Here’s what the three-Michelin-star Italian at the helm has in store for L.A.
Words by S. IRENE VIRBILA
When three-Michelin-star chef Massimo Bottura called up Gucci CEO Marco Bizzarri and suggested they make an osteria, or Italian-style tavern, on the rooftop of the Gucci building in Beverly Hills — Bottura’s first U.S. restaurant — Bizzarri didn’t hesitate. “Marco, on the other side of the phone, said, ‘OK, let’s do it,’” Bottura says. “A year later, we opened.”
It wasn’t a hard sell. The two are childhood friends — and had already opened a Gucci Osteria da Massimo Bottura in Florence in 2018 — and Bottura is the man behind Osteria Francescana, the establishment in Modena, Italy, which sat at the top of the World’s 50 Best Restaurants list in 2016 and 2018. Bottura also famously starred in the very first episode of Netflix’s Chef’s Table series and the 2016 documentary Theater of Life, the latter of which follows the culinary icon as he opens a gourmet soup kitchen for the underprivileged community in Milan.
The Gucci Osteria da Massimo Bottura Beverly Hills’ terrace looks out to a panorama of blue sky and the palm trees that line Rodeo Drive. “I’m not going home,” Bottura says with a laugh. “California!”
The space is very intimate — there are just 50 bistro-style wicker seats and red marble tables (sans tablecloths) spread across the black and auburn mosaic-floored balcony and the covered area, which features herringbone hardwood floors, a black lacquer ceiling, textured pastel yellow wallcoverings and a high-backed red velvet tufted banquette. The indoor-outdoor space further reflects Gucci creative director Alessandro Michele’s self-professed “attic chic” style with such accents as botanical wallpaper, ornate Italian terra-cotta planters, antique mirrors, pale turquoise French doors, a faded vintage rug and star-shaped recessed lights.
“Every dish has a story. We don’t cook just to make good food. We cook to transfer emotion”
To open the Beverly Hills edition, Bottura brought over the Florence osteria’s chef de cuisine, Karime Lopez — the first female Mexican chef to receive a Michelin star — and appointed Mattia Agazzi, a former sous chef at the original Gucci Osteria, as the chef de cuisine in L.A.
The resulting menu is lighthearted and farmers market-driven, an ongoing conversation between Italy and California and further afield. Bottura explains, “The essence of our cuisine is to look at the past with a critical eye — never a nostalgic one — to bring the past into the future and use technique to highlight the ingredients and not the chef’s ego.”
A meal might start with Noah’s Ark pâté made with whatever they have in the kitchen, so nothing is in excess. Bottura strongly feels that wasting food is the worst thing you can do in 2020. (He founded the Food for Soul nonprofit project four years ago to raise social awareness about food wastage and hunger.)
Insalata di mare is made from squid and shrimp sourced from fishermen in Santa Barbara, and lightly cooked to preserve its natural flavor, framed with seaweed and beets. Agazzi’s contribution, risotto as pizza, is perfectly al dente rice topped with a bold tomato sauce, fragrant basil, puddles of stracciatella and a sprinkling of dark delicious caper powder to mimic the crust.
Tortellini is absolutely obligatory, modeled after Bottura’s grandmother’s. Tiny as your thumbnail, they sit in a smooth Parmigiano Reggiano sauce made only with the 36-month-aged cheese and water, not cream. “Water is truth,” Bottura says. ”It reveals the essence of Parmigiano Reggiano, which, it turns out, is the perfect umami.”
A spectacular Venice Beach sunset witnessed by Agazzi and his partner, pastry chef Tamara Rigo, upon arriving in L.A., inspired a citrus dessert called Sunnyside Up. And every Bottura menu pays tribute to the chef’s teenage son Charlie’s love for chocolate: Here, Charley Marley Goes to Hollywood is a confection of razor-thin chocolate and orange stars hiding a scoop of dreamy mascarpone-laced chocolate.
What’s next for Bottura? Another Gucci Osteria in Ginza, Tokyo, the third and final in his portfolio. Then, in September, he’s opening in Harlem his first American Refettorio, a soup kitchen where cooks will use leftover ingredients from kitchens around Manhattan to feed the homeless — another pioneering move for a chef at the top of his game.
Gucci Osteria da Massimo Bottura Beverly Hills opens Feb. 17. 347 N. Rodeo Dr., Beverly Hills.
Feature image: Tortellini in a Parmigiano Reggiano sauce. Photo by Jakob Layman.
Feb. 13, 2020
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