The industry legends are breathing new life into the space along Mariner’s Mile where The Ritz once stood.
Leave it up to Piero. It’s kind of a mantra Piero Selvaggio, the legendary restaurateur behind Valentino Santa Monica, has developed over his 40-plus year career, and it’s something local food-and-wine enthusiasts will be hearing a lot once Louie’s by the Bay opens in late fall along Newport’s Mariner’s Mile.
Selvaggio, whom Italy Magazine once called “the man who changed Italian cuisine in the U.S.,” says he aims to tantalize diners with prime steaks, specialty pastas and wines that wow even the most discriminating palates.
“We’re working with the best suppliers,” says Selvaggio, who teamed up with another industry legend, Ron Salisbury of El Cholo and The Cannery fame, on the concept. (A third generation member of the restaurateur family – Salisbury’s son, Brendon – is also involved.) “There’s a very unique breed of beef (Revier), and our supplier (West Coast Prime Meats) will provide us with cuts from cattle that are specifically chosen for us. We will also work with Mary’s Chicken. And there’s a village in Italy called Gragnano that has been making pasta for generations, and they will be making special pasta for us. So we will have many signature pastas – candy-shaped pasta, pasta stuffed with branzino, pasta stuffed with chicken. We will be very creative – I could go on and on. We want to bring diners to the next level, and we have so many ideas.”
The restaurant seems poised for success – and not just because Salisbury and Selvaggio are behind it. Much of the team from the award-winning Valentino, which closes at the end of December, plans to follow Selvaggio to Louie’s, which will fill the space where the second iteration of The Ritz once occupied. And Selvaggio and Salisbury, who are longtime pals, think it’s a perfect spot for their alliance. They both were friends with The Ritz’s beloved founder, Hans Prager, who introduced the two.
“Hans Prager has always been so revered in Orange County,” says Selvaggio. “He’s remembered for his style, his charm and his charity. And Ron wants to continue on the tradition that was very dear to him. If you go into El Cholo, you’ll see pictures of Hans Prager hanging on the wall.”
As for the décor, that gorgeous exhibition kitchen will remain, but the space surrounding it is getting an overhaul. Think beach house style a la Ralph Lauren. “Ron thought it was really important to start over fresh,” says Selvaggio. “So the restaurant is now being reconstructed by Hatch Design Group, and we’re creating something fresh and in tune with the location.
Oh, and about that name, Louie’s by the Bay. It’s Salisbury’s homage to Louis Zamperini, the World War II hero whose life was featured in the film “Unbroken” – he was once Salisbury’s babysitter.
Photography Courtesy of Valentino Santa Monica