Clouds part and angels sing: Grace restaurant reveals plans for St. Vibiana Cathedral


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What better name than Grace for a restaurant moving into the former rectory of 133-year-old St. Vibiana Cathedral downtown?

If all goes as scheduled, the 6-year-old restaurant currently on Beverly Boulevard will have moved into its new Spanish Baroque home, formerly occupied by parish priests, by the end of next year. Owners Neal Fraser and Amy Knoll Fraser have big plans for the space, what might be the most stunning location for a restaurant in L.A.


The restaurant will include: a 100-seat main dining room; a dining courtyard (pictured above, the fountain will be removed) with a 30-foot bar, to be covered by a glass ceiling; four private dining rooms upstairs with balconies overlooking the courtyard (each with its own bathroom); a private dining room in the wine cellar; and a separate, second-floor bar and lounge, named the Rectory, with a terrace that has a view of both the courtyard and the towering cupola that was returned to the church after the building was almost demolished. There are hand-painted ceilings, arched walkways, French doors, beamed ceilings, 19th century ironwork.

The Frasers have negotiated for the space with Vibiana developer Tom Gilmore, who restored the nearly doomed cathedral and transformed it into an event space.

‘It’s something we’ve been talking about doing since June of last year,’ says Knoll Fraser. ‘When I walked into the rectory, I just got chills and knew I had to do this space.’

The Frasers say they are in the process of raising $2.5 million for the planned restaurant. They are considering at some point opening a mini BLD, their more casual breakfast-lunch-dinner restaurant, also located on Beverly Boulevard. (One is also in the works for Pasadena, but ‘it’s going slowly,’ Knoll Fraser says.) Designers of the future Grace will be Hermosillo & Ross; the architect will be Antonio Muniz.
Chef Neal Fraser says the main dining room will be approachable, ‘somewhere you can even just come for lunch and have an entree salad and an iced tea,’ but his plans for the private dining rooms are more elaborate. The private dining rooms are former clergy residences that will be furnished with estate pieces, ‘a great showcase for something spectacular,’ Fraser says. ‘We can do tasting menus, game dinners, whole roasted suckling pigs carved right there, come through with the cheese cart, we’ll do French table service’ (in which a waiter serves food from platters onto each diner’s plate).

It sounds like heaven.

-- Betty Hallock