Robert “Bobo” Ivan is co-owner and executive chef of the recently opened Ciboteca in Santa Monica, a gourmet market and fast-casual restaurant that he opened with partner Vittorio Viotti.
Ivan, born in Conegliano in Veneto, Italy, and raised in the small town of Sacile, chose a culinary career path at 14. “I wanted to travel, see the world,” he said.
After attending cooking college in Longarone, he worked as a commis at the Michelin-starred Al Capriolo in Vodo di Cadore, then in kitchens across Europe and in New York. In 2004, he and Viotti opened Piccolo Venice, followed by Hostaria del Piccolo.
At Ciboteca, he said, his aim is to create a modern Italian marketplace. On the menu are a selection of panini and crostini, salads and sides, and takeout items including pasta, sauces and spreads: arancini (fried risotto balls), chicken Milanese, lasagna and eggplant Parmigiana. A patisserie showcases baked goods such as cakes, tarts and cookies by Yukari Kamiya.
What’s coming up next on your menu?
At Ciboteca, we hope to continue to evolve the menus (both gastronomia and patisserie) with seasonal ingredients. Lately, at Piccolo, we are experimenting with a lot more seafood since our next concept will be a casual Italian pescheria. ... Since we’ve become more creative with seafood, I’ve been a little obsessed with sourcing from the ocean. I met with a fisherman recently who will almost exclusively fish for our restaurants, and he is introducing us to a lot of seasonal and fresh stuff: spiny lobsters, razor clams, sea urchin and much more.
The one piece of kitchen equipment you can’t live without, other than your knives?
I like to always have a salamander [broiler] in my kitchens. I don’t typically use it just for finishing touches but find it essential for the actual cooking of some of my preparations.
Favorite kitchen soundtrack?
When I’m not in the kitchen, I’m writing or composing music, so I’m very influenced by the sounds that play while I cook. At Piccolo, I handpick all of the music for our dinner playlist and continuously modify it. Currently, it varies from jazz to classic covers, Japanese pop, soundtracks, opera and electronica. My theory is that everyone is allowed to pitch in with their own taste; it keeps a happy flow in the kitchen. During preparation one day someone decided to play ‘80s rock, and that’s what we all listened to that day. I love this because often I discover music I never heard.
What’s your favorite breakfast?
I’m a finicky breakfast eater, and, given that I never know exactly what I want in the morning, I often lean toward dishes I know and love, like the steak and eggs at the Tasting Kitchen or the toasted butter croissant with peaches and soft-scrambled eggs at Farm Shop.
What’s the last non-food-related book you read?
Dan Brown’s “Inferno.” I connected with it greatly because he took me through a visionary and fantastic tour of Florence, Venice and Istanbul, giving new interpretations to what I already knew and uncovering new meanings of things I didn’t know existed. It was an incredible journey. My favorite saying, which I wrote on Piccolo’s wall, is actually from Dante’s “Inferno”: “We weren’t born to live like brutes, but to pursue virtue and knowledge.”
Ciboteca, 606 Broadway, Santa Monica, (310) 458-8852, www.ciboteca.com.