Tuesday, May 27, 2008

LA's Hottest Restaurant

When I made my plans to head south to Mexico, I included a one-day stopover in Los Angeles to see my daughter & her husband Mike, and to see my friend Nancy Silverton’s hot new restaurant Osteria Mozza in Hollywood [ did I mention she is partners in the restaurant with uber-chef Mario Batali—it is his first restaurant in Los Angeles], and Joe Bastianich.

Nancy is one of America’s best Pastry Chefs, and kick-started the artisan bread movement in this country when she opened with then-husband famous Chef Mark Peel their restaurant Campanile, and the legendary La Brea Bakery. She has authored numerous cookbooks on pastries and breads.

Mark Peel, Nancy Silverton and I all worked together at Michael’s restaurant in Santa Monica in 1979. Nancy was our first cashier, not yet working in pastries; Mark was the nighttime sous-chef; and I was a waiter begging to get into the kitchen to apprentice. [And Mark was married to another woman, not Nancy].

Nancy soon began working with Jimmy Brinkley, Michael’s pastry chef, as his assistant. She got Michael to send her to France to study at the famous school for pastries Lenôtre.…and when she came back, she became our pastry chef, Mark left to work at Chez Panisse in Berkeley to learn pizza making Alice Waters style—[and then became Wolfgang Puck’s first chef at the original Spago]—and Nancy became Spago’s first pastry chef. Mark got a divorce and he and Nancy married.

When Mark left Michael’s, I had moved from nighttime line cook to being Lunch Chef, I got the opportunity to become the nighttime sous chef, under head chef Jonathan Waxman.

I had heard that it was 6 weeks in advance to get a reservation at Osteria Mozza, and since I was leaving in less than 2 weeks I wondered if Nancy would be able to accommodate a party of 8 of us on such short notice. When I called she was eating a “tuna sandwich” she told me, and laughed out loud when I asked if I could bring a party of 8 to dinner on a Saturday night.

Mariel & Michael, David Snyder


.....She told me “we only take parties up to 7 people.”

Knowing her achilles heal is handsome men, I decided to let drop that good friend, Lucky Vanous [he of the famous Diet Coke commercial—where women elbow each other out of the way to see the hot construction worker take off his shirt before quaffing a Diet Coke] would also be coming to dinner with us.

Gordon Naccarato, Lucky Vanous, Mariel Schneider

I am teasing [only a bit] about Nancy as she also knows Lucky and has helped him with some advice on his latest venture—Lucky Devils—his great little restaurant on Hollywood Blvd. near Grauman’s Chinese Theatre. He serves the absolute best milkshake I have ever had—a Toasted Pecan Shake made with rich custard, and plenty of fresh toasted pecans. Amazing. Jonathan Gold, who recently won a Pulitzer Prize for food writing has described Lucky’s place as having a delicious burger as good as the cult favorite “Father’s Office”, and that he has created a menu that guarantees no one will ever having a body that looks like Lucky’s. They also make amazing Guinness Milkshakes—that are astoundingly delicious.

Anyway, when Nancy heard Lucky was coming she relented and walked right over to the maître d' and handed him her cell phone and told him to give us a table at whatever time I wanted. Later I found out that the party of 7 rule is because that is all that can comfortably fit around their largest table.

Our other dinner guests besides Lucky were to be my daughter Mariel, her husband Michael Schneider, Warren Coulter, Mary Beth Schulte, and David Snyder.

The place was jammed to the rafters—a classic room that reminded me of New York, with contemporary touches, dark woodwork, grey blue teal walls, handsome bar with high-top marble stands for standing, and next to that

As we elbowed our way to the bar, the noise was exuberant/deafening… [ the only thing worse than a noisy restaurant—is a quiet one]. This place is a smash success.

Warren Coulter was already waiting in the bar sipping a drink. As we waited for the rest of our party to arrive we ordered some cocktails and red wine by the glass from the all Italian list [some 35 pages long]. Thank God they are extremely well-versed in wine and were able to get us some delicious choices…including the Magnum of Aragon '04 [$145]we ordered with dinner.

Warren used to manage restaurants in New York City for friend/chef Jonathan Waxman, and at one time worked as an assistant for Diane Sawyer at ABC. The he moved to Aspen to manage my restaurant Gordon’s where we became instant best friends. Warren has perfect taste in all things, and it is silly to disagree with him, as he is always right. And he is extremely funny! He moved to LA after my restaurant closed, and got back into the TV business where he worked for Big Ticket Television that makes Judge Judy, and Moesha to name a couple.

He now co-owns and manages a fabulous high-end furniture business called the Squires Company located in the Pacific Design Center in West Hollywood, and is in 10 showrooms around the country including Wayne Martin Showroom in the design center in Seattle and Portland. They sell through interior designers.

David Snyder, Gordon Naccarato, Warren Coulter
Mary Beth Schulte is as extremely gifted Chef who has worked at some of the best restaurants in LA. We met rather tragically after one of my chefs, Paulie, from the infamous Monkey Bar, died of a drug overdose. He had been a private chef for Jack Nicholson before he came to work for me.

A friend of M.B.'s gave her a call and she immediately went to work on the grill--filling Paulie's shoes--without even so much as having a second to learn our menu and performed flawlessly-- and we became instant friends. Mary Beth too has perfect taste—in clothing, food, & style and has helped me open several restaurants—including The Shed [now LA's Best Restaurant Lucques], The Beach House at Purdy, and Pacific Grill. Mary Beth currently resides in La Jolla, CA where she continues to cater to high-end clients such as Sylvester & Jennifer Flavin Stallone, and does restaurant and menu consulting for select clients--including Lucky Vanous at Lucky Devils. She also sells a line of high-end cosmetics called Seriesse International also owned by Sylvester Stallone & Jennifer Flavin.

David Snyder arrived from Connecticut, where he lives with his wife Jenny [daughter of famed movie director Norman Jewison]and their children. David worked as executive head of creative content for over 10 years for Walt Disney Television International for many years in London, and has created and produced hundreds of hours of animation, live-action programming and documentaries for Walt Disney Co. His programs have won numerous awards, including a handful of BAFTAs [British Academy of Film and Television Arts].

David now has his own production company Brandissimo Inc. that specializes in creating an emotional connection between brands and kids. They create and produce content to educate and entertain young audiences. His series include: Harry & His Bucket Full of Dinosaurs; Flockhearts; and Bigfoot presents Meteor & the Mighty monster Trucks was the top-rated series on Discover Kids, and was nominated for the 2007 Emmy Award.

Lucky Vanous, Gordon Naccarato, Warren Coulter
...Nancy sent us out several complimentary dishes to try on the house:

Fresh Ricotta & Egg Raviolo with browned butter [$18]. When you cut into the large raviolo it basically gushes golden yolk that mingles sensually with the pool of browned butter sauce. A very sexy and delicious dish-- tt was gone in about three seconds, with moans heard all-around the table.

Mary Beth ordered Nancy's version of a chopped salad: Ciliegine with iceberg, salame, pepperoncino & green olive tapenade [$15]. Next came the Garganelli with Ragu Bolognese [$18] also delicious.

David ordered the Orecchiette with sausage & Swiss chard [$18]. Everyone passed their dish around as it was too delicious not to share with everyone else at the table.

I decided as a starter to get the Burricotti with braised artichokes, pine nuts, currants & mint pesto [$15]. The dish was beautiful and came served atop crostini...I hated to share, it was so good. Burricotti is fresh mozzarella filled with ricotta, and was delicious beneath the tender artichokes. The golden raisins provided a touch of sweetness, against the luscious cheese, the pine nuts a nice toasty crunch. Luscious.
Mariel & I ordered the Linguine with Clams, pancetta & spicy Fresno chilies [$19]. The dish was a wild tangle of al dente noodles and clams. My one mild disappointment with the pasta course, the clams were on the large side and were very gritty with sand, not small, tender and delicious like we are used to here in the NW with our wonderful Manila clams.

Lucky ordered the Crisp Duck al Mattone with pear mostarda & Brussels sprouts [$29]. It came served unadorned except for a lemon wedge, on a wood block cutting board, with the brussels sprouts served on the side. This duck confit was delicious and tender, falling off the bone, and the fruit mustard a nice touch. More moans...

For dessert we tried the Crostata and the Rosemary Olive Oil Cakes olive oil gelato & rosemary brittle [$11] served as miniatures, the cakes reminded me of madeleines, but unfortunately were a tad dry, for being made with olive oil. The olive oil gelato seemed sweet and salty and good, and the rosemary brittle beautiful and unusual.
The Fig & Strawberry Jam Crostata with Meyer lemon crema & saba $11 this was a delicious tart with a sweet crust, jammy interior --the lemon cream was really more of a panna cotta...wonderful.
Can't wait to eat here again. Thanks Nancy for all the extra treats you sent us. [Plus I haven't tried Pizzeria Mozza next door, which is Nancy/Batali's more casual venue, which my daughter assures me is wonderful!]
The entire bill with wine, and a few other dishes not shown came to: $675.00 including tip for our party of 7, which seems to me to be tremendously good value for cooking and execution at this level from two of the country's best chefs.

Also when in LA be sure and try Lucky's restaurant--delicious food and the most amazing milkshakes you will ever taste!


Lucky Devils
6613 Hollywood BlvdHollywood, CA 90028
Phone: (323) 465-8259
Osteria Mozza
Pizzeria Mozza
641 N Highland Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90038
Phone: (323) 297-0101
The Esquire Company
David Snyder
Seriesse International by Sylvester Stallone & Jennifer Flavin
contact Mary Beth Schulte

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