Neapolitan in 90 Seconds

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Photo by Maria Martin

800 Degrees Pizza is on fire. In the last five years, two have popped up in Las Vegas, seven in Dubai, one in Tokyo and six in Los Angeles, including their newest restaurant last month in Runway at Playa Vista.

The concept is simple: fast, fresh, authentic Neapolitan-style pizza. And people are eating it up. Steve Overholt, CEO of 800 Degrees Pizza, shares a few secrets of their success.

What’s the philosophy behind 800 Degrees Pizza?

Our chef/founder Anthony Carron developed the concept during a dream almost six years ago. The fast-casual, build-your-own segment was gaining popularity with consumers all across the country. Nobody was doing it with pizza. He set out to develop a concept where he could serve authentic Neapolitan-style pizza using premium ingredients and cook it in 90 seconds. …

Read the full article at Playa Vista Direct.

Mar Vista’s Christmas House

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Photos by Mia Duncans

Sitting comfortably one Saturday afternoon in mid-December in his Mar Vista home, David Gusman doesn’t look like Santa Claus. But in a few hours, that’s exactly who he’ll be representin’ — as he told one nine-year-old boy who questioned his authenticity.

That was obviously the right thing to say, because the tough kid revealed to “Santa” what he wanted for Christmas, and his mom, who was standing to his side, gave Gusman a big thumbs up.

Each December for the past four years, hundreds of kids have marched through Gusman’s front gate on Federal Avenue to sit on his lap, tell Santa what they want for Christmas (some even hand him a letter) and receive a gift: a candy cane, pencil and eraser. …

Read the full article at The Argonaut.

The Legend of Zelda’s

mini-donuts-chocolate“Hi Greg!” shouts Edward Klevens, the new chef/owner of Zelda’s Corner. The sandwich shop at the corner of Westminster Avenue and Speedway is probably best known for its cinnamon-sprinkled mini donuts, but Greg comes in about once a week for a cup of chili and bread.

“Hi Katya,” Klevens greets another customer, who hugs him and declares she’s addicted to his food.

Then there’s Andy, who has a special sandwich named after him, although it’s not on the official menu.

“It’s an East Coast thing,” explains Klevens. “I split the bread. There’s three kinds of cheese, homemade Italian dressing, lettuce, tomatoes, lots of onions, lots of meat on top.”

Klevens bought Zelda’s Corner about one year ago from the original owners, a local couple who set up shop at 9 Westminster Ave. in 1999, after a few years
of selling only mini donuts out of a much smaller space across the street.

Klevens is the type of owner who leaps to help a woman who asks for her sandwich to be wrapped to go, even with staff at the counter ready to serve. In other words, he’s perfect for a boardwalk sandwich shop that caters to the surrounding community. …

Read the full article at The Argonaut.

Good Taste Takes Time

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Photo by Ximena Kupferwasser

As Raphael Lunetta stands on the veranda of The Georgian Hotel on Ocean Avenue in Santa Monica, he sees heaps of possibility. For the past six months, Lunetta has been the consulting chef for the historic 83-year-old art-deco property — helping to update everything from the menus to the silverware.

This is Lunetta’s first public project since his own JiRaffe closed in Santa Monica after an amazing 18-year run. He has future plans for a new restaurant at 2424 Pico Blvd., once the home of Josie, but on most days — like this sunny Saturday morning — he’s all in at The Georgian.

“When you take on something like this, it’s a hotel,” Lunetta starts, “you have be able to accommodate the guests’ needs and exist in that environment. But I also want to apply some of the style of cutting-edge boutique hotels. I also don’t want to strong-arm people into working one way. When you force something too much, your result is feeling like it’s forced. Everything takes time.”

Lunetta is taking his time with The Georgian’s transformation. …

Read the full article at The Argonaut.

Breakfast is for the Birds

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Photo by Courtnay Robbins Bragagnolo

A large, lively crowd has gathered at the east end of Millennium Drive to eat chicken. Mingling in the big yellow space at the bottom of a parking structure facing Campus Center Drive, the enthusiastic foodies chat, nibble on pastries and wait to sample some of the goodies on what is soon to be The Chicken or the Egg’s menu — like “The Reason the Road Was Crossed,” a sandwich with crispy organic free-range chicken, honey Sriracha remoulade and radish-cabbage slaw.

“Chicken is undergoing a renaissance,” says Hunter Pritchett, chef partner of The Chicken or the Egg. “Americans are eating more chicken every year.”

Sean Krajewski, the founder of this farm-to-table concept, is walking around the well-attended preview party — as is actor, ex-Laker and investor Rick Fox. Pritchett is plating the tasty bites for passed hors d’oeuvres.

The idea for The Chicken or the Egg belongs to Krajewski….

Read the full article at Playa Vista Direct.

Aw, Shucks: Four Great Oyster Happy Hours

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Herringbone Photo by: Marie Buck

What could be better than slurping oysters by the sea? The notorious aphrodisiac pairs perfectly with an evening out on the Westside. Here are four scenic spots to eat oysters aplenty on the cheap.

Herringbone
Herringbone is huge — like “hard to find your friend” huge. There’s the restaurant on the left side, and to the right a bar, patio, lounge, couches and the Salt & Brine bar. It’s here on the right that Happy Hour happens from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. Mondays through Fridays. Oysters are just $1 each on the abbreviated menu, which also includes small bites and drink specials. And now there’s a lunchtime happy hour with $1 oysters from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. on weekdays. The oysters aren’t all that’s delicious here — try the grilled pork belly with braised lentils, charred scallion and maple mustard, as well as the chicken ‘wangs’ with truffle soy ginger glaze or buffalo style. Because of Herringbone’s size, intimacy can get tossed aside. For parties of two or three, the best bet is saddling right up to the Salt & Brine bar.
1755 Ocean Ave., Santa Monica | (310) 971-4460 | herringboneeats.com

The Anchor
The Anchor has been buzzing since the day it opened in September 2014. …

Read the full article at The Argonaut.

Breakfast after Dark

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Photo by Alen Lin

Nighthawk reinvents the most important meal of the day with breakfast burgers, drunken French toast and spiked cereal milk

Venice residents circa the late ‘70s and early ‘80s may remember strolling down the boardwalk toward the red, white and blue sign of Lafayette Coffee Shop. Heading to this favorite breakfast spot was a daily ritual for some and a weekend treat for families. It was a hang for just about every colorful character who called this eclectic community home.

Jeremy Fall may not remember the Lafayette, but he’s the mastermind behind a new beachside diner — this one focused more on evenings out than early mornings: Nighthawk Breakfast Bar.

Serving a.m.-inspired grub until after midnight every day of the week, Nighthawk set up on Washington Boulevard (in the spot where Le Cellier once offered Gallic-Southeast Asian fare) on Aug. 11 after a run in Hollywood that ended in May.

“We had this location on our horizons before we closed,” says Fall, who lived in the Venice Canals 15 years ago, before it was hip. “I always wanted to open by the beach. This concept feels very California to me: a laidback, cool, comfort-food experience. Venice screamed the epitome of that California culture I was trying to capture.” …

Read the full article at The Argonaut.

A Sequel Better than the Original

4foodDavid Kuo has been anything but idle these last few years. He’s welcomed two sons into the world and opened his restaurant, Status Kuo, twice.

Running a restaurant had been a lifelong dream for Kuo. Born and raised in Los Angeles, he sharpened his chef skills at Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in Pasadena. After graduation, he spent time working under Charlie Palmer at Hotel Bel-Air and at Jean-Georges in New York. Picking up techniques and tricks at every turn, Kuo returned to L.A. with a plan: save money and open his own place.

His first attempt to make his dream a reality came on July 4, 2011, when he signed a lease on what is now the Vietnamese restaurant East Borough in Culver City. But construction was slow and more than a year slipped by. He almost walked away, but at the urging of his wife, he kept looking.

And then La Petite Crêperie shut its doors on Grand View Boulevard in Mar Vista, right in front of the popular Sunday farmers market, and Kuo seized his chance. The first time he opened Status Kuo (a play on his last name, pronounced “Ko”) was in December 2014. The space was small, the investors few (just Kuo and his wife) and the alcohol absent.

“We learned a lot,” he says definitively, glancing around his newly opened restaurant that’s now double its original size. “It was casual, fun, mom-and-pop. But we’re
better, leaner, stronger.” …

Read the full article at The Argonaut.

Art You Can Eat

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Photo by Umit Kaygusuz

“Cooking is an art, but you eat it too,” Italian cookbook writer Marcella Hazan once said.

That’s what makes it, perhaps, the finest art of all.

Nestled in the curves of Admiralty Way, it can be easy to miss Cast & Plow at The Ritz-Carlton, Marina del Rey. But there, around the grand winding driveway and straight back through the front doors of the luxury hotel, executive chef Umit Kaygusuz cooks and plates dishes so artistic they could be on display at a museum or hanging in a gallery. His culinary masterpieces are colorful and emphasize seasonal flavors: spice-rubbed duck with plum salad, for example, or an avocado toast with grilled corn, cotija cheese and pea tendrils.

The son of architects, Kaygusuz was bred with a flair for presentation and even studied architecture for two years before shifting into the culinary arts.

“I grew up in a family always looking at things from a different perspective — not seeing a building as a building, or a yacht as a yacht, or a lawn as a lawn,” he says. “Whatever you do — the way you dress, the way you put pots and pans together in your home, how you arrange your office — affects the way you look at things.

Kaygusuz draws from international influences in equal measure. His father is Turkish, his mother is Dutch South African, and he’s worked in kitchens around the world: Dubai, Singapore, London, New York City and Cape Town, to name a few.

From street food in Asia to spices from Africa to whatever’s fresh at Santa Monica’s Wednesday farmers market, Kaygusuz mixes it all up to create dishes that make jaws drop and mouths drool. …

Read the full article at The Argonaut.

Family Tradition

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Photo by Courtnay Robbins Bragagnolo

Ask Monique Yamaguchi — little sister to celebrity chef Roy Yamaguchi — why she picked Playa Vista as the home for her first restaurant and her eyes light up, her mouth twists and turns, as she tells you that this is the last place she lived with her parents.

“My parents had me later in life,” she shares. “When I was in high school, I told them, ‘You guys will never have to live alone. I’ll take care of you guys.’ I didn’t know how much time I had with them.”

In 2008, the family moved to the area after her father was diagnosed with cancer, and for eight years she lived just a few blocks away from the boxy lawn and play area bordering Pacific Promenade, which her new Asian fusion restaurant Wellfed looks directly out on.

When her father died six years ago, Yamaguchi felt she had to do something to honor his memory.

Taking a cue from her much older middle brother Roy, who owns more than 30 restaurants in the U.S., hosted a TV series, published cookbooks and actually gave Monique her name (“I was one of the first examples of his love for fusing cultures: Japanese and French”), she decided to pour her blood, sweat and tears — into opening a restaurant. …

Read the full article at Playa Vista Direct.