Grimaldi’s Pizzeria has served up New York slices since 1990, where it opened its first location under the Brooklyn Bridge. Their technique goes much further back, however, utilizing coal-fired brick ovens that encompass more than a century of pizza-making. Now, with nearly 50 properties across the US and several international projects in the making, Grimaldi’s has proven its ability to scale classic production while retaining a heartwarming vibe.
The menu is somewhat of a rarity to the typical west-coaster: a full-service restaurant that’s almost entirely focused on pizza and salad. Read: no pasta, no chicken wings, no oversize meatballs or other usual suspects you’d typically find at a family-style Italian joint. What this means is an In-n-Out kind of focus—limited menu, but each item is done very well. What this also means is that the kitchen doesn’t even have a stove. Those old-fashioned brick ovens are the lifeblood of the fishbowl-style kitchen, going through more than 200lbs of coal a day.
The finished product is a classic New York-style crust, thin and crispy on the outside with an earthy element delivered from those coal ovens. And with a strong lineup of specialty pizzas and toppings for build-your-own creations, the choices are hardly limited. Corporate Executive Chef Cory Lattuca, a 15-year Grimaldi’s veteran, consistently churns out seasonal items to make the menu pop even further. Buffalo chicken pizza, anyone?
Lattuca takes Grimaldi’s a step further with sweets and drinks. Somehow those ovens are rigged to make some mean cannoli and New York cheesecake [Oreo and sugar cookie crust?!?]. Add a strong lineup of beers, housemade cocktails and—of course—wines. Fun fact: Grimaldi’s makes its own house wine in Italy.
Grimaldi’s has multiple locations nationwide. Hours can vary but hover around 11a – 10p Sun – Thu and 11a – 11pm Fri/Sat. Avg. Out-the-door price for split salad, split pizza and 1 – 2 drinks is ~ $30/person. For more information, visit GrimaldisPizzeria.com
Sea Change is one of three restaurants housed in Redondo Beach’s Chez Melange, a quaint retreat just steps from the beach. Run by Executive Chef Robert Bell and Co-Owner Michael Franks, who have been in business together for more than 40 years, Chez Melange is both homage to decades of friendship and a modern player in the realm of sophisticated fare.
Pass through Bouzy Gastropub and Oyster Bar, Chez Melange’s other micro-establishments, and a museum-style corridor allows for a glimpse of the past—photos of Robert and Michael from the early 90’s, menus from their previous restaurants, and even painted portraits of the two in action. From there, enter Sea Change, a small but mighty dining room hustling and bustling with the regulars, who are just as familiar with each other as they are with the servers who see them ever so frequently.
Friendly Becoming part of the family is easier than anticipated, with friendly staff that greet you with a warm smile at first sight. The difficult part comes with placing your order. Chez Melange’s massive menu with inspirations from across the globe speaks to Chef Bell’s range, and fresh fish specials that change daily take it up a level further.
At the top of the list stands the Zarzuela, a Spanish stew of scallops, shrimp, mussels and other seafood in an addictive bisque-like base. The New England dry pack scallops are the perfect golden brown, taken off the frying pan not a second too soon or too late, served with rich bacon cheddar mashed potatoes. The Pacific rim tostadas bring together sashimi-grade ahi, Japanese salsa, avocado, spicy aioli and pickled ginger atop wontons that contain just the right crunch.
Portion sizes are another strong suit at Sea Change. It’s a surprise to see guests finish the mountain of parmesan truffle fries, or have room after the delightful baby beet salad. The drink selection follows much the same face, containing a long list of wine, beer, craft cocktails and a homemade ginger lemonade that’s absolutely worth trying.
Chez Melange is located at 1611 S. Catalina Avenue, Redondo Beach, CA 90277. Sea Change is open 5:30 – 9:30 p.m. Sun, Tue – Thur, 5:30 – 10 p.m. Fri/Sat. Sunday brunch served 9:30 a.m. – 2 p.m. Closed Monday. Out-the-door cost for split appetizer, entrée, split dessert and 1 – 2 drinks is ~$79/person. For more information, call 310-540-1222 or visit Chez Melange online.
Steps off the sand and just a block from Hermosa Beach’s main drag, The Standing Room hosts the same fun-loving ambiance you’d hope to find in a South Bay Beach Bar, with a level of sophistication in its food that isn’t nearly as easy to come by. While others may be grasping at straws for how to become something new and different in the age of the gastropub, The Standing Room has owned its distinguished culinary identity for nearly a decade. So step inside this rustic place and see what American-Korean is all about.
Biting into The Standing Room’s tuna poke nachos unleashes a myriad of lovely emotions associated with the indulgence of rich, fresh, crispy and velvety. A mountain of ahi makes this starter a meal in itself, and perfectly-fried wonton makes you wander what made tortilla chips so good in the first place. Then witness the soft shell crab sliders, with black buns colored with squid ink, to confirm that Chef Lowell Bakke is going to wow you every step of the way
The Napoleon burger is another bucket-list item—cleverly described by the friendly wait staff as ‘having a burger complex.’ The description alone takes up two lines across the entire page on the menu, including three kinds of cheese, three kinds of meat [bacon and a huge slab of braised short rib], Korean aioli and fried egg, served with ever-so-lovely parmesan truffle fries. This is definitely a fork-and-knife operation…and note that the burger goes all the way up the knife when cutting.
A seasonal restaurant, The Standing Room rotates several items in and out. If the healthier-minded happen to catch the buratta and pear salad on the menu, they will certainly appreciate the fresh baby arugula made sweeter with pecan crumble. Those with decadence on the mind will enjoy the chicken ‘n biscuit, with bite-size passion fruit tea-brined fried chicken and super-thick gravy. Don’t forget about a fun list of sandwiches, highlighting Asian-inspired meats that meld harmoniously with comfort-style classics.
An extensive beer list is every bit as adventurous as the food menu, followed up by a good wine selection and fun seasonal cocktails. The drink menu definitely highlights the latter part of the night, where droves of partygoers flock to The Standing Room for loud live music. The transformation from rambunctious sports bar to popping city bar is seamless; just prepare to move outside if you want to continue conversation after the music starts.
The Standing Room is located at 1320 Hermosa Ave, Hermosa Beach, CA 90254. Redondo Beach location at 144 N Catalina Ave, Redondo Beach, CA 90277. Open 11 a.m. – 1 a.m. Mon - Fri, 8 a.m. – 1 a.m. Sat/Sun. Avg. out-the-door price for split appetizer, entrée and 1 – 2 drinks is ~ $46/person. For more information call (310) 318 1272 or visit The Standing Room online.
Benjamin Brown is a seasoned restaurant writer and hospitality consultant, serving up SoCal's hottest food news and reviews.