Traditional Recipes Meet Modern Cuisine

Culina, Modern Italian, will offer traditional and modern Italian dishes using many fresh California ingredients.

Feb 22, 2010
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An artfully prepared beet salad offers an intriguing option to more traditional salads.
An artfully prepared beet salad offers an intriguing option to more traditional salads.
At the Crossroads of Italian Cuisine
Eggplant and goat cheese make a delectable combination.
Eggplant and goat cheese make a delectable combination.
Photography courtesy Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts
Culina, Modern Italian uses only the choicest cuts of meat, including its generous portions of steak.
Culina, Modern Italian uses only the choicest cuts of meat, including its generous portions of steak.
Photography courtesy Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts
Tiramisu is the perfect finish to a perfect Italian meal.
Tiramisu is the perfect finish to a perfect Italian meal.
Photography courtesy Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts

Just in time for this year’s Academy Awards, Los Angeles’ newest, hippest restaurant will open at Four Seasons Hotel Los Angeles at Beverly Hills. Culina, Modern Italian, opens on March 3, bringing diners a culinary experience that lies at the crossroads of modern and traditional Italian cuisine.

“There are a lot of very classical elements in our menu but with a modern twist using local and sustainable products. However, in many instances, we are calling for absolutely authentic Italian products. We try to balance the two as much as possible,” says Executive Chef Ashley James.

James and Restaurant Chef Victor Casanova collaborated on the menu together, and they plan to tap local artisanal producers and to use fresh produce available in California for their ingredients. For instance, they are working with a local producer just 20 miles from the hotel to supply Burrata cheese to the restaurant.

Another example: Artisanal extra virgin olive oil, DaVero, produced by a husband-and-wife team at their Olive Ridge Ranch, also in California.

Casanova, who will oversee the operations of Culina, will import two olive oils from Italy, perfectly illustrating the quest for a balance of local and Italian ingredients. One of the olive oils, produced by Monini in Umbria, will be exclusively produced for Culina.

“I grew up in an Italian household, and I love all things Italian. Our philosophy is about how an Italian chef would work in California,” says Casanova.

Simplicity, Simplicity

One of the key focal points of the new restaurant is the crudo bar that features raw seafood preparations. The seafood will be fresh, arriving at the bar hours after being caught. The area will be sociable: The adjacent lounge includes a communal table, perfect for mixing.

“We decided after trying complex dishes that the best dishes were the simplest because they respect the amazing freshness of the fish,” says James.

A perfect example of the simplicity of the crudo menu is the Hamachi (yellow-tail) with Star Anise Oil, Orange and Orange Sea Salt.

The chefs also embrace simplicity in the creation of other dishes at the restaurant, including Casanova’s delicious Spaghetti alla Cittara, a square spaghetti braised in San Marzano tomato sauce with peperoncino, then tossed with fresh basil.

“Everything I’m about is perfecting simplicity and taking simple ingredients and paying respect and homage to tradition,” Casanova says.

The Choice Is Yours

“The great thing about the menu we’re created is that it gives the diner the total flexibility to do what they want to do,” James says. “If you want to go very snack-y, you have a lot of delicious small plates; if you want just a salad and a delicious pizza, you have that possibility; or you can also come in traditional style, do your antipasti, pasta, entrée, and cheese and dessert,” he adds.

Casanova mentions three dishes when asked for additional examples of the menu’s bounty:

  • An Arugula and Buffalo Mozzarella Salad with Citrus-Basil Pesto. Both the salad and the pesto are prepared tableside making for a fun and interactive dining experience.
  • Grilled Baby Octopus (which is marinated in rosemary, olive oil and lemon, and then grilled) with Harissa and Ceci Beans.
  • Bistecca alla Fiorentina, also prepared tableside, 28 ounces of prime T-bone steak alongside Tuscan fries and salsa verde. It’s a very classical dish, notes James.

The restaurant will also offer more than 200 wines with the majority available by the carafe and a rotating menu of a dozen wines that it will offer by the glass each night.

The flexibility of the restaurant extends beyond the menu, with an indoor and an outdoor lounge and half of its seating outside to take advantage of Southern California’s perpetually beautiful weather.

Whether diners want to linger over cocktails on the patio or have a multi-course Italian meal, Culina, Modern Italian, provides a dining destination that is both cultured and of-the-moment.


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