Kind of excited…the restaurant I grew up with, California Pizza Kitchen (CPK) has had a remodel…well…not exactly just a remodel.
Met by Susan Halstead, the General Manager of our local Valencia CPK, the first thing she told me was that people that now walk in the door don’t recognize that they’re in a CPK if they haven’t been to the Valencia location in the last two months.
Susan turned me over to Cole Brocato, bartender and trainer, who has been here at our local CPK for 9 years. Cole said that they were focusing more on California inspired fare and less on pizza alone. Fresh ingredients, like California fruits and vegetables, are now more emphasized.
Full Cocktail Program
In providing “unique spirited cocktails” we had to try the Blueberry Ginger Smash – refreshing, tangy, reminded me of a whiskey Buck plus fruit – and the California Roots – avocado colors the drink, while mint and agave sour takes center stage in this unique cocktail.
The California Crush reminded Cole of traditional Valencia flavors, and we enjoyed the citrus and mint flavors that made me think of a white wine Sangria – only better. Our teen had the Fresh Strawberry Mango Cooler – a nice virgin drink that was both sweet and light.
These cocktails are new at CPK Valencia and are only available in the remodeled stores. Cole said that eventually all of the restaurants will be re-done. And you can get all the classic cocktails, just like the BBQ chicken pizza, too.
The cocktail recipes, Cole said, are unique to CPK. Yes, they can make a Lemon Drop but they can also make a cocktail with Domaine de Canton Ginger liqueur or St. Germain Elderflower.
Cole said, “Local citrus in cocktails, California wines; we make it fresh, trendy, and organic when we can.”
Taste the Unique
With the new rollout, and as they have locations all over U.S., they “want visitors to be wowed on what California Pizza Kitchen is about.”
Don’t be concerned that the pizzas are now listed on a long “side bar” of the menu, your favorites, like BBQ Chicken, Thai Chicken, Hawaiian, etc., are still there. But you will also find, under “seasonally inspired” menu items, a Maine Lobster Flatbread (cool lobster, loved the dill, great with the California Roots cocktail) Roasted Garlic Chicken (super mist and flavorful) with Seasonal Vegetables, Ribeye (Another moist and “never frozen” with great marbling to give great flavor, liked the peppery spice and butter topped on this one, and Pinot Noir salt), California Fields Salad and Tricolore Salad Pizza.
Under “main plates” – this is the “middle section and where it’s really at” Cole said – the “Halibut is never farmed, always line caught, cooked on a cedar plank and that keeps it moist.” And it WAS! Delicious, great medley of spices, definitely would order again. And though we were stuffed, Ed couldn’t resist having one more bite before we wrapped up our leftovers.
Lunch Duos on the menu are geared to foodies that want quality and watch how much they are eating. Small Cravers fit that bill too, and have more a gastro pub like items. All the cheese, goat and cow, is pasteurized, Cole added. Originally guests had several menus, now it’s all in one plus a beverage menu, which is more standard.
“You’re a pizza place, why do you have this steak on the menu?” Cole says people sometimes ask and he tells them to go ahead, “have the steak”, and then they get it.
We sampled the seasonal-only-always-sells-out Strawberry Shortcake made with sweet biscuit, with a surprise touch of candied lemon zest glaze sprinkled over homemade whipped cream. The decadently rich Butter Cake is made with a sliver of cheesecake, warm and covered in ice cream and whipped cream; something Cole says people skip appetizers to save room for. The S’mores dessert is served with a jumbo graham, dark chocolate chunks, milk chocolate pudding and torched marshmallows – a sticky gooey all-consuming delightful mess.
Some of the restaurants build the bar around the kitchen as a showcase. We did enjoy sitting at the bar, it was definitely the center of the action.
All menus have different pizzas pictured on the cover, and according to Cole, the servers try to hand guests at the same table different ones – nice touch!
Cole added that they hire their staff based on them being the right person and not on having to have the two years of service experience. Our teen thought that was great.
Finally, when we glanced around the room completely sated and packed up leftovers we noticed both managers serving guests, people looking happy, and maybe some room for more.
24061 Newhall Ranch Road
Valencia, CA 91354
For the complete menu, visit www.cpk.com/reimagined.
Eve Bushman has been reading, writing, taking coursework and tasting wine for over 20 years. She has obtained a Level Two Intermediate Certification from the Wine and Spirits Education Trust, has been the subject of a 60-minute Wine Immersion video, authored “Wine Etiquette for Everyone” and recently served as a guest judge for the L.A. International Wine Competition. You can email Eve@EveWine101.com to ask a question about wine or spirits that may be answered in a future column. You can also seek her marketing advice via Eve@EveBushmanConsulting.com