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However, when it comes to a place that fills the “gastro” (i.e. fantastic, carefully crafted food) and the “pub” (a welcoming place where you can grab a beer and bite and be yourself) requirements, Tuning Fork is the real deal.What you see is what you get at Tuning Fork, in front of and behind the house. A simple layout with picnic-like tables and an uncluttered bar with a carefully curated selection of California craft beer and sustainable and sustainably produced wines set the stage—whether one comes for lunch, dinner or a show. Besides a talented lineup of musicians, the menu of Chef J’s seasonal comfort food is the star.

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Our favorite restaurants thrive on variety and change. However, we often have to admit that at certain go-to spots, there are always at least one or two dishes that keep us coming back for more. A mix of flavors we crave and can’t live without. And the owners and chefs who are always willing to oblige by keeping that dish or those dishes on the menu no matter what the trends du jour surface.

The dish may be something as familiar as a hamburger, fried rice, spaghetti and meatballs or a chopped salad. It may be something exotic that every restaurant in its genre has but they do better. It may have to do with technique—the way the chef beats the eggs, grills the bread or rolls the sushi. It may be condiments such as a curry ketchup, wasabi dip or salad dressing that should be bottled and sold to go. No matter what that something is, for our 32nd anniversary “Best Of” edition, we’re saluting restaurants that have been good to us…and to their loyal customers…with dishes that feel new and exciting every time we order them.

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Little Toni’s has been that pizza place for North Hollywood and beyond for 60 years, where Vineland and Lankershim cross. And Little Toni’s continues to be that dependable stalwart, as Italian-American trends have come and gone, and comfort food is currently “a thing.”

Of course, a few things should change in order for an establishment like this to be current in this arty neighborhood. In the past year, BarToni’s was brought to life, with a retro-cool craft cocktail menu designed by noted Los Angeles mixologists Aidan Demarest and Marcos Tello that are as inspired by the 1950s as they are 21st century-cool. We’re talking Grasshoppers, Italian Mary’s (made with Dirty Sue olive juice, another proudly local product), Negronis, Lemon Drop Martinis and Pink Squirrel ice-cream cocktails.

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In Studio City, that place happens to be Rocco’s. As its owners intended, it is as familiar and comforting as pizza and eggplant parmesan, with an ample and well-stocked bar, packed patio and red vinyl booths. Numerous flat-screen televisions line the perimeter of the bar venue, and there is no attitude or pretense.


If anything has changed at Rocco’s, it’s the ongoing efforts to make itself the neighborhood’s most welcoming go-to spot any time of day. According to Remi, the manager on duty, it provides a nice counterbalance to the trendy, California-style spots in the area, and draws a lot of New York and New Jersey transplants to boot.

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Owner Doron Polus is justifiably proud of the fact that his Chatsworth business has locales all over North America and is widely recognized for providing homeowners with interior glass door solutions direct from the factory.


“Our business model does not include dealers or distributors, and this allows us to control the quality processes from beginning to end and from factory to field for our residential and business/corporate clients”, says Polus. “This translates into beautifully designed closet doors, room dividers and office partitions at the very best prices.”

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They’ve delighted breakfast buffs since opening their Hollywood/Melrose location in 2006, and thrilled Valley residents with their Sherman Oaks location and the opening of their Woodland Hills outpost a year ago. Now, they’re poised to go big with a forthcoming opening in Tokyo in March. That being said, the guys behind this breakfast-lunch juggernaut are not resting on their laurels. In addition to their ambitious plans to open across the Pacific, they’re bringing even more excitement to the menu.

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Jasmine Thai’s menu is jam packed with familiar favorites, such as BBQ Spare Ribs, Pad See Ew, Mee Krob and Tom Kha Kai soup. There’s also practically every kind of curry under the rainbow. However, not everything is as it seems—and for this newly opened restaurant, that’s a very good thing.

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There are many studios packing in full houses, from yoga to pole dancing to Zumba. If you want to fit in (your jeans) in California, you have to keep moving--especially after you’ve cleaned out that box of Valentine’s Candy or are starting to shop for your next summer swimsuit.


Spinning appeals to so many people because it produces results many riders can see in a very short period of time. But what is it about “spin” that has the heads of fitness enthusiasts and newbies alike, well, spinning?

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Whether you are giving or receiving fine jewelry, the one thing that will ensure that the ring, necklace, bracelet or earrings will be the gift that keeps on giving is having it come from the right establishment.


It is that mindset that has made Woodland Hills-based Jean Pierre Jewelers a community and city-wide institution for over four decades. Though the big corporate jewelry emporiums in the malls boast selection, only an independent establishment like Jean Pierre brings personal attention and a distinctive shopping environment to the buying experience.

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While we know it is up to us to maintain old holiday traditions…or create new ones…the fact is that most of us are busy people who can barely wrap our heads around preparing our workday lunches much less something more festive and special. Thankfully, restaurants in our hometowns are set up to help us fill in the blanks of holiday feasting. Whether we’re looking to do a full-on catered party at home or the office, scouting out a few solid foundation dishes for our potluck, need to come up with something special to bring a host or hostess who has invited us somewhere, or grab something special and seasonal after a shopping trip or a ride through the L.A. Zoo’s annual light spectacular.

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There’s always much to be said about a good old-fashioned sit-down holiday dinner with turkey, cranberry sauce, stuffing and pumpkin pie presented on huge plates and platters. However, there’s also a definite seasonal spirit within a well-planned pot-luck dinner. Everybody gets to try a little of this and a little of that. Each food item stirs conversation. And pretty much everything that comes through the door doesn’t quite fit a culinary genre associated with December.

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In a sea of hipster hamburger hangouts dotting LA metro, Highland Park's Fusion Burgers stands out because of its simplicity in both its décor and menu. Under the loving guidance of its founders, the Muñoz family, Fusion Burgers is, by design, an honest-to-goodness burger spot with “honest” and “goodness” having real meaning in the way they do things.

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Eagle Rock’s Sir Michael’s Party Rentals’ roots are in event transportation services, but they’ve gone on to build a strong customer base through their flawlessly executed weddings and corporate events. Nearly twenty years on, their reputation is golden when it comes to thinking about the details even the most thorough and experienced party host can overlook. While many people plan holiday parties for friends, family and work colleagues, founder Michael Nogueira points out that – when image is everything – you leave the party’s actual staging to the pros.

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While the cuisines of the world cover the streets of Los Angeles, nothing brings people together quite like the many iterations of Italian cuisine. First of all, there’s the sheer variety of flavor and texture. We’ve got the rich buttery flavors of northern Italy and the spicy, salty sensibilities of its south, plus the herbaceous variations elsewhere. All roads may lead to Rome, but they also lead out to Italy’s other culinary traditions. LA’s Italian restaurants, meanwhile, show how traditional family recipes evolved into American favorites that transcend time and international boundaries. Every year when we put this beloved favorite section together, we are reminded that we could eat Italian every night and never get bored.

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Like autumn leaves, we’re seeing wonderful hues of gold, orange, red and amber at our cafes and fine dining venues, encompassing seasonal vegetables, crisp apples and pears, earthy nuts and soothing grains often adorning properly seasoned meat, fish and poultry. With fall sports seasons heating up, school back in session and temperatures (eventually) cooling down, you may just find yourself craving a fantastic burger, hot dog, abundant pizza or a heaping plate of pasta.


Forget everything you know about those microwavable "pockets" and other pretenders to the self-contained/hand-held snack crown. Reach for the real deal at World Empanadas on Magnolia Boulevard in Burbank, where crusts baked to perfection hold a variety of warm, tasty fillings. While experienced foodies have probably tried empanadas from Argentina, Chile or the Philippines, and many are familiar with the calzone (their Italian cousin), there's a whole world of these tasty, portable treats for everybody to discover at this little shop of flavor.

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How do you top a popular institution like Avanti Café, which has been a pizza and pasta lover’s go-to for nearly three decades? Find a dramatic building, and add something fresh to your successful formula. That’s exactly what Avanti owner Bobby Ghofranian did.


Avanti Café first came on the scene in 1987, and over time emerged as one of the pioneers of wood fired gourmet pizza. Their gourmet pizzas generated a buzz among pizza lovers (a 17-year winner in the Pasadena Weekly’s annual reader’s poll) and critics alike (including KABC-TV’s the late Elmer Dills) because of Avanti’s adept way of combining the innovation and fresh ingredient appeal of California cuisine with the traditional baking techniques of Italy. They also built their reputation on their recipe for pizza dough baked to perfection in an authentic Italian oak-fired oven.

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You’re itching to get out of the house for a night on the town. However, you’re hungry for a great meal that’s a work of art, and yet decidedly unfussy. You’re also in the mood for some live entertainment. So where do you go to find all of that?


Badda-bing! Colombo’s Italian Steakhouse & Jazz Club’s got it all, and in generous portions. Prefer a nice relaxed place to take the family during the week? Badda-boom! Colombo’s got that as well.

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It’s official! Big Mama’s and Papa’s Pizzeria is “L.A.’s Coolest Pizzeria” - and not only because owner Aro Agakhanyan believes in his product with his heart and soul, as do hundreds of customers. Sure, there are many great pizza places dotting the expanse of L.A. county. However, when you’re still basking in the glow of a global product placement on the biggest award show almost two years later, and opening a location in Dubai this year as a result, you’ve got a good argument working in your favor.
That said, Aro has moved on to bigger and better things in a matter of speaking. Just like the pizza ovens at the flagship Eagle Rock store and the 20 branches across the city, his imagination burns bright in coming up with ways he can keep BMPP the pizza place everybody wants to come home to. Furthermore, it is simply not enough to be that “something for everyone” kind of place.

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Adore Organic Innovation, an international brand of beautifying treatment and maintenance products some skincare aficionados describe as the “cream of the crop,” is now open at The Village at Westfield Topanga, the area’s newest destination shopping enclave. Although this well-heeled part of the Valley is a place whose residents take skincare very seriously, the owners are excited about the prospect of people from all over Los Angeles and from as far as Santa Barbara coming to their shop to experience what makes this skincare collection for women and men different.

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If home is where the heart is, for Thano Adamson, his mother’s childhood home was also the heart and soul of what would eventually become one of Los Angeles’ most successful tile boutique-showrooms.

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Fall is a time of year that’s widely associated with making grand entrances. New shows and movies make a splash. You buy a new fall wardrobe and get a new hairstyle to shake off the dog days of summer. You outfit your home with warm and inviting fabrics, wood furnishings, richly textured accessories and warm lighting. How are your friends and family going to see all of that? Why, by going through a door or two, even after they’re inside your home.

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Over the last decade, we’ve enthusiastically gobbled up every opportunity we were offered to cover various food and wine festivals in Southern California, and why not? Many of them support great causes, put us face to face with charismatic celebrity chefs and provide a CliffsNotes guide to L.A. restaurants people are talking about—from celebrity hangouts to farm-to-table destinations to places that put out simple, delicious dishes that speak for themselves without a mayonnaise-thick slathering of hype.

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No matter how you slice it—or grill it, marinade it, or flame broil it—our neighborhood restaurants are in their own unique way perfect places to chill out, slow down and enjoy California’s bounty prepared in a multitude of ways. While these diverse restaurants have different ways to satisfy a craving, they always keep life interesting and flavorful by offering the proverbial “something for everybody” and then some.

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Whether you like your fish fried, grilled, chilled or baked (or instead, crave a steak), Cameron’s Seafood in Pasadena will have you hooked.

In Southern California, we’re blessed to have the Pacific Ocean as our front yard and our gateway to the rest of the world. Consequently, this means there are many fantastic fish shacks and shops lining Pacific Coast Highway (the fabled “Highway 1”) and our beach cities.  Though Pasadena is admittedly a ways from the beach, we’re very fortunate that Pete Gallanis and the staff at Cameron’s Seafood have brought the Pacific to our neck of the woods. After 27 years in business under Gallanis’ direction, the restaurant’s continued emphasis on freshness has steered it to success even the waterfront spots have to respect.

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A century ago Sherman Oaks was an expanse of fruit orchards and small clusters of homes, which evolved into a tidy, middle-class suburban neighborhood with Ventura Boulevard serving as its “Main Street, USA.” In the 80s, it was part of the “Valley” that became the stuff of pop culture legend, from the Sherman Oaks Galleria’s role in Fast Times at Ridgemont High to its appearance in other films, television shows and pop songs. While various aspects of its history remain intact, there’s something else on the horizon - Sherman Oaks as a hub of trendy restaurants and cocktail bars that have had people rethinking their pilgrimages “over the hill” for dining and socializing.

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Note: The opinions expressed herein are those of the various contributing writers, advertisers and artists
and do not necessarily express the opinions of the Boulevard staff or ownership.
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Boulevard Magazine, 11684 Ventura Blvd., Studio City, CA 91604 - 323.436.7546