Photos Courtesy Nancy Neil Photography. Front of house design by Sophie Goineau Design.
Longtime favorite Beverly Hills restaurant Porta Via celebrated the grand opening of its second location in Caruso’s Palisades Village at the end of October 2018. Peter Garland initially started the restaurant in 1994 on Canon Drive, before it was the trendy, popular stretch it is today. For the last 24 years, Garland and his staff at Porta Via have been serving simply prepared brunch, lunch, dinner, and delicious drinks and cocktails – featuring organic, seasonal foods and ingredients – to high-end clientele and celebrities in a relaxing, hospitable environment. The restaurant name – which means “to go” in Italian – has always focused on simple, yet delicious food that travels well for patrons across town or simply ordering takeout of the restaurant’s high-demand dishes. These guests can expect the same quality from all their favorites at the new Porta Via location as well, in addition to some new drinks and dishes that are sure to become classics.
Peter Garland partnered with Southern California Restaurant Design Group (SCRDG) as he prepared to create a second version of his beloved restaurant in the Palisades. We talked to him about the inspiration behind the restaurant and its buildout, what Porta Via fans can expect from the new location, and what it was like working with SCRDG on this project.
Chef’s Roll: This is the second location for Porta Via – what can fans of the restaurant expect? Are you trying anything new with the second location??
Peter: Our goal with the second Porta Via restaurant was to build and design a restaurant with design and menu consistencies taken from our Beverly Hills restaurant. Shared design elements include wood paneled walls, white marble bar counter-top, large wine display cabinet, French doors opening to patio dining and pullman-style booths mixed with round tables. The feel is similar but the color scheme is different. The Palisades restaurant has a more coastal feel whereas the Beverly Hills restaurant is more urban. For the Palisades restaurant, we decided to pour some of our wines by the tap. The menu is largely inspired by the tried and true dishes developed at our Beverly Hills location over the past 25 years. We serving farm-fresh-to-table before it became popular. For the Palisades, we are offering a more expansive breakfast menu.
Chef’s Roll: Did the neighborhood and setting of the new location influence the design and buildout in any way?
Peter: Given the many challenges facing the restaurant business to fill tables (delivery services such as Postmates and simply-put, too many restaurants), we designed the Palisades restaurant to feel busy. We have 15 tables in the interior, plus 10 barstools, and 10 tables on the patio. The entire restaurant including the bar seats 80 people in 2500 sq foot space. The kitchen is tight which I prefer. Tight spaces allow for better communication. Tight spaces allow for better cost control. Pacific Palisades is located minutes from the beach, so we designed the restaurant with a coastal feel – light and airy, California casual, skylights with live plants inside, and planter boxes surrounding the patio.
Chef’s Roll: From an owner-operator perspective, how did you prepare yourself to bite off something as ambitious as a second location?
Peter: The challenge for me on opening a second location was to become a better communicator and to have the confidence in my team to execute. I needed to become a better manager that delegates, gives direction, and lends support to the team. Given my strong personality to be hands-on, this practice has taken much discipline. However, now 4 months after we opened, it’s working. Technology also has been a helpful tool in seeing the business from afar.
Chef’s Roll: How did Southern California Restaurant Design Group (SCRDG) contribute to the planning, design, and execution of the space?
Peter: The experience and knowledge of the SCRDG team was immensely helpful. Designing the kitchen was my first step before I even penciled what the front (dining area) would look like. If the kitchen didn’t function well, then no matter how great the restaurant looked, we were doomed. My kitchen engineer was the first step in the puzzle. Next came SCRDG with the expertise in design and equipment. Choosing the right equipment for my application, designing the hot line to be able to communicate with the salad station and runner, dish, etc. Then came installation. Thankfully SCRDG had a strong team to execute the installation, especially given the final push to get the restaurant opened by our September 22 opening date.
Chef’s Roll: How was your experience of working with SCRDG and what was the highlight of that experience?
Jon: Opening a restaurant is crazy business – the stress, the short timelines, the long hours, the last minutes equipment changes. SCRDG was able to adapt, go with the flow, and be a partner in problem solving.
Chef’s Roll: Having now completed your first expansion, what advice would you share with other restaurateurs considering a similar move?
Jon: Make sure you have a strong team committed to supporting each other.
Southern California Restaurant Design Group has worked with countless chefs and restaurateurs to design and oversee commercial kitchen remodels and installs. From accommodating food storage and preparation of ingredients to plating, dish washing and trash removal areas, here are SCRDG’s top tips to consider when contemplating commercial kitchen design:
• Commercial kitchen design plans are dictated by space requirements, equipment & budget.
• Careful, considered planning in the design of the kitchen will save money & time during the construction phase & increase profitability over the life of the kitchen.
• Efficient ergonomics will be appreciated by the owner, chef & kitchen workers.
The new Porta Via is located at 1063 N Swarthmore Ave, Pacific Palisades, CA 90272. Please visit https://portaviarestaurants.com/pacific-palisades or or follow along on Instagram at @portaviaca and on Facebook.