s place in Boardwalk Empire, a show he loves, inspired the concept. “Something about old-soul places resonates with me, and Tin, a lot.”
And with Steak & Whisky’s soft lighting, exposed brick walls, dark wooden bar, leather seats and plush booths, Sanford has succeeded admirably in creating that precise feel. The food is a success too, as Vuong has joined forces with former Tavern on the Green chef John Shaw, offering luscious 30-day dry-aged prime beef (the porterhouse is a thing of true beauty), Japanese Wagyu ribeye, Duroc pork chops and more, all accompanied with classic sauces like béarnaise or peppercorn.
Plus, the culinary duo is also cooking up a few less traditional items. Sanford says, “We’re doing certain things a little differently … Like the Ham Hock Ravioli is a little different than what people normally see; the way we do the Lamb Pot Pie is unique, and we have things like sweetbreads on our menu. The idea is to give diners some interesting dishes, and some classics as well. It’s not about showing off, it’s about just being good.”
The whisky element shows off some with a massive bar stretching to the ceiling, stocked with top-shelf whiskys from around the world. With styles ranging from traditional Scottish, American and Canadian single malts to the latest from Japan, Sanford proudly states, “We have some wonderful whiskys from some very interesting places.” Look above the bar to see ten whisky lockers, where regular patrons can store their own special bottles. The restaurant also has an extensive wine list, including a selection of rare finds, perfect for a steak pairing.
Steak & Whisky
117 Pier Avenue
Hermosa Beach, CA 90254
Walking up to a heady fleet of Aston Martin automobiles, it’s hard not to immediately start channeling your inner James Bond. For there is no other vehicle on the planet that is so readily identified with a fictional character—and with epitomizing cool.
When British super spy 007 drove his first Aston Martin, it was as the main character in Ian Fleming’s famous novels. But when Bond hit the big screen—behind the wheel of the DB5 in Goldfinger—it was history in the making, the first of many cinematic moments featuring 007 and Aston Martin. Although partial to the DB5, Bond’s also been in the cockpit of the brand’s DBS; the V8 Vantage (both the Volante convertible and Coupe variations); the Vanquish; and, most recently, the DB10, which will appear in Spectre, the newest, in-production film in the James Bond franchise.
The DB10s are bespoke models; 10 have been specially made for Mr. Bond and will never be produced by the company; look for these wheels November 6, when the latest film installment lands in theaters. There are plenty of other sleekly gorgeous Aston Martin sports cars that you can pull into your own garage, though.
We tested four of the British marque’s best for 2015, ranging from the entry level V8 Vantage GT ($99,900 MSRP) to a top-of-the-line beauty, the V12 Vanquish Volante convertible ($301,295 MSRP). In between, the muscular V12 Vantage S Roadster convertible ($196,495 MSRP) and the V12 Rapide S sedan ($203,295 MSRP).
Traditionalists will love the sporty V8 Vantage GT with its 6-speed manual transmission, tight clutch and all, while 21st-century purists may prefer the 7-speed Sportshift II automated manual transmission, which offers the same quick-shift control, with no need to push a floor clutch. Either way, the two-seater Vantage GT is a gas to drive, roaring down straightaways and taking sharp curves with nary a slip.
Easing into the two-seater V12 Vantage S Roadster convertible and hitting the start button is a car lover’s dream moment, as the 565 bhp, 6.0-liter engine roars to life, then settles into a quiet hum. This pinnacle of powerful goes from 0 to 60 mph in 3.9 seconds; in a blink, find yourself traveling at well over 100 mph on the freeway, without feeling it for a moment. You will, however, hear it, as the engine, built with racecar technology, gives off a strong growl, especially when driven in Sport or Track mode.
The V12 Rapide S is something of a family sports car, with four doors and four seats and even the option of putting in a twin-screen rear-seat DVD entertainment system. But don’t be fooled, this swift 8-speed ride can hit 200 mph or higher.
The ultimate Aston Martin is the luxurious two-door V12 Vanquish Volante convertible, with its gorgeously appointed leather seats, spacious interior (offering added comfort for taller drivers), stunning extruded-aluminum and carbon-fiber exterior, and an overall elegant look. When driving, it’s hard to not swoon over the car’s precision handling, outrageous acceleration (0 to 60 mph in 3.6 seconds, the quickest accelerating series production vehicle in Aston Martin’s 101-year history), and lightening-quick gear changes.
If the price one must pay to feel like James Bond is owning an Aston Martin, then we’d say it’s more than worth it.
South Bay native Chris Adlam has specialized in residential home sales since 1987. Today, as one of the top realtors for Vista Sotheby’s International Realty, he’s the go-to guy when it comes to the South Bay—and the Palos Verdes Peninsula, in particular—real estate scene. He’s consistently won top awards for sales in the region where he still resides with his family. South Bay Digs recently caught up with Adlam for his take on the current state of real estate in this always desirable area.
Why real estate as your chosen profession?
I started in real estate when I was 23. I was newly married and very involved in a family business, but I wanted to do something on my own and residential real estate always interested me.
How long have you been in the business?
28 years. Now you know how old I am!
What do you like best about your job?
I truly enjoy the challenge of getting my clients the best deal possible. Whether I’m representing the buyer or the seller.
What sets your firm apart from competitors?
Sotheby’s is so well connected and offers a global reach that most other companies just don’t have. The global reach combined with our local expertise gives Vista Sotheby’s a huge advantage.
You’ve won some of the top realtor honors awarded to South Bay brokers. How do you conduct business in a way that leads to such continued success?
I’m happy to say that last year, REAL Trends/The Wall Street Journal named me one of the top 250 realtors in the country. I believe my work ethic, honesty and market knowledge are the keys to my success.
What are the latest market trends you see in the South Bay?
We are seeing an unprecedented rise in prices in certain areas. The average asking price per square foot in Manhattan and Hermosa Beach is over $1,150!
Where do you see the South Bay real estate market headed in 2015?
I think prices will continue on a gradual rise in 2015. Interest rates should remain at or near historic lows, and buyer demand is strong.
How have things shifted in the South Bay?
Buyers are coming or buying second homes from all across the globe—China, Europe and the Middle East. The South Bay is such a desirable place to live.
Your involvement in the community extends to the number of charitable causes you support. Of these, which are most important to you?
I support and served as a trustee of the Peninsula Education Foundation; education is the foundation of our children. I also support both of our local hospitals.
What do you do when not selling homes?
Everyone who knows me [also] knows I’m a car nut. When I’m not spending time with my wife and two daughters, I enjoy golf and my German shepherd, Rocco.
Although the final resting place for Hollywood’s elite, whether it be matinee idol Rudolph Valentino, director Cecil B. DeMille or civic leader Charles Toberman, Hollywood Forever Cemetery is also the place where history comes alive.
Motivated to help develop what was then little more than an agrarian burg, all fields and citrus groves, the formerly named Hollywood Memorial Park Cemetery was founded in 1899. Now in its second century, and a renaissance of sorts, this Los Angeles treasure boasts approximately 60 acres; seven mausoleums; two chapels; one crematory; an administration building and a monument production studio. And, in the park’s southwest sector, is a whole other burial ground in Beth Olam, one of the oldest dedicated Jewish cemeteries in Southern California.
If all sounds grand, like a vast English estate, “The cemetery’s landscaping was designed to create the atmosphere of a true park, rather than a mere grid of graves,” explains Family Service Counselor Theodore Hovey of the magnificent architecture, wonderfully weathered edifices and verdant growth here. “The buildings are in various styles. The Cathedral Mausoleum is Italian Renaissance, while the administration building is Spanish Baroque. The extraordinary private mausoleum of William Andrews Clark, Jr. and his family on the island in the lake is classical. Many of the other private family mausoleums are Egyptian Revival,” a popular aesthetic in the early 20th century due to significant archeological finds of the time, with the discovery of King Tut’s tomb a fixture in the public’s imagination.
The years were not always just to Hollywood Memorial, however, with the park eventually sinking into disrepair, neglect, and even controversy. Segregated until 1959, for example, it refused eternal rest for Gone with the Wind Oscar winner Hattie McDaniel until current ownership rectified the slight with a lakeside cenotaph to honor the trailblazing actress on the 47th anniversary of her death. This is one of many improvements present possessor Tyler Cassity plotted under his watch, which began in 1998, having rescued and rechristened the on-the-brink-of-bankruptcy burial ground. Hence prosperity and popularity for the newly minted Hollywood Forever, which, along with hosting ongoing restoration projects and new builds, acts as a kind of cradle of culture, welcoming a bevy of events year-round.
Emerging from the latter category is, of course, the open-air film series Cinespia. Held on the Fairbanks Lawn, an open, undeveloped expanse of grass behind the Douglas Fairbanks Sr. and Jr. memorial, the event, describes Hovey, is “an expression of the cemetery’s indelible relationship with the film industry.”
Currently interring more than 90,000 souls, with room for plenty more—a 100 years worth, according to Hovey—Hollywood Forever is more than a local landmark; “it’s a place of great reverence” whose physical beauty and historic residents continue to stir interest in visitors from all over the world.
All leaves little doubt that some things really do live forever.
The fact that Guido Rietdyk set out to find a place to suit his sports-loving family to a T makes perfect sense. As founder and president of EVS Sports—the innovative company specializing in protective gear for extreme athletes and weekend jocks alike—he’s beset with athletics.
“When we saw the house on Pine Tree Lane, it was a little on the rustic side for our taste,” Rietdyk, a Netherlands native, recalls. “But the pool table down in the bar area was a pretty epic fixture that I really liked—it’s an authentic competition table. I had also played a lot of squash on a competitive level in Europe, so was really excited by the built-in racquetball court. And I was pretty amazed by the view, too.”
And so Rietdyk and his wife, Sophie, (president of international and licensing for BCBG Max Azria), having determined that the hilltop estate in Rolling Hills was the perfect spot for their growing family of three, purchased the property in 2007, then, with the aid of architect Criss C. Gunderson, spent a year changing it completely.
“It really was obvious that we could do a lot of surgery to this thing and make it really, really trendy and modern, which is what we like,” says Rietdyk.
Said “surgery” was extreme. “We removed every bit of drywall, all the plumbing, all the electrical, all the flooring, all the ceilings; we put in all new doors and windows. Everything,” Rietdyk remembers. “Most of the framing is the same, but we even replaced some of that.”
Given the scope of the overhaul, deciding just exactly how to revitalize its 12,500 square feet required a meeting of the minds, as Gunderson tells it. “I was given a building shell of [about] 7,000 square feet on the top and 5,500 on the bottom, and, basically, working with Guido and Sophie, we designed it,” he says. “The house is dramatically different than what it was, and for the better, I hope. I’m very proud of how the house feels now. I think we captured more of the views than the house ever had before.”
While the views really are spectacular, especially on a clear day, when, Rietdyk relays, “You can see from Malibu to almost Big Bear … 80 miles,” they weren’t always. “The focal point of the house, the place where people spend the most time, is the kitchen and family room. That area was actually horrible when we bought the house,” he continues. “Originally, the room was divided in half by a wall of kitchen cabinets, so if you were in the kitchen, you really didn’t get any of the view, which we thought was really odd. So we just gutted that whole room and threw it all out.”
“Now,” Rietdyk notes, “the most dramatic part of that room are the wide-open sliding glass doors,” added to where previously existed fixed windows forbidding outdoor entry. “We also built the patio,” as there wasn’t one, “so now the amount of light that comes into that room and the incredible views are just awesome. And when the doors are open, you just feel the flow from inside to outside.”
The Rietdyks also reconfigured the entrance to the home, removing all walls here for a “wide-open” space that, when entered, acts as “a TV room and a reading room,” Rietdyk says. And they created a master bedroom suite fit for a king and queen. “Along with Criss Gunderson, we designed our bedroom with massive walk-in closets and sauna and steam showers in the bath. It’s really comfortable,” he shares.
Interiors complete, the Rietdyks and Gunderson looked to the property’s exterior, where their vision of a sports playland encompasses the addition of an indoor-size soccer field, a paddle tennis court, basketball hoops, and a completely redone swimming pool and huge Jacuzzi—a heaven on Earth for sports enthusiasts, with crowds forming accordingly.
“We love to have parties, and when we do there are people in every room, indoor and outdoors, on all levels—people playing soccer, tennis, whatever. And then everyone gets into the Jacuzzi. It’s massive…Our requirement was that [it could fit] at least one soccer team,” chuckles Rietdyk.
But, despite having fashioned what by all accounts is a true dream house, the couple is ready to move on. “I love working with Criss, he’s going to work on my next house as well,” says Rietdyk. Next house? Why would anyone want to leave this sprawling hilltopper encompassing 2.63 acres and its own movie theater?
“For us, now is a good time to start thinking about selling. It’s a great place for a family, but my family is shrinking,” explains Rietdyk with a son already in college, and growing daughters ages 15 and 9. And yet, he adds, “If we don’t sell the house, we’ll gladly stay there for another 10 years. We don’t have a need to sell it. I’m just thinking that at this point, I’m in the mood for something new. And I really also have a seven-year itch to go and build another house!” laughs Rietdyk, who, on the precipice of turning 50 this year, eludes to a residence where he and Sophie will settle for good.
But don’t expect to go far to find the family in their new digs; if Rietdyk’s plans work out, they’ll put down roots on the same street. “I love it here!” he says.
When South Bay house hunting becomes overwhelming, there’s nothing better than a spa break—and no better place for it than Murad Inclusive Health Spa, the neighborhood oasis on Rosecrans Avenue. Here, famed dermatologist, Dr. Howard Murad, and his staff of estheticians and massage therapists will work out the kinks and/or restore a youthful glow to luster-less skin. Their latest aid, the Youth-Building Facial Signature Service, done with Murad’s newest product line, “reprograms” the skin and beats back the signs of aging.
Add in a little shopping spree at the nearby Plaza El Segundo, where we love the cool home finds at Anthropologie and the indulgences at Sammy’s Woodfired Pizza—how does a a sip of beer and sup of tapas sound?
By the end of this little spa, shop and sup interlude, you’ll be revved up and ready for that next open house—guaranteed.
Murad Inclusive Health Spa
2141 Rosecrans Avenue
First Floor Courtyard
El Segundo, CA 90245
Plaza El Segundo
760 South Sepulveda Boulevard
El Segundo, CA 90245
Special menu items drop anchor at Fishing with Dynamite in Manhattan Beach, just in time for some celebrating.
If you haven’t already ventured into chef David LeFevre’s fabulous seafood eatery called Fishing with Dynamite, then get there in the next few weeks for some special dining. For they are celebrating Valentine’s Day and Mardi Gras with limited-time menus designed to get you drooling.
The Manhattan Beach restaurant is intimate, with seating for only 35 guests, so to get in on the fun we advise luring in a limited reservation via phone or Open Table now.
In celebration of Valentine’s Day, LeFevre has concocted the “Love Boat” seafood platter, filling it with chilled, super-fresh selections: six oysters, two Peruvian scallops, four shrimp cocktail bites and a half-pound King crab—for $48.
Also on the special menu is Steamed Black Cod in Thai Red Curry ($19); Whole Atlantic Lobster with Meyer Lemon Potato Puree and Drawn Butter ($44); and Dark Chocolate Ganache Cake and Raspberries ($9). All is a recipe for a seriously decadent evening at one of the hottest restaurants in the coastal enclave harboring it.
Chef’s got the good times rolling straight through Fat Tuesday (Feb. 17), too, with a hearty Gumbo concocted with shrimp, chicken, linguisa (spicy smoked pork sausage), hot sauce and basmati rice. So don your beads and boas to dinner for an authentic evening out.
And if those specials don’t entice your taste buds, the talked-about toque has (much) more to offer. Don’t miss trying one of his seasonal offerings, especially if you see the whole New Zealand Tai snapper ($48) on the menu. It’s “First Dibbs!” for a reason—and a crunchy delight. The Maryland crab cake is the genuine article, and save room for the pretzel and chocolate bread pudding served with house-made ice cream, a sweet finish to share with your favorite dining partner.
Fishing with Dynamite
1148 Manhattan Avenue
Manhattan Beach, CA 90266
Recently opened neighborhood pub, Hey 19 Public House, enlivens the South Bay.
When Ortega 120 restaurateur, Demi Stevens, decided to take over the space on Calle Mayor in Torrance that once held Zina’s, she knew she wanted something completely different than her popular Mexican place nearby, paving the way for Hey 19 Public House.
“I wanted it to be a relaxed place where locals can come to eat, drink and dance a little,” Stevens explains, while happily pouring a glass of her #19 concoction, a smooth-as-silk, house-infused orange bourbon mixed with fresh lemon, lime and orange that slides down the throat like butter—dangerous, for certain. “We also make our own ‘LemonAde’ and ‘GingerAle,’” she adds.
Infusions aside, such attention to detail is everywhere in this casually cozy, retro place, its Hey 19 moniker cueing the Steely Dan song of the same name. Along with featuring projections of old television shows on the walls (All in the Family playing the night we’re there) are posters of Farrah Fawcett and Star Wars memorabilia. There’s also Banksy prints, mismatched chairs, wacky light fixtures and even a photo of a loincloth-clad Raquel Welch in One Million Years B.C. mode adorning the drink menu. The convivial setting really makes you feel like a teenager again—a cool kid hanging out your cool friend’s basement.
Take the food menu—offered up in none other than a Pee-Chee portfolio (raise your hand if old enough to remember those!)—which features dishes made from locally sourced, non-GMO and hormone-free organic products. Try the Eric in a Blanket, house-made sausage in a puff pastry, or the Tabled Tartar, made with perfectly prepared Ahi tuna, avocado and ponzu for starters; then move on to Chrissy’s Night Out, mouth-watering, slow-cooked short ribs, or the tasty Froo Froo Pasta, made with local shrimp, Mayer lemon, kale and goat cheese.
Hey 19 also serves pub fare too, including burgers, fried chicken and waffles, and T-bone steak, and there’s always a friendly crowd at the bar, where live bands play a couple of nights a week. Needless to say, dancing is encouraged—and in a sense expected. Plus, this rollicking public house serves a limited menu until 1:30 a.m., a rarity in the South Bay; and they’re open for lunch, too. Now that word about Hey 19 is spreading, we predict that, soon, locals may not be the only SoCal folks in the House.
Hey 19 Public House
4525 Calle Mayor
Torrance, CA 90505
We recently covered the debut of the Mercedes-Benz F 015 Luxury in Motion. It’s specs are impressive, to be sure, but what does this self-navigating car mean for the future of humankind’s relationship with automobiles? Andrew Sinagra, the creative director at Ntropic, gives us a glimpse of the possibilities.
I was in college as the internet rolled in with a trickle and I was too young and short sighted to see the change coming. I believe it was due to the slow modem speeds and limited content. There was no big bang, no shot heard around the world. The internet created a new paradigm for communication and opened our eyes to a vastly connected future, yet it barely caught my attention.
Now in the age of automation I have been looking and waiting for that revolutionary step that will change the way we live forever. I envied the generation that witnessed the invention of the airplane and the roots of commercial aviation. I wondered what it was like to watch as man first set foot on the moon. These events were stamps in time that I only read about in history books. But to my excitement, as Bob Dylan put it, the times they are a changin’ — and the Mercedes-Benz F 015 is leading the way.
The F 015 is a window to our future and a vision of how the world will change around us. Beyond the sculpted design, this automobile is a showcase of possibility. At first glance the lines of this vehicle look like they were ripped from the concept art of a space action blockbuster. It’s sleek, sliver facade is bookended with LED light fields that signal various states of control. The interior is technology laden with touch screens, gestural recognition, and eye tracking sensors. A variable seating system turns the typical vehicle interior into an intimate gathering space. However, once you get past the space-age facade and cool gadgetry you realize this work of art is the beginning of a revolution.
As a commercial director working with a number of automotive manufacturers I am generally up to speed on the latest car tech. My job places me in the middle between the manufacturer and the driver trying to visually explain how it all works, so I have seen the signs coming for some time.. countless sensors at every corner of a vehicle, night vision cameras, GPS, radar! When the first automated parallel parking vehicle was demonstrated, it was cool and interesting to some but it was almost a gimmick. It wasn’t going to change my life, but the writing was on the wall. All of these technologies have been leading up to one thing, self driving cars. Not only self driving, but self navigating cars… the autonomous vehicle!
Yes, the Mercedes-Benz F 015 is a fully autonomous vehicle. When ready, you can sit back, take your hands off the wheel, swing your chair around to face your passengers and relax. In addition to the multitude of sensors keeping you between the lines the car utilizes 3D cameras, highly detailed digital maps, Car-2-Car and Car-2-Object communications technologies to provide a worry free driverless mode of transportation.
At face value this is pretty exciting. The thought of taking my hands off the wheel and letting my car handle the morning commute is exhilarating. I probably wouldn’t mind being in traffic on the 405 if I wasn’t the one stomping on the brake every 5 seconds. My work would love it. The two hours I spend in the car every day could be two more hours on the clock. Think of all the things you could be doing from getting a head start on work to video chatting with friends to crushing that last candy. It would truly be liberating.
Now lets look further down the road to when self driving cars will be prevalent. Traffic patterns will begin to clear as cars will communicate to one another helping to average out congestion. The number of automotive accidents will lower as there will be no distracted or drowsy driver to take their eyes off the road. The roadways will begin to hum with a constant flow of vehicles working in unison to provide the most efficient means of travel possible.
These efficiencies will revolutionize the road trip. Higher operating speeds will be easily achievable as vehicle reaction times are in the milliseconds. The time spent flying from Los Angeles to San Francisco will rival the drive time, if you include not having to arrive an hour early, wait in line at TSA screening, and stare blankly at the carousel waiting for your bags to arrive.
Still, this is only the beginning. Imagine your car has just dropped you off at work and has gone to look for a parking space. Yes, your car can drive around looking for a parking space without you, but lets move past that. Why let such an intelligent piece of machinery sit parked curbside all day. While at work you place an online order with the local grocery store. You receive a notification that your groceries are ready to be picked up and your car heads to the store without you. In line at the grocery store drive thru, an RFID tag in your car identifies your order to the store and they place the bags in your vehicle. The store marks the order as delivered and your ride returns to pick you up. Automated tasks such as these will quickly become commonplace.
When I was old enough to drive, owning a car was a symbol of something special. You took pride in your vehicle and it was an extension of your personality. We named our cars silly things like “Sally” , “Dirty Diana” and “Brad.” We dressed them up with fancy wheels and dashboard tchotchke’s. They were part of us. With two hands on the wheel you could feel the road beneath you. Those of you luckily enough to understand the joys of stomping on the clutch and down shifting into 3rd at 70mph will know why that makes me smile a bit inside.
Now picture the next generation’s relationship to the automobile. No hands on the wheel. No clutch to press. No manual transmission. While I may be nostalgic for these things I don’t see this as a step in the wrong direction. It is merely the progression of time. Our children’s children will have a vastly different connection with the automobile than we did. It will become a utilitarian device where single person ownership may even be questioned. If your vehicle can pick you up and take you to work everyday and then aid other people with their transportation needs then why limit it’s capabilities. Setting luxury comforts aside, would it even matter if it was the same car taking you home? By sharing the burden, vehicles could one day become an on demand service. The overall number of cars on the road may even be lessened as efficiencies in communal transportation rises.
This vision of tomorrow excites me to the core and I want to stand at the forefront of this autonomous revolution. The future is here and I can’t wait to ride in one.
Former Side Door proprietors Lou and Grace Giovannetti bring old world hospitality, bespoke design, and creatively rendered Italian food to Torrance.
Those passing by Hillside Village at the base of the Palos Verdes Peninsula have probably noticed some changes over the past few months. The space that was formerly Il Toscano, a decades-old local hangout that shuttered in the spring of 2013, has transformed into a newly remodeled and re-imagined Italian restaurant aptly named Lou’s on the Hill.
Lou and Grace Giovannetti, former owners of the Side Door in Manhattan Beach, officially opened the doors to their new hilltop restaurant last Thursday, January 22, after soft opening in late November. They were met with capacity crowds who gathered to experience the start of a new chapter in the local dining scene — one that promises artfulness in its atmosphere, cuisine, and hospitality.
“California’s rich seasonal bounty is the inspiration for our food and drink menus,” the restaurant’s namesake explains. “We wanted to present artful Italian food, creatively rendered, touching every corner of the Mediterranean, paired with craft wines and inventive cocktails.”
At the helm in the kitchen is Executive Chef Eric Mickle, a gifted up-and-comer who honed his skills working with world-renowned chefs in various ventures. In his most recent endeavor, Mickle ran the day-to-day operations at Gordon Ramsay’s BurGR in Las Vegas, but ultimately began itching for his own restaurant.
“Lou’s came around at the right moment where Lou needed a chef and I needed a kitchen,” Mickle recalls. “Lou really sold me on it and what they were trying to do here. Once you meet Lou, you’re hooked.”
Since that serendipitous meeting, Lou says that Mickle “has been given the reins to create and interpret modern Italian based on his palate and favorite flavor profiles utilizing the best of what California bounty offers in the Italian tradition of house-made, handmade, fresh ingredients.”
To that end, it is no wonder they refer to their particular offerings as “Cali-Ital,” something Chef Mickle says is more of an approach to the food than a style of cuisine. “I want to take what I can get locally and do what an Italian grandmother does, which is buy the best product as close to home [as possible] and not mess it up,” he explains.
One of the restaurant’s points of pride, the wood fired oven, is used for more than the already-popular pizzas. The wood fired lamb ribs pair flawlessly with pomegranate and citrus agrodolce, while the 14-ounce American kurobuta pork rack brines for 24 hours before being roasted on the bone and selling out nightly. The restaurant also features an array of small plates, charcuterie, and handmade pastas, in addition to housemade desserts, digestivos, and craft wines and cocktails.
The artfulness and care seen in the food and drink is carried beyond the kitchen and bar to every corner of the elegantly revamped establishment. “We want people to feel like honored guests,” Lou says of their promise of Old World hospitality. “We strive to create the best possible experience, to engage guests’ senses and emotions. Everyone who is part of the team has hospitality DNA. It’s a trait we seek when hiring staff.”
Anyone who knows Lou Giovannetti knows that no venture of his would be complete without the celebration of jazz and swing. Former patrons of the Side Door will recall Sundays when Lou would croon crowd favorites — a pastime he says is not over. The musically inclined purveyor plans to introduce a late-night monthly residency at Lou’s, where he will perform, and to host guest artists such as Niki Lindgren of Naughty Niki and the All Nighters, who performed at the grand opening.
“Lou’s is about craft, the hand of the maker, and a well-lived life that engages your senses,” Giovannetti explains. “[It’s about] the camaraderie of a night out with friends and the pleasure of breaking bread and sharing time with loved ones.”
Lou’s on the Hill is located at 24590 Hawthorne Blvd, Torrance, CA. Visit them online at www.lousonthehill.com
For 31-year-old Executive Chef Eric Mickle, there was not a single defining moment that propelled him to become a chef. He always enjoyed cooking and appreciated the ability to be self-sufficient from a young age.
“I got into cooking by accident, really,” he explains, recalling when he needed a job and found one cooking at a restaurant in Legoland. “Now, 15 years later, I have never received a paycheck for anything else.”
While 15 years dedicated to honing a craft may sound like a lot, Mickle is the first to point out that he is still a teenager as a professional, saying good-humoredly that there is sometimes a childishness present in his food. “Like our Nutella tart. That came around because I wanted chocolate pie.”
Joking aside, Mickle demonstrates a tremendous amount of experience, wisdom, and humility. He has worked with some of the most prolific chefs in the world, both in the States and abroad, including Michael Mina, Mario Batali, and Gordon Ramsay. When asked who influenced him most professionally, Mickle points to David Varley.
“[Varley] took the time to teach me how to butcher and be a saucier,” Mickle explains. “He gave me his time because I was willing to give him my time. I never learned these things on the clock. I would come in hours before my shift to learn from someone who is a tremendous influence on me as a chef. It is something young chefs are missing. They won’t do it unless they are getting paid to.”
Looking to his food philosophy, Mickle says he is not sure he has developed one yet. Still, one method he stands behind is allowing ingredients to be what they are. Rather than overwhelm a dish, he uses a select few ingredients in creative ways. He points to their salmon dish as an example.
“It’s fennel — a very under-utilized vegetable in my opinion — and blood orange. But I wanted to bring out different characteristics of each.” To do this, the chef constructed a raw salad with blood orange and shaved fennel in addition to roasted fennel and blood orange reduction. The fish is seasoned with a small amount of fennel seed and the plate is garnished with — what else? — fennel fronds.
When asked what his top tips are for aspiring chefs and restaurateurs, Mickle offers few but powerful words: “Hard work, flexibility, love.” As for his own career, the chef displays equal parts gratefulness and contentedness.
“I am lucky. I get up and do exactly what I want to do every day. I wouldn’t do any of it differently.”