Sunday, August 15, 2010


Growing up in Santa Monica, I have so many fond memories of Santa Monica Place; my home away from home where you were most likely to find me hanging out in my early teen days.  In those days, most of the good stores were still in Santa Monica Place; the Third Street Promenade was where we would go for movies, but not for shopping as the stores were rather tacky.  This was well before the days of J.Crew, Abercrombie and Fitch and Pottery BarnTom Petty may have sang Free Fallin' on the escalators of the Westside Pavilion, my other favorite, maybe slightly fancier mall, and Cher from Clueless may have shopped at Westside Pavilion too, but Santa Monica Place was where Edward Furlong, my first love in 7th grade, first encountered the T1000 in Terminator 2 and sped away on his dirtbike through the parking garage (I may have watched that movie over 100 times), so it will always have a particularly special place in my heart.  The mall closed for several years for a major renovation and reopened just over a week ago.
View from the 3rd Street Promenade
Central circle; three open levels of shops and restaurants
We checked it out twice in the last week, most recently for dinner on Saturday night.  The mall is completely transformed; it is now fully open air, like the Century City mall, and has gone upscale with stores such as Louis Vuitton, Tiffany, and Barney's Co-op, anchored by Bloomingdales and Nordstrom.  I'll suspect that I'll be going to the mall primarily for the Barneys Co-op, Bloomingdales and CB2.
There are also several no-name, slightly euro-trash stores that I've never heard of that I suspect will close soon, but the larger tenants are primarily upscale.  On the top level with ocean views are some nice sit-down restaurants, in addition to a typical foodcourt.  The design is modern, open and airy, with lots of smooth steel curves and plenty of plexiglass for wide open views.  It makes sense, to take advantage of the location of being only two blocks from the ocean.
Ocean and the pier with the ferris wheel in the distance
Lots of outdoor seats on the 3rd level for dining and music
Sonoma Wine Garden has the best view as it is on the 2nd street side
We ate at Pizza Antica, a suburban Northern California concept with 3 existing locations, which is located on the top level in a nice, but narrow space with white and black marble bar, subway tiles on the walls, black shelving and black and white small hexagonal floor tiles.
We didn't start off on the right foot as the manager was upset that I was taking pictures of the restaurant, even though I never use flash and no one else even noticed and I've never had a problem at any other restaurant before.  We sat at the bar and ordered the small tomato, mozzarella, basil pizza and the small fennel sausage, caramelized onion and portobello mushroom pizza.
The pizza was quite disappointing.  The dough was extremely thin and crispy and there was absolutely no crust; no soft chewy interior of the crust, just crunchy, and the bottom of the pizza had an unpleasant floury taste.  The tomato sauce of the first pizza was quite bland, with no acid or flavor, and the mozzarella was very ordinary, without any of the luscious creaminess of good housemade mozzarella.  There's a certain magic that happens when the runny milk from creamy fresh mozzarella mingles with tart fresh tomato sauce in a good margarita pizza, but none of that happened here.  I would take the fresh mozzarella pie at Joe's Pizza a couple blocks away, any day.  I like the toppings of the sausage pizza, but it wasn't outstanding and the poor crust definitely detracted from the taste.  The wine and beer list was pretty good, but there wasn't really much else on the menu that looked exciting.  It's not a place that we will likely be returning to; there are plenty of other great pizza options nearby.
View from the mall looking down the 3rd Street Promenade
Cool bubble sculpture on the side of the parking lot on 4th Street

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