Don Bauder 9:30 p.m., July 25
First Look: Prepkitchen Little Italy
Before comfort food and reclaimed chic were the trends in America's Finest, there was Whisnkladle. The product of young restaurateur, Arturo Kassel, and partner in crime, executive chef Ryan Johnston, WNL took La Jolla, and then the entire county, by storm with simple dishes prepared with care and just the right amount of outside-the-menu thinking.
They were offering up bone marrow and chili pepper cocktails made using house-steeped spirits back in 2008 (the latter was the work of Ian Ward, who has gone on to become a mixology mogul as a partner and founder of Snake Oil Cocktail Company).
At the same time as they were pushing the envelope, Kassel and Johnston felt the urge to simplify. In 2009, they opened Prepkitchen, a small space on La Jolla’s Fay Avenue built to be a place to get quality classic dishes (roast chicken, porchetta, pastas, sandwiches and salads), primarily to-go.
It was a hit among denizens of The Jewel, so Kassel took the show on the road, opening a second location in Del Mar. It's been a runaway success from day one, but if there's one complaint about the Prepkitchen spots, it's that they're not quite big enough to accommodate the droves of customers they draw on a daily basis.
This will most certainly not be the case with the third Prepkitchen, which will debut on January 30 in Little Italy. Situated on the second story at the corner of India Street and Date Street, the new "PKLI" is more like Whisknladle than its namesake predecessors. A full-fledged dine-in restaurant complete with a large bar area, this is definitely a place to sit down and take your time with your food. Best of all, it can seat 65 diners at a time.
Great thought has been put into creating the perfect atmosphere for such lounging, from the main dining room, featuring wide-angle views of India Street to an off-to-the-side dining space referred to as "The Study," that's furnished to feel like you just walked into somebody's relaxing domicile versus what's sure to be a packed urban eatery.
The design of the place, which seamlessly meshes together elements of home, carpenter-treated and lumberjack-hacked woods, and relics Americana, was mainly inspired by a trip Kassel took to a Little Italy antique shop shortly after securing the space.
He ended up spending thousands of dollars on a hodgepodge of outlandish bric-a-brac, all of which have found their way into PKLI. It’s worth a trip to the restroom just to check out the custom-painted human-imal plates from a local artist lining the walkway to the loo.
There's a lot more to discover, including a shared sink meant to be every bit as communal as the trio of tables by the bar, whimsical animal and skull bottle openers on the wall and sketches of the preliminary designs for PKLI pasted up as wallpaper inside the restroom. Go forth, eat and explore.
PKLI will offer food until midnight and will be located at 1660 India Street.