Most Americans got their first glimpse of Massimo Bottura on the very first episode of Netflix’s eye-candy food series “Chef’s Table.” The voluble proprietor of Modena’s three Michelin-starred Osteria Francescana happened to grow up with the CEO of Gucci, Marco Bizzarri, who has enlisted Bottura to launch restaurants in selected locations of the boutiques — first in Florence, and now, in Beverly Hills.
Bottura has been in L.A. overseeing the opening of the second Gucci Osteria, an intimate jewel box cafe upstairs from the celebrated boutique. With a wide balcony overlooking Rodeo Drive, it’s a chic spot for watching the parade of Maseratis and shopper from a relaxed perch above the fray.
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Gucci Osteria is already off to a starry start, hosting an Oscars pre-party attended by the likes of Saorise Ronan and Gwyneth Paltrow. The upstairs aerie is likely to be in demand for cocktail parties and festive lunches alike.
Since it’s designed by the venerable Italian brand’s creative team, the 50-seat restaurant is full of touches of old-school European elegance. A star motif is tastefully sprinkled throughout, with a star-patterned marble mosiac floor and an antique wooden pulpit serving as the outdoor bar. Gucci’s signature glade print wallpaper accents the entry along with a star-festooned chandelier. Burgundy marble tables are dressed with red and ivory floral Herbarium-patterned china along with embossed leather placemats and linens and flatware with an air of vintage luxury.
While Bottura’s Modena restaurant is a 12-course tasting menu extravaganza, the Gucci Osteria is more of a drop-in-for-lunch while you’re shopping affair. But the menu incorporates many of his whimsical touches that helped Osteria Francescana win best restaurant in the world awards several times, with help from chef de cuisine Mattia Agazzi and chef Karime López of the Florence outpost.
Vibrantly-hued risotto is styled to look like a pizza, with swaths of red tomato and green basil topped with stracciatella cheese and caper dust. Bottura’s famous tortellini is made with 36-month old Parmigiano-Reggiano brought from Modena, with a deeply-flavored sauce that he says requires no added cream to create “intense, perfect umami” flavor, he says.
The team has been inspired by local flavors, Bottura says, like the vivid citrus dessert that references a Venice Beach sunset. Another dessert continues the theme with a shower of chocolate stars, an homage to his chocolate-loving son Charlie.
“Every dish has a very important story,” Bottura promises.
Bottura is also cooking up another project in California, but don’t expect a high-end osteria. Instead, he’s bringing his Food for Soul concept to Reffetorio San Francisco, which will use products that would normally be wasted to feed unhoused people and others in need. Another reffetorio is planned to open in New York’s Harlem sometime this year.
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