After 30 years on Beverly Drive in Beverly Hills, the over-the-top first and most popular California Pizza Kitchen decided to reinvent itself with what they call a “Recipe for Reimagination.” My husband (and fellow journalist) Richard was there when the place was created by a pair of nice-guy Beverly Hills lawyers brand new to the restaurant business in 1985. He was on hand when Rick and Larry put together the first Thai pizza in Rick’s home kitchen. We were even offered shares in the new company when there was just that first CPK on Beverly Drive in Beverly Hills. The boys had big plans that panned out. So yes, for us its’ a sad story of a profitable road not taken.
Last night we went back to that original “store” (that’s what they’re called in the chain restaurant game), still in the same place on South Beverly Drive. In fact, it’s exactly the same space, quite compact and therefore noisy with the children of Beverly Hills swells. But the room shows more uptown look now and the menu up dated but still loaded with the old favorites, such as the BBQ chicken pizza, like the Thai number controversial for a pizza back then but really the forerunner for the new world of designer pizzas that followed. And yes, that Thai chicken pizza is still on the menu too.
There are now more than 200 company–owned CPKs, the Beverly Drive’s managing owner told us, plus countless other franchised outlets around the world. Rick and Larry are no longer involved—they bought the chain back after having sold it to Pepsico, then sold it again. Beverly Hills lawyers. What are you going to do?
For old times’ sake, we had to order the Thai pizza, and we also got the small plate shaved mushroom and spinach flatbread, one of the new items just added to the company-wide menu. We both ordered one of the new seasonal dishes because it sounded so good, hearth-roasted fresh halibut with butternut squash farrow. Good use is made of that big pizza oven, such as roasting the halibut in it, and the result was delicious and very un-pizza like. The flatbread was outstanding too, but somehow the Thai pizza just didn’t seem the same to Richard. Maybe because it wasn’t made in Rick’s kitchen. Our decadent desserts(see slideshow) were sinfully rich winners.
Changes ever so slight
The Beverly Hills location is among the first in the country to roll out a new design and menu items, with other locations to follow. “This is a historic occasion for California Pizza Kitchen as we introduce our vision for the future at the very location where it all began nearly 30 years ago,” says California Pizza Kitchen CEO GJ Hart. “We are embracing our roots in culinary innovation and authenticity across the board, and every detail of our reimagination is reflected in our Beverly Hills restaurant.”
The remodel, which as we said was every so slight, incorporates flexible seating with fewer booths and more tables to comfortably accommodate a variety of diners and groups. New dishes, glassware and utensils further complement the upscale-yet-relaxed aesthetic. California’s environmental roots are evident in the use of unfinished reclaimed wood, and warm, inviting colors are used throughout. Elements such as a living herb wall inside the restaurant reflect a commitment to using fresh, local ingredients.
The new menu includes unique offerings made with fresh and unexpected ingredients in every category. Alongside California Pizza Kitchen’s signature hand-tossed pizzas, pastas and salads is an all-new selection of Main Plates and seasonal items. For midday diners looking for a lunch less ordinary, a diverse selection of Lunch Duos offers dozens of pairing combinations starting at $8.95. The new beverage menu features an adventurous selection of hand-crafted cocktails made with the freshest ingredients and unique flavor combinations.
California Pizza Kitchen’s original location is at 207 South Beverly, Beverly Hills, 310-275-1101.