Finally, a reason to get stuck in traffic on Lincoln Boulevard in Venice. Because as of Friday, April 11, you can just go to Superba Food + Bread instead, where you'll find a remarkable surfeit of riches jammed into a roughly 5,000-square-foot space that once housed an auto body shop.
Superba Food + Bread is a project from Paul Hibler, who also owns the nearby Superba Snack Bar, as well as Pitfire Pizza and the newish East Borough in Culver City, and it's some project indeed.]
Superba Food + Bread brings together the formidable talents of chef Jason Travi (yes, he's still at Littlefork; he's commuting); pastry chef Lincoln Carson, previously corporate pastry chef for Michael Mina; and baker Jonathan Eng, veteran of Le Pain Quotidien.
Add a Stumptown coffee program helmed by Handsome Coffee co-founder Tyler Wells, a $65,000 Italian four-deck bread oven, a wood-burning rotisserie oven, a patio with heat lamps, a rolling garage door (a holdover from when the place was an actual garage) and an actual restaurant parking lot, and you have a place that has pretty much overnight become the center of Hiber's growing empire, as well as a reason to head to the Westside if you weren't there already.
If that seems pretty ambitious for one roughly 100-seat restaurant, it makes more sense when you consider that Hiber is already using it as the engine for his other places. Eng's breads are being sent out to Superba Snack Bar, and he'll be baking baguettes for East Borough; Carson will also make desserts for the other restaurants. “There's no turning back,” Hibler said yesterday at his newest restaurant. “I can't get that oven out of here.”
True enough. The massive Bassanina bread oven, which forms the centerpiece of the open kitchen, had to be built on-site. And the rotisserie next to it – a stack of firewood separates the two ovens – on which Superba is planning roasting whole ducks for specials, would be pretty hard to get out, too. Assuming you wanted to. Which, considering what Travi is cooking on that rotisserie, you really don't.
Hiber says that baking excellent bread has always been a priority for him, and in fact was one impetus for his pizza empire. And Eng is making some pretty stunning breads: pain au levain and spelt sourdough, a 100% rye bread and a chia seed sourdough shaped like an S (for Superba). All that baking means Eng shows up at the kitchen at 2:30 in the morning, or about an hour after the last of the dinner crew leaves.
Carson's pastries and desserts are a notch above your average restaurant, too: His gorgeous lemon curd tarts and s'mores pastries, among others, will go into the huge refrigerated pastry case that's currently en route from Italy.
As for Travi, he says that his involvement with the Superba project has been in the works for a long time, quite as long as his association with Littlefork, the seafood-centric restaurant in Hollywood where he's been chef since it opened a year and a half ago. (Littlefork is co-owned by Dave Reiss, who also partners with Roy Choi on A-Frame and Sunny Spot, as well as other restaurants.) “I knew I could do another project, and Dave said, 'You can do both.'” Lucky for all of us that Travi doesn't need much sleep.
What the chef is doing at the new restaurant won't surprise people who have followed his wonderful cooking around town, from Spago to La Terza to Fraiche to Littlefork. In other words, rustic, technique-driven food, with an emphasis on local ingredients: lamb neck osso buco with braised greens, bone-in skate wing with charred lettuces, butcher's steak with Bordelaise sauce and onion agrodolce, arctic char with peas and rhubarb. We could go on, but it's probably easier (and a lot more fun) to just head over to the restaurant for dinner sometime.
Befitting a restaurant with a great coffee program and a stellar bakery, Superba Food + Bread is currently open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, six days a week, with brunch served on the weekends. If you don't want to sit down for a meal, the restaurant is designed for that, too, with a walk-up coffee bar and a separate bakery counter. Right now, Superba is closed Mondays, although that probably won't be the case for long.