[Updated] Campanile + La Brea Bakery Store Closing: Walter Manzke's Republique Opening in the Space

A. Scattergood

Campanile and the La Brea Bakery shop are closing. The restaurant and bakery, which are in adjoining locations separated by a courtyard on La Brea Avenue and were both opened by then-married chefs Mark Peel and Nancy Silverton in 1989, will close at the end of November, the Los Angeles Times reports.

After weeks of rumors (Eataly is coming?), Peel confirmed that restaurateur Bill Chait (Rivera, Picca, Playa, Sotto, Short Order) and chef Walter Manzke (Bastide, Church & State) will take over the lease and open Republique, the restaurant project that Manzke has long had in the works.

Since Manzke and his wife, Margarita Manzke, a baker and pastry chef, have been planning a bakery to go with their bistro, the move makes a great deal of sense. La Brea Bakery's flagship store is moving to another location that has yet to be determined.

Campanile has been owned and operated by Peel since his divorce from Silverton; in 2001 the couple sold La Brea Bakery, which is now owned by the Irish company ARYZTA. The gorgeous complex, which has both a courtyard and a fountain, is owned by Silverton's father, Larry, and was once Charlie Chaplin's office building.

"It's very sad," Peel said. He notes that his staff, some of whom have worked at Campanile for many years, had to learn of the closing in the press. Peel also confirmed the Nov. 30 closing date. "Supposedly. You can't just move out. Campanile as a legal entity is not closing down." The Campanile restaurant at LAX is scheduled to open in February. "They're going to break ground shortly, if you can call it breaking ground."

Peel says he'd like to reopen Campanile in a different location in the future. However, such will not be the case with the Tar Pit, Peel's speakeasy, which closed in March and which Peel had at one point hoped to reopen.

The issue with both restaurants was simple economics. "Business has been very soft," said Peel about Campanile. "Especially the last six months. We were going to have to do something at some point."

For everyone who has been a fan of La Brea Bakery's utterly charming store for the last few decades, La Brea Bakery CEO John Yamin says they're already scouting for a new location, and that the new space will have room for a café in addition to the retail space. Yamin says he's working with Chait to keep the store open through the holidays, so he thinks the transition into a new space -- he's looking at a couple spots in the current neighborhood -- may even be fairly seamless. "Hopefully there will be no real downtime."

Bill Chait said he first got involved with Manzke's Republique project at the end of last year, when Mankze was still thinking about opening downtown. When Manzke heard that Campanile might be available, Chait called Larry Silverton and eventually worked out a deal for the space.

"I thought, 'Wow, this is genius,'" Chait said of the La Brea Avenue location, which encompasses two stories (wine cellar, a pastry kitchen, private dining rooms) and 10,000 square feet, not including the outside patio. "It's like a fairytale building." They'll remodel the space, Chait said, "but we're going to go out of our way to reduce changes and restore it. It's almost going to be a reclamation."

Between now and when Republique opens on June 1, Chait said, they're planning to redo the bar and the kitchen, putting in all new equipment -- including a wood-burning oven -- adding a food bar near the current alcohol bar, and making the kitchen itself more of an open kitchen.

Republique will have both a café and a more formal restaurant component, with the café open seven days a week for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and the restaurant open for dinner five days a week ("limited seating, a couple turns"). At night, look for the café to transform into a wine bar, with charcuterie, savory tarts and a wine program that's "not overdone." Margarita Manzke's bakery will have breads and pastries and other items for sale in a retail space.

Republique, says Chait, will be a bistro, as Manzke "is really big on the bistronomy movement in Paris." No white tablecloths. "The days of Bastide," says Chait, "are long gone." This, of course, is not only a reference to the now-shuttered restaurant but to Walter Manzke's tenure there as executive chef.

As for Manzke, he and his wife are still in Margarita Manzke's native Philippines, where they recently opened Wildflour Café + Bakery. Call it a test drive.

Update: Walter Manzke, who is at this writing sitting in his café in Manila ("It's 8 a.m., it's starting to fill up"), says that Republique will be "basically the same thing; just some subtle changes" as he's been planning for the last few years. "I was really set on having a restaurant in a building with character. Bricks. No plastic. I love restaurants in old spaces." So to say that he's happy about the prospect of going into the Campanile space is something of an understatement.

Manzke, who designed his new Manila restaurant, will not have to do that for Republique. "It'll be like a Huckleberry, a corner bakery. Chef-driven, but very simple. A bar at night. I won't say tapas, since it's a French concept, but small plates, limited silverware, very free." Don't look for white tablecloths or any spin on fine dining, Manzke reiterated. "It's really based on the food I want to do. Touches of modern cooking, but good cooking. A nice roasted chicken."

As for the future, both in terms of his bistro and his wife's bakery, Manzke says, "We're not trying to build the next La Brea Bakery, but it's a business that can grow within a business. The opportunity is there."

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