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Eater LA says Union is “essential”!

July 7, 2015

Thank you to the Eater LA who named Union one of only 38 essential restaurants in all of LA. (And we’re in Pasadena!) We’re so honored to be on this list. You can read the full article at this link or see their write up on Union below.
Make reservations to dine with us today at this link or by calling 626-795-5841

The 38 Essential Los Angeles Restaurants, July 2015

Matthew Kang
Spanning Westside to Eastside, with eateries clustered around the best dining neighborhoods, this collection of elite restaurants aims to answer the question, “Can you recommend a place?” Eater will continue to update restaurants every few months, adding in eligible places that have been open for at least six months. There’s no particular order, except that the first 33 restaurants are listed alphabetically.
In this summer 2015 edition, Bucato comes off after the Evan Funke’s departure, getting replaced by Zach Pollack’s dynamic and ultra-popular Alimento; Chi Spacca also gets removed because of Chad Colby’s depature, making room for Bruce Kalman’s Union; longtime gastropub vanguard Father’s Office makes way for the newer Butchers & Barbers; Gjelina gets replaced by newer sister spot Gjusta; Bell’s La Casita Mexicana comes off for the Valley’s most ambitious vegan restaurant The Gadarene Swine; late night hang Jones Hollywood takes over all-day specialist The Sycamore Kitchen; and Sugarfish gets replaced by Palms kaiseki specialist N/Naka.
Union Restaurant
Bruce Kalman has opened the restaurant that Pasadena has always wanted, and needed. A seasonally inflected California-Italian restaurant, Kalman does everything from housemade pasta to innovative appetizers to hefty mains like the epic porchetta. The wine program is also top notch.
37 E Union St
Pasadena, CA 91103

Bruce Kalman’s Op-Ed: “Why Chefs Should Also Be Owners”

June 16, 2015

Our esteemed chef and owner, Bruce Kalman has written an op-ed for Eater LA. On the eve of opening his second restaurant, this time in Grand Central Market, Chef Kalman lets us in on his success which includes having a great business partner, training his staff to expect the worst and cooking from the heart. Please enjoy the full feature below or at this link.

Union’s Bruce Kalman: Why Chefs Should Also Be Owners


An opinion piece by chef Bruce Kalman of Pasadena’s Union.

Bruce Kalman is the chef of Union, which opened over a year ago to critical acclaim and a steady stream of diners in Old Town Pasadena. Partner Marie Petulla offered to give Kalman some of the ownership, which has set the restaurant up for long term success. Here now, Kalman bring his perspective as a co-owner and chef of the bustling operation.

My career started in the mid 80’s in Jersey, making pizza, chicken parm sandwiches and antipasti salads. Mind you, I was just 13, but after one day I was hooked! The ingredients, the energy, the sarcasm; I fell into the food and beverage industry head-first. Since then, I have experienced working in numerous restaurants and hotels, from fine-dining to fast-casual, all very unique, yet all had one thing in common: An owner.

This wasn’t necessarily a bad thing, because I had the opportunity to work with a lot of owners directly and learn a ton about operations, business, drinking, smoking weed, and then some. I also learned about the frustrations chefs have working with owners who keep them on a tight leash (reference Jon Favreau in “Chef”). It’s the recipe for an extremely uncomfortable workplace, with tension so thick you can cut it with a knife. Everything and everyone suffers: The food, the staff, and, ultimately, the guests, usually resulting in a loss of business and sales. Can you guess who is blamed?

Now that I am both a chef and an owner, I get it, and I see both sides. You have a responsibility to the guest, and a responsibility to the staff. These days I spend most of my time developing chefs and cooks, teaching them how to stand on their own two feet and the importance of everything, not just the food.

Their responsibilities are endless – cook great food all day every day, move their asses, keep the place clean, keep things organized, make sure items on the shelves face the front like a grocery store, work like a team, have a great attitude, respect ingredients and each other, etc. The list keeps going, but this is what it takes to become a great chef and, ultimately, a great restaurateur. When my chefs ask me how I’m able to see everything, I tell them I was taught to come in expecting everything to be wrong every day. It trains you to constantly scan the room like Kit from “Knight Rider.”

Opening Union has been such a wonderfully challenging experience. During friends & family, myself and my two sous chefs decided we would set up the line and figure out where mise en place should go, as we were cooking for guests. Maybe not the best decision I have ever made, but I was free to make that decision. I was free to write the menu without “approval” from a boss; no burger required! We wanted the menu to be defined not by what was currently trending, but by the ingredients we were procuring from our purveyors, like Ben Hyman from Wild Local Seafood, and Nan Kohler from Grist & Toll, who actually opened her mill in Pasadena around the same time we opened Union.

I have a lot of chef friends, many of whom have visited me at Union, and the response is typically the same: “This food is unadulterated you!” I don’t claim to be the best chef in the world, or even in LA for that matter, but freedom has led me to cook and create some of the best food of my life. People can taste that passion.

The opportunity to partner with Marie Petulla was a definitive moment for me. She is one of the best people I know and having a partner that shares your philosophy is not only vital to the success of a restaurant, but vital for creating a cohesive team from the front to the back-of-house. There is no dividing wall between the two, like in a lot of restaurants. We always joke about how much we used to fight during the opening of Union, and say, “Hey, at least we were communicating!”


When people talk about how much they love the Union experience, we talk about what a big role our symbiotic relationship plays in our success. We taught our team hospitality first, service second which makes for an incredible feeling as soon as you walk through the door. I’m not saying that everything is hearts and rainbows all the time, as that would be a pipe dream! But when we have to be tough, they understand that it all comes from a great place, and that our vision and philosophy is rich and meaningful. They drink our “Kool-Aid,” which of course is local, natural, sustainable, and humanely raised!

If restaurant owners would just realize that they would benefit from allowing their chefs to do the job they were hired to do, their top lines would most likely increase, resulting in a bigger bottom line and a happier environment. Now more than ever I understand the stress and pressure that comes with owning a restaurant.

However, I also know that I can’t do it alone, so everyone’s voice needs to be heard. I do my best to teach the standard and expectations, and then try to step back and allow the team to do their best. It’s tough sometimes, but it’s the only way to build a solid foundation to grow a company. Marie and my shared commitment to operating this way has been an instrumental part of Union’s success, and something we are both excited to expand upon when we open the pasta bar at Grand Central Market this summer.

I’m not saying I haven’t learned a lot from the owners that I couldn’t deal with, in fact, without them I wouldn’t be the leader I am today. In the end, I just realized that I don’t like being told what to do!

LA EATER loves the Spaghetti Chitarra

April 14, 2015

LA Eater gives a shout out to Chef Kalman’s Spaghetti Chitarra. It’s one of the items that rarely leaves the menu and after you’ve eaten a plate full you’ll understand why. This spaghetti will definitely give grandma a run for her money. See the Eater’s full feature below or at this link. Continue reading…

LA Eater touts the Cavatelli!

March 26, 2015

Thank you to The Eater for highlighting Chef Kalman’s Ricotta Cavatelli! You can make a reservation to try it today by going to www.opentable.com or www.table8.com. We look forward to serving you! You can read what LA Eater had to say below or read the full article at this link.
17 Rabbit Dishes to Try Just in Time for Easter
Crystal Coser on Mar 25, 2015
This year, the cute, cuddly rabbit that so characterizes Easter is hopping right on to your dinner plate.
There is no doubt that rabbit meat is trending, with chefs across town capitalizing on its delicate flavor. A cursory taste of rabbit is, like many relatively exotic meats, reminiscent of chicken, but a deeper examination reveals a whisper of gaminess that’s bringing complexity to a whole slew of creative dishes in Los Angeles. From juicy bacon-wrapped rabbitchettas to spicy Sichuan diced rabbit, here is your list of 17 rabbit dishes to try just in time for Easter:
6 Ricotta Cavatelli at Union Restaurant
Chef Bruce Kalman’s Pasadena gem is known for thoughtfully-sourced local produce and handmade pasta, both of which set the tone for Union’s ricotta cavatelli with rabbit sausage, broccoli, cranberry beans, and Sicilian pistachios. The rich, nutty notes of the dish serve as a canvas upon which the herbaceous rabbit sausage shine.
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(Pic from LA.Eater.com)