Chef Walter Manzke is covered in dust, walking through what was once landmark restaurant Campanile's high-ceilinged foyer. He's in mid-construction on Republique, where he and his wife, pastry chef Margarita Manzke, will cook and bake for a breakfast-lunch-and-dinner crowd.
Walter's already installed a Tuscan rotisserie and a wood-burning oven (but don't expect pizza, he says). During the day, Republique will feature Matgarita's bakery-cafe concept, similar to the Wildflour cafe and bakery that the Manzkes opened in the Philippines.
Republique's bakery space (where La Brea Bakery was founded) has been opened up to the rest of the restaurant and now features a long bar for seating. It's where Margarita's breads and breakfast pastries will be featured, along with house-made gelato, salads and sandwiches.
"We can make something really simple like a sandwich," says Walter, "but the bread is baked here and the chicken will come from the rotisserie. It's special because of what we have to work with."
Meanwhile, Walter is focusing on a bistronomy-inspired restaurant that will be "casual in feel but with more high-end food, one hopes." The center of the restaurant will be furnished with communal tables, and a dining room in the back will serve dinner only. The bar that once ran along the restaurant's north wall has been turned 45 degrees to become part of the open dining space.
Walter said he worked with architect Osvaldo Maiozzi on the design, which was mainly to open the space while keeping the original architecture intact (built by Charlie Chaplin as an office complex in 1929). Much of the wood was shipped from the Philippines and is of the same age as the rest of the building, and the bar stools are being made by Walter's brother.
Walter and Margarita are the chef-owners, partnering with restaurateur Bill Chait. The general manager is Christian Philippo, who on a recent afternoon was sanding planks of wood in the middle of the restaurant. Taylor Parsons, who formerly worked at Mozza, Spago and Campanile, will be the beverage director.