Bucato, Evan Funke's long-awaited temple to pigs, porchetta, pasta and rustic Italian cuisine, opened last night in the Helms Bakery complex. For those of you with Los Angeles food board games, that would be right across the walkway from Lukshon, a few doors down from both Father's Office and the future home of Sherry Yard's new bakery, a parking lot away from the Let's Be Frank truck, and across the street from Bulgarini Gelato's western outpost. In other words, maybe it's time to move to Culver City.
If you haven't been playing, Funke is the former executive chef at Rustic Canyon, a veteran of Spago and the driver, both literally and metaphorically, of The Porchetta Truck, which is just what it sounds like it is. Funke and his business partner Ed Keebler have spent a long time completely reinventing the former home of Beacon, building an open kitchen, a second-floor pasta lab, two outdoor patios and, well, lots of very cool bells and whistles. (Editor's note: Bucato's designers are L.A.-based architecture and design firm Undisclosable Inc.)
They brought in pasta-maker extraordinaire Kosaku Kawamura (an old friend from Funke's days making pasta in Italy) from Japan, chef de cuisine Russell Victorioso (formerly of Hatfield's), and pastry chef Zairah Molina (also a Spago vet), managing to jigsaw an amazing amount of talent, culinary gadgets and happily voyeuristic open kitchen space into relatively very little footage. (Mind the pasta rolling pins hanging from the ceiling!)
On the menu last night: three iterations of pasta, made upstairs in that pasta lab, which will change as often as Kawamura feels like changing them, including tagliatelle ragu vecchia scuola, with Parmigiano-Reggiano; strascinati ragu Toscano, with Pecorino stagionato; tortelloni Romagnoli, with brown butter, sage and Parmigiano-Reggiano. Seafood dishes: octopus with escarole and cannelini bean soup; sea bream crudo with fennel, radish, lemon and mint; and a barracuda putanesca. Two main dishes: pigeon with wild mushrooms, roasted tomato and green olives; and Funke's justly famous porchetta, served with wild arugula and lemon.
Also on the menu: figs with burrata; heirloom tomato panzanella; bitter greens with honey dates, capers and bagna cauda; squash blossoms with sheep's milk ricotta and mint; eggplant caponata with crostino and white anchovies; fried artichokes with botarga; focaccia with roasted tomatoes and olives; and a pretty stunning lamb leg spiedino, insanely tender skewers of lamb served in a verdant pool of salsa rustica. Oh, and don't forget to order the bread, a warm, crusty half-batard of it, which comes with a slab of goat's milk butter and ash salt.
Among the desserts, pastry chef Molina has a pretty glorious bowl of zeppole, or Italian doughnuts, piped with peaches and mascarpone, served in a small pool of strawberry sauce, with fennel pollen sprinkled as somebody else would powdered sugar. Order the espresso. Chat up the friendly staff, who were remarkable not only for their general calm in the midst of opening night managed chaos, but also for their bow ties. Bow ties and porchetta and beautiful pasta. Some things are worth waiting for, aren't they.
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