No one bowl of spaghetti has probably garnered as much attention as the spaghetti pomodoro from New York chef Scott Conant. The mound of perfectly twirled pasta with basil and tomato has followed Conant from restaurant to restaurant, and it has landed at his newest venture, an Italian restaurant called the Ponte that he's opening with Los Angeles restaurateur Stephane Bombet on Beverly Boulevard, just blocks from the Beverly Center.
The restaurant is named for the term "pontes," or what the Italian immigrants from Pontelandolfo called themselves when they settled in Waterbury, Conn., where Conant grew up.
"It means 'he's one of us,'" said Conant during a phone call. "It kind of brings me back to that Italian American experience to a certain extent, but mostly to that sense of hospitality, that you really want to be around the table."
The Ponte is in the space formerly occupied by Terrine, the California brasserie Bombet ran with chef Kris Morningstar that closed late last year. Currently under construction, the Ponte is scheduled to open by the end of the month.
Conant is no longer affiliated with the Scarpetta Italian restaurants — the Beverly Hills location at the Montage Hotel closed last spring but there are more locations across the country — and said he was looking for a new space in Los Angeles when Bombet, who also owns Hanjip Korean barbecue in Culver City and Faith and Flower in downtown L.A., contacted him.
"I've always loved Scarpetta and Scott, so when it went away, I thought it was such a pity for L.A. not having a chef like Scott doing modern Italian cuisine," Bombet said. "When I made up my mind about Terrine, Scott was my first phone call."
"The intention is to create something a little more casual than what Scarpetta was, but more importantly, to really have an environment for people to linger and a sense of conviviality," Conant said.
A frequent judge on Food Network's "Chopped," Conant said he plans to make full use of the existing wood-burning oven in the back of the space, as well as produce from local markets. He'll also bring back some of the dishes he's known for — such as the spaghetti.
"It's not going to be your traditional Italian American stuff. But I literally have, at least, on a daily basis someone reach out via social media saying, I really miss your spaghetti," he said. "We're going to have a couple dishes that really resonated with people, and they were our bestselling dishes so I see no reason to change it."
Conant also promised to bring back his polenta with mushrooms. Other menu highlights include charcuterie, antipasti, pasta and pizza, along with roasted lamb neck with raisins and smoked eggplant; and prawns with celery root purée, salmoriglio and crispy sunchokes.
Bombet Hospitality Group bar program director Ryan Wainwright, who is also responsible for the libations at Faith & Flower and has previously worked at the Tasting Kitchen in Venice, will head the beverage program at the Ponte. The bar menu is to feature six classic and six house drinks.
Bombet said the back patio will remain, but the interior is undergoing a redesign by designer Marc Ange, including a new bar area and main dining room.
Although he's been to L.A. before (the Ponte will be Conant's second L.A. restaurant and first not attached to a hotel), Conant is the latest in a growing list of high-profile chefs opening restaurants in Los Angeles in the next few years. Also included on that list are San Francisco's Charles Phan and Chad Robertson, as well as Phoenix pizzaiolo Chris Bianco.
"With a wave of very famous chefs finally saying, 'Hey, we believe L.A. is the biggest food city in America and I want to be a part of it,' that's very much why Scott and I connected," Bombet said.
And a bowl of spaghetti pomodoro and a sip of limoncello on a sunlit patio doesn't sound like a bad way to welcome spring.
8265 Beverly Blvd., Los Angeles. bombethospitalitygroup.com.