California Pizza Kitchen Topanga Review - De-Chaining the Chain

 

“Our mission and our goal here,” explained California Pizza Kitchen CEO G.J. Hart “is to take the very best of what made CPK an iconic brand from 1985 onwards and make it relevant to 2013 and beyond.”  With that goal in mind, California Pizza Kitchen will unveil the re-imagined CPK when the west coast flagship location opens on July 10th at Westfield Topanga in Woodland Hills.

The pizza bar will give diners a great view of the pizza-making process

In the process of “de-chaining the chain,” CPK has taken the brand in a “California forward” direction by introducing new menu items and décor that reflect a relaxed California mindset while keeping a strong focus on sustainability and fresh seasonal ingredients.  From the fresh herbs growing right inside the restaurant, to the reclaimed wood floors and table tops to the “tree free” paper napkins, the CPK of 2013 is environmentally aware and health conscious, while still maintaining the creativity that brought the brand to the forefront of pizza innovation in 1985. 

 

The interior design of the dining room featured reclaimed wood throughout

“Pizza is our middle name,“ Hart acknowledged, “[so] we started to look at how do we bring pizza forward?”   Ironically, one of the main ways CPK is moving pizza forward in the re-designed location is by going back to what put CPK on the map in the first place.  That begins with returning to the process hand-tossing their pizza dough and then building on that tradition with new techniques and artisan ingredients in order to make the old favorites fresh.  

Hand tossing the dough results in pizza with crust that is crisp and airy

One example of this, explained California Pizza Kitchen Head of Culinary Innovation Brian Sullivan, can be found in the wild mushroom pizza.  While this CPK staple was previously made with sautéed wild mushrooms on top of a heavy walnut pesto, the newly re-imagined version consists of freshly shaved raw mushrooms on top of garlic olive oil and sprinkled with fresh oregano which, when roasted in the 500-degree pizza oven, creates what Sullivan described as an “umami bomb of a pizza.”

 

The new wild mushroom pizza uses freshly shaved raw mushrooms

One unique feature of CPK in Woodland Hills is the freestanding bar located in front of the main restaurant.  Offering the full menu as well as an extensive list of California wines and craft beers, the bar also boasts 11 signature cocktails that are not available in any other CPK location.These mixology-based cocktails with fresh seasonal ingredients and organic spirits were exclusively developed for the flagship location and include several specialty martinis such as Strawberry Basil, Elderflower and Asian Pear and the unique “California Roots” which is a delicious concoction made with vodka, sweet & sour, agave, mint, lime, fresh avocado and a fennel salt rim.  The result is a refreshing and creamy cocktail that certainly reflects the chain’s new California atmosphere.

The freestanding bar capitalizes on the natural light from the mall's skylights

The Elderflower Martini is made with Hangar 1 Buddha's Hand Citron Vodka and St. Germain Elderflower Liqueur

According to California Pizza Kitchen Regional Partner Tim Elkins, this is the second completely new location featuring the re-design (the first one is in Florida) and marks the launch of an ambitious construction schedule, with thirteen new locations planned for 2013 and many other pre-existing locations being re-modeled as well.  Gone is the yellow, black and chrome that many people associate with CPK but, in its place, is a fresh, upscale and sophisticated atmosphere that is family friendly but certainly “not your kids’ CPK.”

Each newly designed CPK location will feature a photo wall with color photographs of the local area and black and white photographs of California

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