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Prominent L.A. chefs hope to spice up LAX with quality food choices

April 15, 2010 |  3:59 pm

A sweeping culinary change may soon be taking place at LAX.

Photo: Francine Orr / LAT
http://latimes.image2.trb.com/lanews/media/photo/2009-11/50394817.jpgIf a series of concession contracts are approved by Los Angeles airport commissioners and the City Council, a slew of new dining options might include local favorites such as Bertha’s Soul Food, Korean barbecue restaurant Park’s Bar-B-Q , East L.A. institution La Serenata de Garibaldi, and macrobiotic-focused M Café de Chaya.  Local star chefs Nancy Silverton, Susan Feniger and Mary Sue Milliken have proposed restaurants for LAX too.

Silverton, who owns Pizzeria Mozza and Osteria Mozza in Hollywood with celebrity chef Mario Batali, has proposed an Italian cafe called Spuntino (which means “snack” in Italian) in Terminal 7. Her menu would include fresh-from-the-oven foccacia or a version of her famous pizzas and the same kind of appetizers she serves at her mozzarella bar at Osteria Mozza –- locally produced mozzarella and burrata served with Italian cured meats and olives.

“I said I wanted a Berkel slicer, so I can slice my prosciutto to order,” Silverton said.

Feniger and Milliken, the chefs who founded Border Grill and the long-running TV show “Two Hot Tamales,” are planning a restaurant called Border Grill Taqueria. 25 Degrees, the upscale burger joint in Hollywood’s Roosevelt Hotel, is also on the the roster of restaurants that have been recommended for approval by airport officials. Not-your-everyday tacos and burgers.

Travelers may have more than Starbucks to choose from for their coffee fix. Craig Min, co-owner of local coffee roaster LA Mill, says he has partnered with Michael Mina to open a coffee and beignet bar in Terminal 4. It would be the first of several that Min and Mina are planning to roll out across Los Angeles. Min says he would serve the same roster of beverages that are on the menu at his boutique cafe in Silverlake –- orange-scented cappuccinos and the like.

“I don’t have to say how rough traveling is these days, how early you have to show up, how often flights are canceled, how much more time we spend at the airport these days,” Silverton said. “It’s to the benefit of the airport to offer better food.”

Part of the effort to make dining-option changes at LAX has been a push for restaurants that better reflect L.A.’s dining scene and culinary diversity. It’s what Jorge H. Rodriguez, co-owner of La Serenata, said attracted him to the proposed project. “It’s a real taste of the food of the city of Los Angeles,” he said.

Rodriguez said his brother, chef Jose Rodriguez, is already planning new travel-friendly dishes such as tortas and empanadas. Others plan to hew to their original menus. “We have a formula for success that has endured for over 45 years,” said Rod White, the current owner of Bertha’s Soul Food. “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. People that get on that plane, they’re going to be expecting what we do over here. Of course, we can’t do everything. I have to have something that I hold back so that they still come here.”

-- Betty Hallock

Photos: (left) Passengers line up outside an LAX terminal. Credit: Los Angeles Times

(right) Pizza served at Pizzeria Mozza. Credit: Los Angeles Times