In 1985, attorneys Rick Rosenfield and Larry Flax opened a bright yellow casual pizza restaurant on Beverly Drive. It was located on a block in Beverly Hills that didn’t get as much foot traffic as the Beverly Drive north of Wilshire Blvd, however within a year the street became more of a social hub as locals and visitors flocked inside to try a unique barbecued chicken pizza and wickedly good chicken tequila pasta dish.
In 1992, with CPK at its height opening many new restaurants nationwide, PepsiCo bought the company for almost $100 million. Unfortunately, the restaurant changed. Regulars noticed the difference in quality and service. Flax and Rosenfield were not pleased and in 2003, this dynamic duo resumed control of CPK.
In 2011, hospitality expert GJ Hart became the CEO of California Pizza Kitchen. First, he renovated the flagship Beverly Hills restaurant, revitalizing the success of CPK’s future. It was received so favorably, that Hart and his team have planned similar makeovers at 80 CPK locations nationwide to celebrate the restaurants 30 year anniversary this year.
One of the most recent renovations is at the lively Hollywood and Highland location. The interiors have been transformed with reclaimed wood floors throughout and warm colors with a hint of the trademark yellow. Near the entrance is an herb garden and Restoration Hardware-style wine case. Artwork on the walls are photographs telling a story about Hollywood with its classic and whimsical architectural highlights.
The new Callfornia Pizza Kitchen’s menu is by chef Brian Sullivan, Senior Vice President of Culinary Development. Working at CPK for almost 30 years, he has kept many of the signature favorites, yet upped the menu with steaks and seafood.
Some of the new dishes are featured in Sullivan and Paul Pszybylski CPK’s Senior Director of Culinary Innovation cookbook – CPK “Taste of the Seasons.” It’s a collection of flavorful and wholesome salads, meals, desserts and drinks.
I really enjoyed the 10 oz. USDA Ribeye sprinkled generously with homemade Pinot Noir sea salt. It rests for 24 hours to tenderize before being grilled and served. With a dollop of creamy bleu cheese butter, it’s served with delicious crispy roasted fingerling potatoes sprinkled with sea salt and an arugula salad. The price point on this steak is half of the high-end steak houses in town, yet just as good or maybe even better.
There is also a hearth-roasted piece of white halibut served with slightly sweet butternut squash, crunchy farro, baby kale and grilled asparagus.
The seasonal California field salad has cubes of sweet watermelon and slices of strawberries with mixed greens, a sprinkling of feta cheese and California pistachio. It glistens with a housemade Champagne vinaigrette dressing. Guests can add grilled chicken, shrimp of sauteed salmon to this salad.
The General Manager Michael Palaski and Assistant General manager Matthew Ross circulate the dining room and try to touch each table checking on guests. They are pleased with the new renovations and feel the open dining room allows management and servers to offer better service to each guest.
Pasta dishes include eight different varieties and pair nicely with the seasonal harvest sangrias or 18 oz. draft beer. Wine flight of three – 3 oz. pours include California whites, California reds and adventurous wines with a pink Moscato.
Of course they still have hearth baked pizza made with a hand-tossed crust on the menu. In fact there are 19 varieties of pizza pies, including a Jamaican Jerk chicken and roasted artichoke. The new Tricolore salad has caramelized onions and large shavings of Parmesan cheese. It’s a pizza and salad on one plate with greens tossed in Dijon balsamic dressing.
Save room for the desserts in a glass jar. They are fantastic.
For midday diners, the lunch duos on the menu offers a lunch size 7″ pizza with a salad or soup for $10.95. The half-sandwich with salad or soup is $8.95. Lunch specials are available Monday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Come see the new and improved CPK in the heart of Hollywood.
$$ 6801 Hollywood Blvd. 2nd Level (323)460-2080.
This article was featured in the Beverly Press 2015 Dining and Entertainment Guide.