Nancy Silverton knows how to throw a good party.
Several times a year, the legendary L.A. chef throws open the doors to her Hancock Park home for rollicking backyard gatherings.
There's her July 4 bash, when she closes Pizzeria Mozza, Osteria Mozza and Chi Spacca so employees can come over. At a recent event Silverton hosted for the Alex's Lemonade Stand children's cancer charity, 150 people packed into her four-bedroom, 3,000-square-foot home, noshing on fried chicken from Howlin' Rays and galbi from Park's BBQ.
The restaurateur and cookbook author relishes that her home is the place to be. But if you ever score an invite, don't even think about showing up with a casserole.
"I almost never allow anyone to bring anything to my house besides wine," Silverton said. "Cookies are OK. I'm not a fan of potlucks. I prefer to do all the cooking."
Why is the backyard your favorite space?
My favorite room would be the one I entertain in, and in California, where it's sunny 364 days a year, where I entertain is my backyard. The rooms in my Craftsman house are not large at all. I love to have big crowds over.
You've lived in this home for more than two decades. Have you done much to it?
When I moved in 1993, I did some cosmetic changes to the house. But the only thing I did that was really major was extending the backyard patio. I built a fireplace to cook in and affixed it to the house.
You also put in a pool.
I remember being so resentful that I didn't grow up with a swimming pool. When I moved to this house, the first house I ever owned and have now owned for 23 years, I finally put one in. And I don't even swim. I just like that it's there.
How would you describe the style of your backyard?
There's a midcentury look. There's a big arbor; when the wisteria is in bloom, it covers it completely. And there are string lights and speakers for music. It's not large by any means, but it's very comfortable.
My backyard is very tasteful, and I would like to think it's the same with the way I cook. Nothing is showy, everything is complementary without being overly designed.
Do you often have other chefs over?
One of my favorites is Suzanne Tracht from Jar. She prefers to work the grill and barbecue rather than sitting down and socializing. I'll invite her over, and, sure enough, she grabs an apron, leaving me to refill bowls and drinks and be more of a hostess.
What do you cook?
I am very, very careful in putting out a table, laying it full of food, with everything served at room temperature. Nothing is heat-sensitive, everything is sturdy enough to sit so that people can, at their leisure, come back for seconds. I pick a protein and choose how many things I want to serve with that protein. Most of the time, it ends up being something like hamburgers, steaks, lamb chops, etc.
Any advice for throwing a killer backyard party?
I am constantly investing in platters and serving utensils, adding to my collection so I have a lot of colors, sizes and shapes to choose from. I've never had a backyard party where people ate with paper plates and napkins. I like candles in the evening and proper cloth napkins. But in the end, it just seems effortless. I don't insert place cards or overwrought table settings. It has that homemade quality.