Feasts for the Eyes

The most exciting, casual restaurants are captivating diners with distinct architecture and artful design.

For some of the newest eateries in the Valley, great eats are just part of the game. Equal thought, time and resources are being given to atmosphere—as restaurateurs build sophisticated, vibrant spaces that appeal to all the senses.


Il Fornaio  

Designed by Arcanum Architecture in San Francisco, this 6,000-square-foot restaurant is the first in the popular Italian chain to eschew white linen tablecloths in favor of a more casual yet sophisticated vibe using modern materials. Inspired by a Tuscan farmhouse, the design includes rustic wood columns and slatted, white oak ceiling beams combined with terra cotta tile flooring, brown and cream leather covered booths and chairs, and solid wooden tables built of reclaimed oak. Eye-catching elements include a refrigerated wine wall made of steel and glass, a gold-and-maroon tiled Italian pizza oven, a Venetian wall made from polished plaster with marble dust, and large street-scene art created exclusively for this location. Industrial light fixtures hang overhead, while tables feature peek-a-boo lighting slits. The 12-seat bar, which has an adjacent wood island made from a single tree trunk, serves as a focal point. For al fresco dining, a 500-square-foot covered patio features a mix of wood and marble. The built-in table fire pits complement the interior design with a tranquil European ambience. 

The Village at Westfield Topanga, Woodland Hills, 818-297-1700, ilfornaio.com/woodlandhills


Old-world Naples, Italy, with a modern twist is the inspiration behind this upscale, fast-casual, 4,000-square-foot, open-space, high-end pizzeria. Built by the Menchie’s empire and designed by Malibu architect Sam Marshall (Republique, Gjelina) and  with create-your-own Neapolitan pizza as the main draw, the space features a 1,000º pure wood-burning oven constructed from brick, sand and stone with two golden chimneys as its centerpiece. Geometric chandeliers provide interest to the 25-foot, open-beamed ceiling. A sleek, long, curved marble bar is topped with colorful vegetables, bread loaves, a cherry-red Vittoria hand-slicer with Prosciutto de Parma, and a hand-hammered Athena coffee machine. Golden polished elements carry throughout with beer taps, lamps and wine rack. One stunning feature: a live, 50-year-old, 21-foot olive tree with festive lights. It towers above wood tables, richly upholstered booths and a mix of old-world chairs, all complemented by light, micro-cement floors. Expansive windows, potted herbs and a cozy patio bring outdoor elements inside.  

14612 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks, 818-788-2178, mymidici.com



A relaxed, vacation vibe marks this first California venture from the established Canadian restaurant group of the same name. The eatery—which serves eclectic global cuisine—boasts custom pieces by local artists and metal workers. iWorks Lighting created striking, large-scale dining chandeliers and oversized patio drum pendants. Jim Gartner & Associates worked with in-house designers, using a synthesis of new and reclaimed materials including wood, steel and leather to create a rustic, mid-modern feel in the 9,500-square-foot space. Brick walls and an open-beamed, 18-foot ceiling provide visual drama and a creative backdrop for leather booths, artwork, lit-up signage, and a lounge area with a central bar and high-top tables. An open kitchen with steel-glazed windows is equipped with a sushi station—giving diners a full view of the action. A 12-foot-high backlit wine wall with antiqued mirror-and-brass shelving further draws in the eye. The outside patio is anchored by a 23-foot New Zealand Christmas tree and a bar backed with a custom steel mirror. A fire pit, wood tables and a mix of Adirondack and orange-and-turquoise steel chairs draped with blankets complete the getaway experience.

The Village at Westfield Topanga, Woodland Hills, 818-340-5639, joeyrestaurants.com