There’s no sense in wasting a good wood-fired oven, at least that was the thinking for chef Michael Santoro and Mosaic, the restaurant management group that includes Paul Pruitt, Alex Racioppi, and Sky Strouth. The partners are opening Prima Donna in the former Etta space on the ground floor of Culver City’s Shay Hotel tonight, Monday, January 8. Many of Etta’s former staffers are being retained by the incoming restaurant, which will serve breakfast, lunch, and dinner daily. Mosaic also operates the hotel’s rooftop bar Canopy Club.
The five-part, Sicilian-influenced menu starts with appetizers like grilled sardines on toast with chorizo and capers, red prawns with fennel pollen, and lamb meatballs with braised greens. Vegetables include a radicchio fennel salad with fiore di sardo cheese, bottarga-topped broccolini, and lima beans with escarole and guanciale. The pizzas will undoubtedly be popular. The White Lotus pie comes topped with fennel sausage, white sauce, crispy potato, and red onion, while the Prima Donna pizza sports luxe ingredients like 24-month Parma ham, gorgonzola cream, eight-year-old D.O.P. balsamic, and black truffle.
On the pasta front, one dish will feel familiar to Etta fans: the spaghetti with grilled lobster, prawns, and Calabrian chile piperade resembles the angel hair pasta with grilled Alaskan crab served by the space’s former tenant. Also on the pasta menu are black truffle cavatelli, duck sausage orecchiette, and smoked ricotta tortellini. Shareable large-format plates include a dry-aged grilled orata, chicken all griglia, bone-in New York steak with gremolata, and Calabrian lamb chops.
Pruitt said that Santoro’s been working on the menu for a while now, capturing the popularity of Sicilian culture thanks to Max’s The White Lotus. “No one’s talked about Sicily this much since the Godfather and The White Lotus changed all that,” says Pruitt. “We’re trying not to make the menu too foodie or do a hardcore osteria. The idea is to make it approachable with the hits.” Mosaic also spoke to Etta’s previous clientele to inform the menu, which makes sense given the quick one-week turnaround.
In the coming weeks, Pruitt hopes to transform the formal-feeling bar area into a kind of place where patrons stack two-deep on busy nights with an updated menu and space. The goal is to make the bar a more fun place to be to attract office workers at nearby companies like Apple. “We want to be playful, like the big, fun personalities of The White Lotus. We want to be quirky and irreverent.”
Prima Donna opens tonight, January 8, 2024, at 8801 Washington Boulevard, Culver City, CA, 90232. Dinner is served from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m., with breakfast starting January 15 and lunch beginning on January 27.