Located in the heart of Old Town Pasadena, Union is a lively, yet intimate neighborhood Italian restaurant and wine bar offering a deeply personal, seasonally Californian interpretation of Northern Italian cuisine. Owner Marie Petulla and Executive Chef Chris Keyser have crafted a rustic yet elegant menu that bring the farmer and guest together, to celebrate the beauty of simplicity, the best local ingredients and the delight of a meal with friends. Our thoughtful wine list features a curated selection of Italian and Californian bottles that perfectly pair with Chef Keyser's heartfelt cooking. Everything at Union - from our starters and field selections to our handmade pastas and sustainably raised and prepared meats and fish - all pay homage to community farmers and purveyors, and are meant to be enjoyed with cherished friends and family.
We look forward to welcoming you soon.
Chris Keyser was in his early twenties when he started his career with Marc Vetri. He quickly rose through the ranks, working at Alla Spina, Osteria and Amis and was part of opening for Lo Spiedo. “I thought I would be there for only a year to see what I can learn, but every year there were a ton of reasons to stay… we were always doing new things.”
For Chris, California was love at first sight. He opened Vetri's West Coast restaurant in Palo Alto and then moved to Los Angeles to work with Akasha Richmond at AR Cucina . It was there that Keyser quickly won the recognition of L.A. food critics and earned AR Cucinaa spot on LA Weekly’s “99 Essential Restaurants” list.
Chris' passion lead him to Italy. He spent the summer splitting his time at prestige restaurants including Michelin-starred Frosio. He credits his time at the highly touted Cucina Cereda for the deeper development of his style. “They showed me new possibilities with cooking. They could take two ingredients, cook each one in different ways, put them together, and create something highly complex.”
As the new executive chef at Union Pasadena, Keyser combines the influences from his vast experiences with Union’s signature sustainable practices. His simple, yet refined style lays on a foundation of the ethos of Italian cooking. “It’s about the core ideologies of Italian cuisine; the simplicity of using quality local ingredients to create flavor. California offers endless opportunities to develop flavor – subtle and bold – complex and simple –by reaching out to our local growers, foragers, fisherman, farmers and millers.”
Marie Petulla started her career in the restaurant industry as a bartender in Chicago while earning her Bachelor of Science degree in Psychology. She transitioned into managing the business side for her two Chef bosses, and the experience would change her life forever. Petulla’s acumen for building restaurants on a foundation of hospitality, service, and sustainability soon spread, and gained her consulting positions by some of the top restaurants in the country.
When Marie moved to the West Coast, she sought out to create a dining experience reminiscent of her home town, “I wanted to create a restaurant with amazing service and a neighborhood feel.” Her vision was Union, an intimate 50-person restaurant made with fresh ingredients, that support local farmers, down to the ground polenta. Her attention to detail has earned Union features in multiple publications including, Zagat. The Washington Post, as well as a coveted position on The Los Angeles Times list, “ Johnathon Gold’s 101 Best Restaurants.” The New York Times describes Union, as “ A rare combination of decadence…and informal without seeming slouchy.”
But Marie’s successes come from more than personalized guest experiences. Community remains at the center of her focus, which also includes her team. “ I believe we can achieve greatness when each team member is given equal respect and an opportunity to grow.” She has shared her management style on multiple media platforms including American Express Business, Bon Appetit, and the Los Angeles Business Journal. In addition to mentoring staff, Marie is an advocate for women in the male dominate industry, and often speaks on panels on her experiences to support breaking down barriers.
In addition to Union, Marie is also co-founder of Knead & Co Pasta Bar. When she is not busy running her restaurants, you can find her at home, chasing after her three sons with her wife, Laura.
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