Freddy Vargas, the chef de cuisine at Scarpetta in Beverly Hills, is inviting everyone into his kitchen for a sandwich. By night, Vargas is guiding a rustic Italian menu that includes seasonal primi, handmade pastas and grilled meats. But by day, he's running Paninoteca, a sandwich shop he operates out of Scarpetta's kitchen for lunch on weekdays (think chicken parm, porchetta with fried egg, salumi and pastrami).
Vargas graduated from the Culinary Institute of America in New York, worked at David Burke & Donatella, then landed at Scarpetta in Miami before moving to Los Angeles. Lately, he says, he's been working on an herbed roasted turkey breast sandwich with fines herbes mayo, roasted tomatoes, watercress and Crescenza cheese. "The menu will evolve with sandwiches that I just love to eat because they make me so happy," he says.
What's coming up next on your menu?
At Scarpetta, we are currently working on an heirloom tomato salad with lobster, peaches and tarragon to welcome the start of summer. I am also excited to see Brentwood corn come back into season, and we will offer this with Alaskan halibut, porcini mushrooms and brown butter. We will also do our take on a BLT, possibly called PLT (pancetta), with smoked mayo, heirloom tomatoes and pickled shallots.
Latest ingredient obsession?
Mustard seeds. I love their versatility. They can be used to thicken vinaigrettes, add heat or be pickled to add acidity.
What restaurant do you find yourself going to again and again?
Pizzeria Mozza. I usually get the chicken liver crostini.
The one piece of kitchen equipment you can't live without, other than your knives?
Vita Prep, for soups, sauces, spice blends.
What's your favorite breakfast?
Bacon, sunny-side-up egg and provolone with a nice, strong coffee.
Scarpetta, Montage Beverly Hills, 225 N. Cañon Drive, Los Angeles, (855) 370-8021, www.montagebeverlyhills.com.