Massimo Bottura Opens First U.S. Restaurant
Massimo Bottura is on the rooftop of the Gucci flagship in Beverly Hills. It's a gorgeous, almost 70-degree February day, and the chef smiles widely while gazing down at Rodeo Drive. "I'm thinking about the snow in Modena," Bottura says, referring to his hometown, where he runs the three-Michelin-starred restaurant Osteria Francescana. "I don't want to go back."
He smiles again, adding, "I have a great excuse to stay here for a while."
Bottura is opening his first United States restaurant, Gucci Osteria da Massimo Bottura Beverly Hills, on February 17. It's the second Gucci Osteria. (Bottura and Gucci CEO Marco Bizzarri have been friends since high school in Italy.) The original has a Michelin star in Florence.
Guests at the new L.A. restaurant will be able to enjoy legendary Bottura dishes like his tortellini with 36-month Parmigiano-Reggiano from Modena. This pasta is a lactose-free miracle because the process of making Parmagiano-Reggiano turns lactose into something that's easily digestible. The dish's creamy sauce is made with water and Parmagiano-Reggiano for a "perfect umami."
"It's magic, and we have to pay respect to this magic," Bottura says.
There's plenty of other magic at Gucci Osteria in Beverly Hills. A risotto dish has the flavors and colors of pizza, with tomato, basil, and stracciatella cheese, plus a "crust" of capers powder. The menu also includes Bottura's famous Emilia burger, which blends beef with the gelatin from cotechino.
There's something Bottura is calling Noah's Ark pâté "because it's evolving all the time." Bottura is philosophically opposed to food waste and says that contemporary cuisine should be about both ethics and aesthetics. So the pâté, which is served with balsamic vinegar from Modena and some pickles, "depends on what you have in the kitchen. You have chicken, you have veal, you have beef, you have fish."
A seafood salad, Bottura says, is an upgraded version of salads that use frozen crustaceans. He's sourcing fresh ingredients from Santa Barbara and getting organic produce from local farmers' markets.
"What is the essence of our cuisine?" Bottura says. "It's looking at the past in a critical way and never with nostalgia. It's bringing the best of the past into the future."
The team that's opening Gucci Osteria in Beverly Hills includes Karime López, the chef de cuisine at Gucci Osteria in Florence. López is the first female Mexican chef with a Michelin star. Mattia Agazzi, who was López's sous chef in Florence, has moved to Los Angeles and is chef de cuisine in Beverly Hills.
With room for nearly 50 guests in its indoor-outdoor setting, Gucci Osteria could quickly become a lively destination for both lunch and dinner. The design nods to Florence with red marble tables, wicker chairs, antique mirrors, and Gucci Décor wallpaper. There are also L.A.-specific details like cherry-red velvet banquettes and herringbone floors. Out on the terrace, which features marble mosaic floors, there's a bar fashioned out of an antique wood pulpit.
This is a big year for Bottura in the United States. His Food for Soul nonprofit is working to open refettorios, which are community kitchens that use surplus food to make meals for the needy, in downtown San Francisco and Harlem this year.
Bottura, who spent the Oscars weekend partying with A-listers like Brad Pitt, Scarlett Johansson, Bradley Cooper, and Spike Lee, might be uniquely poised to unite the worlds of celebrity, cooking, and social responsibility. A grand-opening bash at Gucci Osteria in Beverly Hills on Saturday brought out Salma Hayek, Beck, and Tyler, the Creator but also L.A. chef Michael Cimarusti of Providence, a fine-dining restaurant focused on sustainable seafood. On Monday, Roy Choi paid Bottura a visit at Gucci Osteria. Bottura, who loves to hug people, sprinted over and practically tackled Choi with affection when he arrived on the rooftop.
"I was talking with Roy—cooking in a refertorrio and cooking in a three-Michelin-starred restaurant is exactly the same thing," Bottura says. "You put the same time and the same energy in it. Passion is how you transfer emotions. Cooking is an act of love."
Bottura and his staff have no doubt fallen in love with Los Angeles. Gucci Osteria pastry chef Tamara Rigo, for example, is serving a resplendent fruit-laden dessert that's inspired by seeing the sunset in Malibu. A dessert topped with chocolate-star crisps is based on the idea of Bottura's special-needs son, Charlie, experiencing the wonders of Hollywood.
"L.A. has become a hub for creative minds from all over the world similar to how Florence was back in the Renaissance," Bottura says. "If Gucci Osteria in Florence is our Renaissance 2.0, Gucci Osteria in Los Angeles could be a step toward a future where cross-cultural and ethical practices in the kitchen go hand-in-hand."
Bottura plans to open another Gucci Osteria in Tokyo's Ginza area, but he won't open one in Milan, Paris, London, or New York. He already has refertorrios in Milan, Paris, and London. He's excited about opening his Harlem refertorrio on East 119th Street later this year. He's a chef who's always looking at the future while knowing that the goal is never leaving anyone behind.