If you've been to the Factory Kitchen in downtown L.A.'s arts district, chances are you're obsessed with the handkerchief pasta, also known as mandilli di seta. It's a plate of al dente sheets of pasta topped with a silky Ligurian almond basil pesto and pecorino Sardo. Chef Angelo Auriana may be known best for the 18 years he spent as executive chef at Valentino, but this single pasta dish is once again turning him into a household name among Los Angeles food enthusiasts. Most nights, you can find Auriana in the kitchen at the Factory Kitchen or around the back of Factory Place Arts Complex, where he and the rest of the Factory Kitchen team are working on a new restaurant called Officine Brera. He took a break from making pasta to talk about his love of sushi and why his mandilli di seta has the city swooning.
What's the secret to your handkerchief pasta dish? I think the reason people love it so much is that subtle but unique flavor that is simply achieved by a few ingredients at their best. The almonds — that's probably the secret. Some people are addicted. The other day, this lady said, "You know I came here for my daily dose of pesto."
What actor do people tell you that you look like? A lot of people — probably when I was younger and I had more hair — said Antonio Banderas. I don't care that much, or really see it, but when I had a mustache when I was 40, people said Humphrey Bogart. I don't really get it.
If you could have dinner with anyone, who would it be and what would you eat? Someone like Mansell Ferrari or Giorgio Armani. I would be so humbled by them accepting my invitation that I would say, "You pick a place." Of course, I'd have a couple things in mind. Maybe a good sushi place.
Favorite thing to eat? When I'm off, I love to go to sushi bars and eat as much raw fish as I can get. In downtown, I go to Sushi Gen. Sushi chefs are all so different than other chefs; they have a system. Sometimes in the kitchen, you prep, you hide, you scream. Sushi chefs are always in front of people.
What did you want to be when you grew up? When I was little, I was told by my mother that I was really a rascal, and the only time I would be standing or sitting still was when this older lady would sit me down in a miniature chair. I would sit there and look at her cooking. She would maybe feed me a little piece of bread or sauce or something. So my mother said maybe that's something I'm interested in.
The Factory Kitchen, 1300 Factory Place, Los Angeles, (213) 996-6000, www.thefactorykitchen.com