Nancy Silverton is the most dogged of chefs, dedicated to perfecting the most elemental of foods through sheer strength of will. Almost anybody who has tasted what she has wrought in the media of bread, pastry, cheese or pizza can attest to the power of her obsessions. And at the Osteria, a sleek, bustling restaurant in the same building as her Pizzeria Mozza, the intensity of the restaurant's cuisine radiates from the mozzarella bar at its heart, a loose take on the mozzarella-intensive wine bar Obika near the Pantheon in central Rome, and a testament to the vitality to be drawn from a single ingredient whose freshness and provenance are so crucial - imagine a great sushi chef who has chosen to work with mozzarella instead of fish. Really, you have never tasted such cheese. But a fine restaurant is of course more than just cheese, and Osteria Mozza also synthesizes Silverton's roots in the area of Umbria where she has her summer home, and the current Emilia-Romagna fixations of Matt Molina, a young San Gabriel native who is her chef, as well as the polish from partners Joe Bastianich and Mario Batali and wine czar David Rosoff. The the braised guinea fowl and the spoon-tender pork roast inspired by rural Umbrian trattorias share menu space with meat-sauced fresh garganelli and tortellini en brodo from the homeliest kitchens in Bologna; the sashimi-like constructions of fresh mozzarella co-exist with the simplest possible rendition of linguine cacio e pepe, which resonates with the heat and fragrance of freshly ground pepper. (The standard disclaimer applies: Nancy is a family friend and she co-wrote a book with my wife. You are free to discount any of my opinions, as foolish as you would be to do so.) Osteria Mozza is pretty extraordinary now, but what is even more exciting is the restaurant that I suspect it will evolve into over the next several years.
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