By JOHN HARLOW | Editor-in-Chief
He transformed a dull stretch of Beverly Hills into a busy gastronomic zone, persuaded
Westsiders to taste kale years before the Oregon hipsters claimed it and over the past two weeks, has started grilling what customers are calling the first actually juicy vegetarian hamburger called, challengingly enough, The Impossible Burger.
But now Peter Garland, the low-key restaurateur behind the misleadingly Italian-sounding Porta Via, is coming to Rick Caruso’s Palisades Village project.
Garland and his team will open Porta Via Palisades on Sept. 22.
Garland does not need the work: At lunchtime on Monday, May 7, every table at the Canon Drive restaurant was packed. And, unusual for this busy corner of Beverly Hills, it is overflowing with more locals than footsore tourists. Many are repeat visitors.
“I like knowing my customers, people who have been coming here since it was tiny, a take-out place [founded in 1994], serving food to customers of the celebrity hair salons.
“Since then, we have expanded two, three times, making the layout a bit of a jigsaw, but we keep the same people coming back,” he said, breaking off to shake hands with a couple who want to hug him.
Caruso’s family members are regular customers, but Garland only started speaking to Caruso the company last December. “This place is working, but I wanted to stretch myself. And my teenage son, Liam, was interested in working with me, too.
“And then [Caruso] came along at the right time with the right proposition,” Garland told the Palisadian-Post.
Porta Via Palisades will set up shop on Swarthmore adjacent to Cinépolis.
“Pretty close to where Mort’s used to be, which I used to love as a kid,” he said.
It will be smaller than Porta Via on Canon Drive.
Plans filed with the city on April 25 reveal it will be 1,352 square feet on the inside, for the kitchen and 54 seats, and, perhaps even more importantly, 2,119 square feet for 46 seats outside with, as he said, a southwest facing aspect.
“It will be bathed in sun all day long, from breakfast to dinner,” he said happily. “Diners will be able to see the mountains beyond Monument Street. And there will be no traffic, with the cars parked underneath and many walking to us. It will be lovely.”
Garland pioneered this indoor-outdoor dining in Beverly Hills: He was a key element of a community business group that persuaded that city to scrap a sidewalk table ban
Following this cultural shift, local media dubbed him the “Mayor of Canon Drive.”
It also resulted in Beverly Hills nearly sinking businesses on Canon Drive by taking months to widen the sidewalks, a time he recalled as a nightmare.
But where there were only hair salons, there are now nine other restaurants on Garland’s 400 block of Canon Drive alone.
Mostly Italian, he said wryly: Garland is aware there are concerns about the Palisades Village offering a lot of regional Italian food—led by venerable Beverly Hills favorite Madeo, whose spin-off, FdeiM by Madeo, is expected to be located close to Vintage Grocers on Sunset.
But this will be “Californian cuisine” characterized by “simple clean” menus with local “farm-to-table” ingredients tending to shrug off cream and sauces. Very different from the first big meal he recalled from the Hotel de Coronado in San Diego—bananas in cream. He was about 7.
The new menu will be pared down from the mothership but will still bring signature dishes such as the famed kale salad (“Very labor intensive,” Garland said, which, one customer said, is maybe why it’s so light), salmon and Grand Marnier French toast. And Groundworks Coffee.
Like FdeiM, Porta Via will be offering breakfast.
Also, in celebration of the “family atmosphere” of the Palisades, the restaurant is expected to offer “Sunday Night Family Specials” with plates designed to be shared by young and parents.
Porta Via is expected to win one of eight liquor licenses earmarked for the Village, so that Ryan Hill, long-term general manager at the restaurant, can concoct some locally inspired cocktails.
During the summer, Porta Via is expected to reach out to Palisadian institutions such as Palisades Charter High School football team to co-host fundraisers.
There may also be some backyard cook outs.
Said Garland: “I have many friends in the Palisades, and I know what they like—fine food served informally.” He also knows it may be a return to the 15-hour days he had (largely) left behind, a family man with young child (an expert napkin-folder) and teenagers.
But he feels the Palisades is worth it.
As of Thursday, May 10, Palisades Village opens in 135 days.