By Cynthia Gibson
CULVER CITY — An 8,000 square-foot food hall, featuring some of the region’s most sought-after restaurateurs, opened for business Nov. 18 inside the Citizen Building, a historic landmark downtown.
Housed in a building combining Beaux-Arts and Art Deco architecture, Citizen Public Market is currently the Culver City home of world-renowned chef Nancy Silverton’s new venture Pizzette and the future home of Alta Adams’ Executive Chef Keith Corbin’s first solo restaurant, among ventures from other culinary talents, according to market owners and developers Rick Moses and Jeff Appel.
The multi-story building also features two outdoor patios with ample seating, part of Moses and Appel’s vision for a space that could become a social setting for eating and mingling — whenever Los Angeles County’s safer-at-home order banning outdoor dining is lifted, of course.
San Francisco natives Eugene and Kitty Donovan constructed the Citizen Building in the 1920s to house their commercial printing plant, as well as Culver City’s first newspaper, The Citizen, with its first edition coming out Dec. 6, 1929.
In 1987, the Citizen Building became the first structure in Culver City to be placed on the National Register of Historic Places. Prior to purchasing the building, Moses said the site had been host to several different businesses, including an art gallery, a bank and a beauty college.
Moses and Appel bought the building in 2017 for $7.1 million with no preconceived ideas for development. “The façade is just so gorgeous,” Moses said. “We bought it first and then we figured out what to do with it.”
Moses’ firm RM/d specializes in the redevelopment of historic structures and was responsible for the revitalization of downtown Los Angeles’ Grand Central Market. RM/d is also working on rehabilitating the legendary Grandmaster Recorders studio and a historic church in Pasadena that dates back to 1885.
The narrow L-shape of the building made visibility difficult and awkward for retail use, Moses said. However, because of several natural gathering spaces, the layout was ideal for a food hall.
“What was once an awkward and difficult space suddenly became very valuable,” Moses said. Former office space became a bar, aged wood was imported for counter space and the roof was converted into space for outdoor dining.
Following the decision to develop a food hall, Moses set about hand-picking the best local food and drink vendors.
One of the first selections was Chef Nancy Silverton, an award-winning chef with her restaurant Osteria Mozza in 2008.
“She’s like the queen of the food scene in L.A.” Moses said.
Citizen Public Market’s Pizzette is Silverton’s first U.S. casual concept restaurant, serving a selection of individual pizzettes stuffed with Italian meats, cheeses and seasonings. Vegetarian pizzettes also are available.
Citizen Public Market is also Erich Joiner’s second location for his goodboybob coffee roaster/café concept. Goodboybob also offers pairings of wine and beer with complementary salads and a selection of appetizers.
As an artist, Joiner was drawn to Moses’ vision for Citizen Public Market and impressed with his attention to detail in incorporating aged wood from barns in France and Italian marble.
“I thought, ‘Wow, this is going to be a good fit,’” Joiner said. “They seemed to be people who cared about art and the craft of what they do.”
Peter Tulaney, owner of WEHO Sausage Co. is another Moses recruit. Prior to opening a brick-and-mortar restaurant, Tulanley was an in-demand caterer specializing in handmade gourmet hamburgers and sausages made with unique blends of meats and spices.
Pizzette, goodboybob and WEHO Sausage Co. are currently open for business. The Jolly Oyster, Chef Mark Reynolds’ seafood and oyster bar, opened its third location at Citizen Public Market Dec. 2, followed by Bar Bohemian, a cocktail bar that will be located on the second floor.
Alta Adams executive chef Keith Corbin plans to open his first solo restaurant, Louella’s Cali Soul Kitchen, next month. Corbin is naming his inaugural culinary venture after his grandmother, who taught him to cook, and his daughter.
Moses asked Corbin to open a restaurant after dining at Alta Adams in 2018.
“He’s become something of a celebrity over the last couple of years since I first met him,” Moses said. “He’s a superstar now.”
Despite the closure of outdoor dining to stem the most recent COVID-19 surge, Moses remains undaunted and estimates that Citizen Public Market will be fully occupied by the end of the year.
“You have to be nimble,” he said. “This world throws all kinds of things at you. This is how you have to be able to adjust and change.”
Cynthia Gibson is a freelance reporter for Wave Newspapers who covers Culver City and West Los Angeles. She can be reached at email@example.com.