Perhaps the greatest compliment came from my friend Barbara in Emilia-Romagna, the region that inspired the menu at Chef Steve Samson’s new downtown LA restaurant, Rossoblu where I am writing the wine list.
When she saw that I had posted this image of the Rossoblu salumi board on my social media, she commented, “are you in Modena?”
I’m biased, of course: not only has Chef Steve been my friend for nearly 30 years (we met on our junior year abroad in Italy), but he’s also the chef/owner of the popular LA restaurant and pizzeria Sotto, where I’ve also been writing the wine list for the last six years.
I couldn’t have been more geeked to try the new restaurant and menu, which is based on recipes from his mother, who’s from Bologna, and the summers he spent their as a kid.
The recipe for the eggplant above comes from the kitchen of signora Valbruna, who still lives down the street from where Steve’s mom’s family lived in San Donnino in Bologna. I’ve sat at Valbruna’s table many times over the years! I even took Tracie P to eat with their family on our honeymoon: that’s how good her cooking is…
And that’s the big secret about Emilian cookery. There are many great restaurants in Emilia and most of the best ones are in the countryside. But nothing comes close to the home cooking. That’s where the real deal culinary magic happens.
I’ll never forget an evening from a couple of years ago when Steve previewed some dishes from the future Rossoblu menu at Sotto. His mother was in attendance, of course. She said she liked the tortellini but “mine are better,” she said (cue Jewish mother/Italian mother jokes here).
Steve’s tortellini were incredible last week. I’ve never had tortellini that good outside of Emilia. It was a sort of litmus test for him and he passed with rosso and blu flying colors, the red and blue of his beloved Bologna soccer club. Complimenti, Steve!
The dish is the non plus ultra of great Emilian food and I have never — never ever — had tagliatelle this good outside of homes where I’ve eaten in Parma, Reggio Emilia, Modena, and Bologna.
What a great night and great meal at the new Rossoblu, which is still in the “friends and family” phase of opening. The official launch will happen next week.
Need a reservation? I know a guy who knows a guy…