The folks who brought you Rustic Canyon, Huckleberry and Sweet Rose Creamery have now officially opened the exceedingly pretty doors of a new restaurant, a pizzeria named Milo & Olive, which begins serving lunch and dinner today.
Milo & Olive is thus the fourth Santa Monica eatery from Josh Loeb and pastry chef Zoe Nathan, who named their new pizzeria after their 1-year-old son Milo. (And Olive because they just liked it.) Rustic Canyon executive chef Evan Funke is running the open kitchen, making pizzas in the impressive wood-burning Mugnaini oven (almond wood at the moment) and overseeing a menu that functions pretty much as his translation of the produce and products from the nearby Santa Monica farmers market into slightly more articulated form.
The bakery opened about two weeks ago and has been serving breakfast as well as coffee and pastries. Starting today, the place will be open every day of the week, from 7 a.m. until 11 p.m., since chefs and the parents of small children never sleep anyway.
“It made sense,” says Loeb about opening another restaurant in the neighborhood. “Both Zoe and I have always wanted a place that had an open European kitchen. And there wasn't enough space at Huckleberry for all the breads.” That the location, previously Marina Pastry, already had a 6 deck rotating bread oven meant that it made even more sense.
Nathan moved her proofer over from Huckleberry, and she and her bakers started making new pastries and breads for the new location: homemade bagels, 100% whole wheat chocolate chip cookies, gluten-free banana chocolate muffins, sweet cream brioche, and a skillet flatbread built with butternut squash that resembles a deep dish pizza more than anything else. (Vollkornbrot and chocolate bread are coming.)
Funke took over the open kitchen, making pizzas with Nathan's pizza dough (whole grain flours, 48-hour process), housemade pork belly sausage, fresh cheeses and local produce. “We're trying to get as close to 100% as possible,” Funke says about his ingredients. “It's challenging when Mother Nature is involved, as she doesn't always cooperate.” As for the pizza oven, a turquoise beauty smack in the middle of the open kitchen, Funke — who got back from a trip to Italy only a month before Milo & Olive opened — says that he has plans for not only baking pizzas but roasting whole pigs in there too. “Cooking over wood is a different experiment every time. It's the hearth; it never grows cold.” True enough, as the restaurant won't be closing for more than about eight hours at a time.
You get a pretty clear view of the blue oven from most of the place, which will make any whole pig experimentation pretty entertaining. In fact, Milo & Olive — like Ford's Filing Station, Angeli Caffe, Pizzeria Mozza and Spice Table — is a great example of the hearth as center of the restaurant, not unlike the kitchen as the center of the home.
Milo & Olive is not a large place: Its 24 seats are split between two communal tables and eight seats at the bar. (Loeb says that he's planning on the business being about 50% take-out.) The open kitchen, therefore, comprises about half of the restaurant, with its marble counters and steel and wood surfaces and busy industry of plates and knives and ingredients the focal point. Who needs a floor show when you have pizza being made right in front of you. Oh, and ceiling fans for the kids. Because if you look up, you can see pretty fans spinning under the ceiling's high wood beams, fans put in particularly for Milo to watch while his parents run a restaurant. Who needs television when you have fans and firelit pizza and buzzing espresso machines.