Maximilano sits at the corner of York and Aldama; the restaurant is scheduled to open in September.
By Andrea C. Quezada
Seasoned chef and Oinkster owner Andre Guerrero was looking to lease an office space when he stumbled across the property that will soon be home to Highland Park's newest Italian restaurant.
When Maximiliano opens its doors on Sept. 1, the casual yet unique establishment will stand out among the bevy of restaurants in the neighborhood, according to Guerrero.
"There's this incredible community of diners who are just not being served, and I know what we are planning on doing here at Maximiliano is something that is an interesting concept," Guerrero said.
Diners will have the opportunity to feast on traditional, old school Italian dishes such as spaghetti and meatballs, which will be touted as a signature dish at the new eatery, in addition to the contemporary and market driven plates on its menu.
The use of freshly made pasta is a key component in capturing the taste buds of patrons. Guerrero purchased a pasta machine that produces a different texture in comparison to pasta made from a typical machine used in many modern restaurants.
Maximiliano will also cure its own pancetta, an Italian bacon, and make its own ice cream.
"The menu isn't going to look like everybody else's," the award-winning chef said. "Everything will be made from scratch. Making it from scratch makes sense."
As construction workers prepare to position white tiles on the wall where the pizza oven will be situated, Guerrero describes how the oven itself will be covered in smaller, white tiles giving the illusion of the oven being built into the wall.
He also said the gas deck oven he found is the heart of the restaurant and the best oven one could buy for making pizza.
"In this oven, burners are configured in a way to get a very even cooking on the bottom. And the top of it has this arch that's lined with bricks, so what the bricks do is retain a lot of heat. Every time you open the door, the temperature drops, but our pizzas will get this crispy crust," Guerrero said.
Guerrero said moderate prices and an informal dining environment will make Maximiliano a place where anybody and everybody can drop in for a beer or glass of wine at the bar.
Although hard liquor will not be available, Maximiliano will boast six beers on draft, brewed locally at Craftsman Brewery in Pasadena.
"I think Mark [Jilg], the brewmaster there, is probably the most brilliant brewmaster in America," Guerrero said. "We're only serving his beer. In fact, he's making some special kegs that only we will be pouring exclusively; he's making it just for us."
Guerrero enlisted the designs of local Highland Park architect David Freeland to transform the 2,600 square foot property into Maximiliano.
According to Guerrero, Freeland has put an incredible amount of heart, soul and energy into the project. When the cosmetic work is done, Guerrero said the interior will look beautiful and blow a lot of people's minds.
Guerrero, who owns The Oinkster in nearby Eagle Rock, said he and his team of partners are using the same approach to open Maximiliano as he did when he opened The Oinkster five years ago and set out to make a good burger.
"We're just the little guy here in Highland Park making our pizza and pasta," he said. "We're bringing something distinctive to this neighborhood that has never existed before, so I think that's what is really special about this place."