Firms Plan Upscale Eateries in Westwood


Banking on a turnaround in Westwood Village, a Seattle-based restaurant chain said it will open a $4-million, high-end Mediterranean restaurant, one of several upscale eateries scheduled to open in the area.

Restaurants Unlimited Inc. signed a lease last week for a 9,100-square-foot restaurant that is to open by early next year as Palomino Euro Bistro in the Center West office building on Wilshire Boulevard.

Palomino--where the average dinner will cost about $30 a person--will stand out in an area dominated by lower-priced food outlets that tend to cater primarily to students and workers at UCLA, said Rick Giboney, senior vice president of Restaurants Unlimited.

"It looks to me like there is a need to be filled," Giboney said.

Meanwhile, California Pizza Kitchen has signed a lease to take over the space on Broxton Avenue being vacated by Mario's and open a 142-seat restaurant by March.

"Westwood is on the verge of a turnaround, and we certainly want to participate in that," said Fred Hipp, president and chief executive of the Los Angeles-based chain.

Westwood--once one of Los Angeles' premier entertainment districts--fell on hard times after the early-1990s recession hurt sales and other neighborhoods--such as Third Street Promenade in Santa Monica and Old Town Pasadena--siphoned off customers.

Recently, however, a combination of public improvements and private investment have raised hopes that Westwood Village will again become a prominent destination.

"Rents have clearly come up in the last six months," said Hipp of California Pizza Kitchen. "The market has gotten very hot."

In addition to Palomino and California Pizza Kitchen, Mr. Chow's will expand into Westwood later this year with Euro Chow, a 200-seat, $3-million restaurant.

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