The newest member of the Whisknladle Hospitality family and one of La Jolla’s most highly-anticipated restaurants of 2015, Catania, is slated to open March 16th on the top floor of newly revitalized La Plaza (corner of Girard and Wall). The brainchild of Whisknladle Hospitality owner Arturo Kassel and co-owner/Executive Chef Ryan Johnston will feature coastal Italian cuisine in an inviting atmosphere, complete with stunning ocean views. We got the opportunity to ask Arturo a few questions about Catania and what we can expect from this new gem in the heart of the Village.
We’re so excited for Catania to open – where did the concept for that come from? How do you think it will fit in with the atmosphere at The Plaza?
The notion of doing an Italian restaurant has been percolating ever since Ryan and I ate our way through Italy back in 2008. Over that time, we’ve refined the concept to what it is today, which we believe to be elegant and timeless – which is precisely what La Plaza will become for La Jolla.
How will the restaurant differ from Whisknladle & Prepkitchen? Are you going for a particular vibe or atmosphere?
At its core, Catania will share the same fundamentals of delicious food, exceptional service and genuine hospitality as all of our restaurants do. The space however will look and feel very different from all of our other restaurants. Restaurants and bars have become fairly homogenous in concept and design with reclaimed wood, Edison light bulbs, industrial chic, etc…We challenged ourselves to break away from that and I think we accomplished that goal. As for atmosphere, our goal of making people happy hasn’t changed so I hope it is a place where people come to relax and enjoy themselves.
Which Italian region will you be focusing on for the basis of your dishes there?
We get that question a lot. While it’s true most people think of Italian food in terms of a region or North/South, but when you take a step back, Italy is one giant peninsula. We’re labeling our cuisine, ‘coastal Italian,’ because we’re going to draw from all of Italy’s vast coastal regions. Catania itself is a city on the Eastern seaboard of Sicily, which throughout history has been conquered by the Greeks, Romans, Spaniards, Moors, etc….so we might take a few liberties here and there.
Tell us about your recent partnership with Milagro Farm Vineyards & Winery. Are you hoping for your restaurants to become totally self-sufficient? Will it be open to the public eventually?
Milagro Farms a truly special place and we have big plans for it. In concert with the new owners, we’d like to help further develop and enhance what is already there, which is a working winery and tasting room and event facilities. On top of that and in the short term, we will be planting a one-acre farm to supply our restaurants with much of our produce. Our dream in the long run would be to build a restaurant in the likes of Blue Hill at Stone Barnes or so many others that are centered around a working farm. Milagro Farms is open to the public; we encourage everyone check it out this summer after we’ve had some time to put our stamp on it.
I’ve read that you eventually want to open a restaurant on the farm property; do you have any idea what the concept will be for that?
Like Catania, I’m sure our vision will evolve over time, but as of right now, we envision a restaurant open for service Friday/Saturday nights and Saturday/Sunday day. Since it’s only open two days a week, there will be no menu to speak of – just a family style menu that is centered on the food and wine the property produces.
The new digs will use nothing but wood burning ovens and grills, and their menu and drink selection will be almost all Italian-based (including an all-Italian wine list as well as an exclusively craft Italian Beer program).
Catania La Jolla will be located at 7863 Girard Ave, Suite 301. Stay tuned for more updates and news about other restaurant openings in La Jolla.
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