His 10 year + working relationship with Russell Victorioso has now culminated in Victorioso's role as Chef de Cuisine, a virtuoso with the wood burning grill and oven where the seafood, meats and fresh breads are prepared to order and infused with the accents of oak and almond wood.
Sitting at the first seat of the bar with a direct view of the action in the kitchen, I witnessed the preparation of my first course of the tasting menu that Chef Funke designed for me---the Focaccia. Chef Evan and his Pastry Chef Zairah Molina collaborated on the creation of his current selections of artisanal breads, which include the Focacia, Batard and Tigelle. Their love for bread shines through. Chef Russell prepared my airy, creviced round of simple but perfectly melded flavors of roasted tomato, Sicilian sal secco olives and marjoram. Chef Funke finished it off with a stream of extra virgin olive oil, as any fine chef would do to a pie, pasta or other italian mainstay.
The second course was a snack, or "spuntini" in Italian, of a rustically satisfying plate of fried baby artichokes atop of a puree of arugula, parsley, basil, mint and extra virgin olive oil with shaved Sardinian bottarga micro grated on top with a touch of lemon. Chef Evan then indulged me with a farmhouse, or "fattoria," course of panzanella with a few cubes of house-made bread and a bounty of heirloom juliet and sweetheart cherry tomatoes from Harry's Berries Farm in Oxnard, CA and cherokee purple tomatoes from Marianne's farm, Coastal Organics.
Chef Evan then shared a trio of seafood dishes. The first was a mound of ocean-sweet Santa Barbara Uni, with shaved fennel and radish, mint, and touch of lemon and sea salt with a playful array of edible flowers to brighten the composition. The second was a crostone with grilled Sardines and eggplant caponata. Finally, I had the exquisitely braised and grilled octopus with escarole in a chickpea zuppa---a richly soulful bite.
My savory experience guided me to the heart and soul of Chef Evan's restaurant---the hand-made pasta. Chef Evan has employed a dear friend and master in pasta making, Kosaku Kawamura, who Chef Evan has known since his pasta-inspiring years in Emiglia Romana. All the pasta is created in the production room or, literally, the "pasta laboratory," upstairs. No one is allowed in there except for Master Kawamura and his apprentice. Whatever the magic sauce or technique that is being utilized, the lightness in weight and almost, non-existent density of the pasta and the sublime essence of the pasta flavor illuminated the incomparable Tortelloni Romagnoli, made with butter, pomodoro made from the sauce tomatoes of Marianne's Coastal Organics farm, and shaved 36 month aged parmigiano reggiano. Although Chef Evan has only 3 pastas on the current menu, as highlighted in the photograph, he plans to have as many as 10 choices as he builds the operational prowess of the restaurant.
As a sweet finish to the meal, Chef Evan sent out Pastry Chef Zairah's walnut liqueur gelato. I shared my satisfying farewell to Chef Evan, thanking him for welcoming me into his home for a truly souful meal that reminded me of my culinary travels through Italy.
Bucato is located at 3280 Helms Avenue, Culver City, CA 90034, (310) 876-0286, open Tues - Sun from 5 p.m. to 12 a.m. , www.bucato.la. Since cell phones and photography are expressly prohibited at the restaurant, I was unable to provide images of my meal.