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The Fig House: A Place to Party, Wine and Dine

Highland Park’s latest business venture aims to narrow the gap between fine dining and catering in a plush atmosphere.

Steve Fortunato at the Fig House (Photo credit: Herb West)
Steve Fortunato at the Fig House (Photo credit: Herb West)
If you’ve driven past Luther Burbank Middle School lately you might have noticed a somewhat fancy building with a bluish exterior directly across the school, looking curiously out of place for this stretch of Figueroa. Located next to a decidedly low-end “unisex” beauty salon, the building has no sign except for the street number—6443—affixed in gold letters to the wall.

Unless you’re a business associate or relative of this building’s owner—a man named Steve Fortunato, who looks vaguely like Nicolas Cage—chances are you have little or no idea what lies beyond this building’s blue façade.

The attached photos by Eagle Rock photographer Herb West should dispel the mystery. This is the Fig House, a recent, one-of-a-kind business that is poised to double as an art gallery and party space. Its furniture, handpicked from flea markets and vintage stores, is custom re-upholstered to match the surroundings. The tables have been handcrafted and built specifically for the space.

In a word, everything about the Fig House is meticulous, not to mention beautiful. There are three elaborate pieces of stained glass by The Judson Studios, the famous Garvanza-based family-run company that, for more than a century, according to its website, has “designed, created and installed hand-crafted stained, leaded and other unique forms of architectural glass built from the inspiration and dreams of our clients.”

The owner of the Fig House has a background in the hospitality business. A one-time server and bartender with the Patina Group, Fortunato launched the Fig House last month to fill what he refers to as “a huge gap between the fine dining restaurant experience and the catered format.”

And that’s where roomforty comes in. Officially spelled all in lower case—with "forty" as short for Fortunato—roomforty is a catering business, with a full kitchen, that Fortunato owns on the same property as the Fig House, albeit with its own address (6441 Fig).

“People go to these great restaurants where the food is phenomenal and the service is phenomenal, but on their wedding day or holiday party or 50th birthday they’ve come to expect mediocrity because it’s a catered event,” says Fortunato, adding: “The impetus—or mission—of roomforty is to narrow that gap.”

Fortunato bought the contiguous properties on 6441 and 6433 Figueroa St. for $725,000. He closed escrow in April 2013 and spent the next seven months upgrading and renovating the space at a cost, he says, of more than $1 million.

“I’m aware of the community of entrepreneurs that’s come into Highland Park before us—the guys behind York and Sonny’s Hideaway, the Shop Glass guys, the guys from Ba, Steve Jones of Better Shelter—and we’re super honored to be part of a really exciting network of entrepreneurs in Highland Park,” he says, explaining why he has invested a couple of million in the neighborhood and what he hopes to get out of it.

“There are some great people who have already done so much here, and we feel indebted to them and excited to be part of the community.”

Jason December 11, 2013 at 09:34 AM
Good to hear about this place. I wasn't aware of it before. The 6441 address is the former location of Sun's Chinese Restaurant. For those looking for additional information on Fig House, here's the blog on their website: http://www.fighousela.com/blog/
Shelly Schraff December 11, 2013 at 12:47 PM
Makes me want to come up with a reason to have a party there. It all sounds and looks wonderful.
Rich December 11, 2013 at 01:25 PM
Is this supposed to be journalism? I'm sure the hardworking people - who probably didn't go to college and don't have access to vast sums of capital to open something called a fig house - would feel insulted, depressed, and dispirited at all the years they may have put into their business to have it tossed off by some writer on patch as "decidedly low-end." Is it really necessary to insult small businesses trying to make end's meet? And why the ironic quotes around "unisex"? They cut men and women's hair. Is that so hilarious that the writer needs to call this out from a soapbox of superiority? This "article" - yes, I use those quotes in ironic fashion - is loaded with unintentional subtext about everything wrong with our society: the worship of money, the narcissism, the idea that only people will vast wealth are somehow worthy and everyone else is "low end." This piece made me very sad. I don't know why I even bother to glance at this Patch anymore. It's become nothing but a marketing tool for the well-heelled.
Shelly Schraff December 11, 2013 at 02:08 PM
Rich, you have a point.Yet I love the new restaurants, etc. I'm proud to live in HP where new people come to build businesses and families. 20 years ago if I wanted a dose of "hip" I'd go outside of HP but now I get it here...and I love that! Your comment makes me realize I could do a better job supporting businesses I've driven by every day for 20 years but never stopped in.
Marino December 11, 2013 at 02:23 PM
C'mon Rich cheer up! I get asked all the time by people where to have a party (just last week I recommended the Ebell Club) and I'm glad Ajay let us know about this new resource. I do get my $10 haircuts at a neighborhood unisex barber shop. I think what Ajay was saying between the lines that he didn't quite believe that the owner of this new business spent 2 million dollars. Cause if he did maybe he should have given $500 to the beauty salon next door to get proper signage. I don't think those hand written uneven letters are good for business. http://goo.gl/maps/VKmoK
Rich December 11, 2013 at 03:56 PM
I'm sure the people who own that store are doing the best they can. They don't really need the Patch piling it on. It felt like a cheap attack to me. I also have issue with the Patch of late in general. Where were the stories about the Discovery Tour? From what I saw, there was not a peep and it's a major annual arts event. Is this a news source or a promotional tool for new businesses? If it's the latter, that's fine, but they should brand the Patch service as such. Patch has steadily been losing traction across the country. they recently laid off 100s of people. Maybe the news angel didn't work for them and they're making a decision to switch to fluff. Not that the Discovery Tour is hard news, but it is an annual tradition and brings a lot to the community.
Rich December 11, 2013 at 04:00 PM
And I would just add that Mr. Singh could have described the sign any number of ways: "next to a hand-written sign for a unisex hair salon." "...next to a no-frills unisex hair salon owned by the xyz family for xyz years..." "The opening of the Fig is a another sign in the evolution of the neighborhood. Located next to a mom and pop hair salon with a handwritten sign, the Fig is a bit incongruous, sticking out like a bandaged finger..." I dunno... as a professional writer myself, there's a lot of ways to skin a cat (sorry for the cliche), but I would never say something insulting about a business unless it was really seedy, like an underground dog fight or front for a drug operation, which I'm sure occurs in the neighborhood.
Kathy December 11, 2013 at 06:35 PM
Lighten up Rich......be happy that a business is trying to improve, let's face it, a seedy area that not too many people want to patronize. I'm sure you will find my statement biased in some way, but I don't care. These people need to be congratulated and supported as they've spent thousands of their own $$$ to be successful and upgrade the neighborhood. Why slam success?? Also, Ajay does a great job of being positive and he's an excellent reporter. Why should Ajay call this place a dump and discourage people from patronizing?? What's the matter with 'unisex'?? If they advertised 'men only', or 'women only' or 'lesbians only' or whatever, you'd be complaing about that too. Lighten up!! Be Happy!! And have a very Merry Christmas and a Blessed 2014.
Nimby pimp December 11, 2013 at 07:12 PM
Good luck! May your labor, investment and imagination be rewarded.
Fernando lopez December 12, 2013 at 06:07 PM
Bourgeoisie....

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