For her steakhouse named after 1930s boxing promoter Kate Mantilini, restaurateur Marilyn Lewis directed young architects Thom Mayne and Michael Rotondi of Morphosis to create "a roadside steakhouse for the future – with a clock."
Mayne and Rotondi were part of a young generation of Los Angeles architects who searched the city for commonplace materials to use in their buildings. These "Deconstructivists" saw all objects as potential building materials and were inspired by everything from chain link fencing to hot-rod cars to watch mechanisms.
Kate Mantilini was one of the first realized projects by Morphosis. The architects transformed a former Wells Fargo Bank branch on Wilshire Boulevard by using industrial materials to create a scaffold-like cage around the exterior of the building.
To meet their client's desire for a clock, Mayne and Rotondi looked at watch mechanisms and motors. They created a sculptural orrery – an old-fashioned mechanical model of the solar system – that projects through a fourteen-foot skylight in the ceiling. One end of the orrery forms a sundial on the roof while the other touches an etching of the restaurant on the restaurant's floor.
The large, open interior dining space is filled with sunlight and the walls layered with three-dimensional collages. Kate Mantilini is an icon of the late 1980s dining scene in Los Angeles.
By commissioning Morphosis, Lewis created a restaurant where dining out was an experience that went far beyond the food. The Los Angeles-based firm has since become internationally known as one of the most influential and technologically advanced architectural collaboratives.
The restaurant closed in 2014. As of August 2014, the Beverly Hills Cultural Heritage Commission was assessing the building's significance to determine whether to initiate landmark designation.