One of Toluca Lake’s newest businesses, Santuari is an elegant and sophisticated restaurant that boasts a world-class chef and the “relaxed and languid atmosphere” of a Mediterranean beach resort, says operator Spencer Ramsey. “We want to bring a special quality of experience to Toluca Lake.”
Noting that the area is home to many entertainment giants and picturesque residences, he says, “We believe that there is a deep need for an innovative and artistic high-quality restaurant ready to operate on a level appropriate for our world-class community.”
By “we,” Ramsey means his family, which has deep roots in the community. “My father and uncle both grew up in Toluca Lake and the Hollywood Knolls, the hillside area just above Santuari,” he says.
His late grandfather Paul Ramsey developed the Toluca Lake Plaza Project that the restaurant is part of, on Forest Lawn Drive east of Olive Avenue. In fact, Santuari is located in the same project as the Toluca Lake Tennis and Fitness Club, which Paul Ramsey established as a prestigious community recreation hub in 1974. (A decade earlier, he’d brought real estate brokerage Ramsey-Shilling to Toluca Lake, eventually making its headquarters on Riverside Drive, where it remains a focal point for local events such as the Holiday Open House.)
That family tradition of creating community gathering places continues at Santuari. “We have invested an enormous amount of time and resources both in developing our unique ambiance and in attracting our world-class chef, Brendan Mica,” Ramsey says. “He runs a scratch-run kitchen that emphasizes the very best in California cuisine, incorporating special elements from French, Italian and Mediterranean cuisine.”
The restaurant is open to the public and serves lunch and dinner, as well as brunch on weekends. Santuari employs 30 people and has been operating full-time since winter. “We’re still in the process of molding our operations to perform at the highest standards, but we hope to be incorporating some community events into our operations and schedule in the near future,” Ramsey says.
As summer approaches, he adds that Mica — an L.A. native who has cooked in places such as Napa Valley, New York City and the Florida Keys — “is preparing dynamic new menus and enhancing our wine facilities and wine list to further upgrade the Santuari experience.”
Meanwhile, the greatest part of that experience for Ramsey, who returned to Los Angeles two years ago to help open the restaurant, is “getting to know the people of our community. There are so many truly interesting, outgoing and inspiring people that I meet every day at Santuari.”
“There is such a sense of community in and around Toluca Lake,” he says. “All of the local businesses work to better each other and the community as a whole. It is great to be a part of a community that looks out for all of its members and treats them with such respect.”