Chef Evan Funke and partner Ed Keebler are slated to open their new restaurant Bucato ("laundry" in Italian) in the old Beacon space at the Helms Bakery complex in Culver City on Wednesday. The long-awaited project from the former Rustic Canyon chef has been in the making for the last two and a half years.
The restaurant is centered around Funke's love of Italian food and culture, mainly pasta. After spending time in Italy learning how to make pasta by hand under Allesandra Spisni at La Vechia Scuola Bolognese, Funke has brought sfoglino Kosaku Kawamura and the Bolognese pasta fatto a mano style to the restaurant. There is a temperature-controlled room upstairs devoted to making pasta daily and in some instances to order, Funke anticipates. It's equipped with a couple of shaping and cutting tables and a refrigerator. No rollers or other machines will be used in the pasta making.
"In the Bolognese tradition, it's basically a wood table and a stick, and that's how we make pasta," said Funke. "It's eggs and flour only, and it's wood and it's the will of the pasta maker behind it."
In addition to the pasta, Funke is excited about a dish that came from the mind of his chef de cuisine, Russell Victorioso, formerly at Hatfield's and one of Funke's former culinary students. It's a pig's head with the brain and tongue removed, then confited and roasted and served with pickles, salad, brown buttered brain on crostini and the tongue.
"You get this beautiful face cracklins, this beautiful soft guanciale underneath it," Funke said. "It's a little edgy, and I love those parts of the animal that don't get the respect."
Funke is taking his 10 years of classical training and what he learned while working at Spago and mixing it with rustic southern Italian, French, Spanish and Moroccan influences on his menu. Items include eight to 10 hand-made pastas and a selection of fish and meat cooked in a wood-burning oven that Funke insists isn't for pizza. In fact there will be "absolutely no pizza" on the menu. The meats and seasonal items will come from the 16 farmers and ranchers with whom Funke works. There are also six beers on tap and a small list of French and Italian wines.
Funke said he wanted to create three unique dining experiences for the 115-seat restaurant on the first floor with the front patio, the main interior dining room and the back patio. The interior, designed by Undisclosable, features white walls, low wooden tables and high-backed chairs and a 10- to 12-seat bar area that looks into the wood and gas kitchen with a coffee room to the side.
One of the most striking features in the dining room is a series of knives stuck into a wall just to the left of the entrance in the shape of California. Funke insists it's geographically correct and that all the knives were sourced from local flea markets. Another is a chandelier made of oversized wooden rolling pins, like the ones Funke uses to make pasta. His Oscar-winning cinematographer father asked a craftsman friend to make the lights and helped with the lighting in the restaurant.
If you look up from the main dining room, you'll see the glass-enclosed pasta room. Also upstairs is a butcher room for breaking down whole animals, including goats, lambs, cows and pigs, and a baking room for pastry chef Zairah Molina outfitted with a steam-injected bread oven from France. Molina plans to make three breads to start with: foccacia with roasted tomato and sal secco olive, batard with goat butter and ash salt and Tigelle, a pan-fried dough served with pesto Modena. Her sweets include bomboloni with fennel sugar served in a paper bag, a torta al pistacchio (pistachio cake) with peaches, basil ice cream and pink peppercorn tuile, and a chocolate hazelnut perfetto.
Funke is attempting to combat what he calls "gastro-A.D.D." "I feel that in L.A. people have a little bit of gastro-A.D.D., and we want to take back the fundamentals of hospitality," he said. "This is not a fine dining restaurant, even though it may look like it. We're approachable to everybody." He's also asking patrons to refrain from using their cellphones while dining.
The restaurant will be open for dinner Tuesday through Sunday, with the addition of a seventh night of dinner service, weekend brunch and lunch service in the future.
3280 Helms Ave., Culver City, (310) 876-0286.