The Big Idea
The historian Isaiah Berlin once famously divided writers into foxes, who flit around among experiences, and hedgehogs, who are devoted to a single organizing principle. Among chefs in Los Angeles, perhaps in the world, Nancy Silverton is the most dogged of hedgehogs, 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 the One Big Idea. But the best full-fledged restaurants, which must accommodate the needs of all sorts of diners, are ordinarily run by foxes, able to mold an appetizer from Sardinia, a Japanese-influenced entrée and a rather French dessert into an entertaining if not coherent whole. Silverton’s new osteria, a sleek, bustling restaurant in the same building as her Pizzeria Mozza, may have at its center her mozzarella bar, a loose take on the mozzarella-centric cuisine at the chic wine bar Obika near the Pantheon in central Rome, but it is far reaching and ambitious, the sort of thing she hasn’t attempted since she opened Campanile with her ex-husband Mark Peel almost 20 years ago. At the moment, reservations are as hard to get as floor seats to a Lakers game.
So it is to her credit — as well as a tribute to the skills of Matt Molina, a young San Gabriel native who is her chef, and the contributions of partners Joe Bastianich and Mario Batali and wine czar David Rosoff — that Osteria Mozza pulls together even in its raw, early days: the braised guinea fowl and the spoon-tender pork roast inspired by rural Umbrian trattorias sharing menu space with meat-sauced garganelli and tortellini en brodo from the most sophisticated restaurants in Bologna; the baroque, almost sashimi-like constructions of fresh mozzarella and exotic condiments co-existing with the simplest possible rendition of linguine cacio e pepe, resonating with the heat and fragrance of freshly ground pepper. (The standard disclaimer applies: Nancy is a longtime 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 close to extraordinary now, but what is even more exciting is the restaurant that I suspect it will evolve into over the next several years. 6602 Melrose Ave., L.A., (323) 297-0100.
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