A dining dream come true

Chris and Kristine Bocchino have worked at various high profile eateries before opening their own place. Terra replaces the spot occupies by Lino Ristorante & Bar, near the Old Courthouse. Photo by Kim Devore / TMT

New restaurant, Terra, to open soon.

By Kim Devore / Special to The Malibu Times

The name means earth and when it comes to Malibu’s somewhat limited dining scene, Terra hopes to break new ground. Those who lamented the demise of the former Lino locale next to the old Malibu Courthouse have something new to celebrate. Stop in and you’ll find the husband and wife team of Chris and Kristine Bocchino busy at work hoping to make their vision of bringing fresh, seasonal cuisine to Malibu a reality.

The space is scattered with paint buckets, brushes, tools, fixtures and bags of soil.

“We did most of the landscaping ourselves, using friends and family,” Chris said.

Kristine said she hopes to transform the space into a place where people will feel at home.

“It’s like a little house with a lot of character,” she said. “We want to make it warm and inviting, like we are bringing people into our living room.”

Kristine is no stranger to Malibu. She grew up at Paradise Cove, got her first restaurant job at Johnnie’s Pizza when she was 17 and worked at Gladstone’s before landing at Santa Monica’s Remi where she met her future husband.

Chris worked as Remi’s executive chef. The 36-year-old gourmet has an impressive list of culinary credentials and was trained at the prestigious Culinary Institute of America. The two also worked at Rix, the Dry Creek Kitchen in Sonoma County and, most recently, The Whisper Lounge at The Grove in Los Angeles.

Chris describes his food philosophy as being similar to that of celebrated chef Thomas Keller of the famed three-star Michelin restaurant French Laundry in Napa Valley. Like Keller, Chris wants to grow his own and is making way for a garden out back.

“I want to have my own produce, grow vegetables, pick them in the afternoon and serve them that evening,” he said.

Kristine said the food they will be offering is a departure from standard Malibu fare. “We won’t be another Italian restaurant,” she said. “Chris’ family is from Naples and we love that style of food, but we need to fill a niche here with seasonal produce. It will be refined, but also very approachable and something people can identify.”

The preliminary menu is varied with the dinner, brunch and bar menus offering specialties like Organic Cauliflower Soup, Slow Braised Colorado Lamb Shank, Dungeness Crab Benedict, Heirloom Tomato and Ricotta Tart, Moroccan-spiced Bombay Sliders, Beef Short Rib Tacos and a selection of artisan cheeses as well as unique sweets like Sticky Toffee Pudding and Pistachio Crème Brulee for dessert.

The 70-seat layout is designed to make the best use of the eatery’s three separate spaces – the formal dining room, the outdoor patio and the bar. The couple has introduced carpeting to the dining room and brought in upholstered furniture with clean fresh lines. Sentimentalists and lovers of Malibu history will be pleased to see the colorful peacock fountain and Malibu Potteries’ broken tile work still in place.

The two plan to open Terra in the next two to three weeks, and they know they have to work hard to build a reputation.

“Here in Malibu you have a captive audience, but first impressions are key,” Kristine said. “We hope everyone’s first experience will be so good they can’t help but come back.”

The Bocchinos are also bringing some longtime co-workers along with them, including a sous chef who has been with Chris for the past 10 years.

After working for other people for most of their careers, the Bocchinos now have a place to call their own and hope to turn this little stretch of Pacific Coast Highway into a much buzzed about food mecca.

“We’ve been driving by for years, but the timing wasn’t right,” Kristine said. “There are so few spaces here, so this is really a homecoming. For us to do something like this in Malibu is a dream come true.”