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How to eat at Hollywood’s ‘it’ restaurant tonight

A man stands in front of red banquette booths and a wall of framed artwork.
Evan Funke stands in the dining room of his Hollywood restaurant, Mother Wolf.
(Mariah Tauger / Los Angeles Times)

This week I review Mother Wolf, the Roman restaurant from pasta maestro Evan Funke that is a Hollywood production in every sense. I lead the piece with a celebrity sighting — something I’ve never done before and never expect to do again — but this one had too much spectacle swirling around it to leave out. Go for the opulent 150-seat dining room, go to breathe in the rare air of garlic and entertainment industry power, go for the spaghettone alla gricia.

When a restaurant has this much scale and action, it’s impossible to cram every observation into the review. Here are a few more bonus details about Mother Wolf:

— The restaurant takes reservations only seven days ahead, as I said in the story, and the bookings go live at midnight. Click fast; tables disappear in moments. That said? The seats at the beautiful bar to the left of the entrance are unreserved. In February, one could show up around 6 p.m. and a few swiveling red leather stools would still be empty. Now, I might show up at 5:40.

That’s early, sure, but I prefer dining at Mother Wolf nearer to opening. You take in the dining room at its calmest, when it’s easiest for overstimulated brains to take in subtleties like the trompe l’oeil scenes etched on the walls, and then experience the crescendo of noise and energy as they build. Grabbing a seat at the bar becomes ugly-competitive as the night wears on.

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— People-watching is prime no matter where you sit, but it’s not hard to figure out the unspoken hierarchy of the floor plan. Staffers fill the tables near the bar area fastest; they’re by the entrance, and as diners arrive later in the evening, crowds tend to form three- or four-people deep around the bar. It’s beyond noisy: It’s cacophonous. Those shown to the far-right corner of the room, in view of the pastry station, enjoy the quietest meal and the most privacy. Requesting one of those coveted tables on the spot, I’ve found, usually elicits hemming and hawing and polite apologies. Maybe try asking ahead for one in the reservation notes?

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— There’s a section labeled “pane” on the menu that I didn’t discuss in the review. It includes dishes like bruschetta crowned with porchetta and folded variations of pizza, almost like pillowy, open-faced calzones, stuffed with burrata and prosciutto and black truffles. Even those of us without a hint of phobia toward carbs only have so much stomach room: Better to save your appetite for the proper pizzas, the pastas and Shannon Swindle’s desserts.

A piece of un-iced cake on a plate with glistening pieces of fruit on it.
Olive oil cake from pastry chef Shannon Swindle at Mother Wolf.
(Mariah Tauger / Los Angeles Times)

— Funke defines himself as a chef by the research and geekery he pours into his approach to Italian cooking. He may not draw attention to his respectful interpretations, but if quizzed about it, he can provide a dissertation on where a dish came from, what he did and why. One example: Coda alla vaccinara is an oxtail stew common to the Roman canon. In Rome, the oxtails might be served whole, and its cooking liquid, laced with tomatoes and pork and peperoncino for a dash of spice, might be reduced and tossed with pasta as a first course. At Mother Wolf, Funke flips the script: He serves wonderfully dense, rich oxtail meatballs as an appetizer; for a separate pasta, he cooks the oxtails until they fall off their knotty bones and thicken a guanciale-spiked ragu, which he tosses with rigatoncini. I love oxtails, and I’m happy that both dishes have stayed on the ever-evolving menu for several months.

A man in a denim jacket stands between emerald green chairs against a zebra-print wall.
Where food and fashion meet: Designer Humberto Leon wears the denim smock made for Chifa, the Eagle Rock restaurant he owns with his family.
(Mariah Tauger / Los Angeles Times)

— Speaking of Funke: Stephanie Breijo mentions a cap collaboration with Hundreds, a highly influential streetwear brand, as part of her deep dive into the intersections of fashion and food culture in Los Angeles.

— “Are you breathing? Hired” is the sobering headline and summary of Jenn Harris’ piece about the ongoing staffing challenges faced by operators of all kinds of restaurants across Southern California.

— Jenn also has the details on where to eat at Coachella if you’re headed to the desert for the festival’s second weekend.

n/soto, the new izakaya from Niki Nakayama and Carole Iida-Nakayama of n/naka, has opened in Mid-City ... and this week’s other must-know L.A. restaurant news from Stephanie.

— The Times’ Evan Halper, along with photographer Gary Coronado and videographers Jackeline Luna, Maggie Beidelman and Yadira Flores, delve into the fierce debates around California olive oil — and a new state law that punishes companies misusing the California name to sell oil from elsewhere.

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Huntington Beach Pier dinner

The Los Angeles Times Food Bowl, presented by City National Bank, is partnering with Outstanding in the Field to serve a meal featuring sustainably caught seafood. The event will take place at 4 p.m. May 12 on the Huntington Beach Pier. Participating chefs include Brian Bornemann of Crudo e Nudo, Andrew Gruel of Slapfish, Chris Tompkins of Broad Street Oyster Co. and Valerie Gordon of Valerie Confections. The event benefits the Los Angeles Regional Food Bank. Tickets are $365 and can be purchased here.

L.A. and N.Y. chefs pair for ‘Coast to Coast’ tasting event

The Los Angeles Times’ “Coast to Coast” tasting event, presented by City National Bank, will bring together chefs from both coasts for one night in New York to serve up some of their favorite dishes. The event, hosted by the Los Angeles Times Food team, will take place May 18, from 7 to 10 p.m., at the Altman Building, 135 W. 18th St., New York.

Participating Los Angeles restaurants include Birdie G’s and Rustic Canyon (chef Jeremy Fox), Phenakite (chef Minh Phan), El Ruso and Moo’s Craft Barbecue. In addition, actor, director, comedian, winemaker and cookbook author Eric Wareheim will be serving food from his “Foodheim” cookbook, and Las Jaras Wines, from Wareheim and winemaker Joel Burt, will be poured.

Participating New York restaurants include Cervo’s (chef Aaron Crowder), Dame (chef Ed Szymanski), Kimika (chef Christine Lau), Lure Fishbar (chef Preston Clark), Lysée (pastry chef Eunji Lee), Mena (chef Victoria Blamey), Nami Nori (chefs Taka Sakaeda and Jihan Lee) and Semma (chef Vijay Kumar).

Tickets are $150 and can be purchased here.


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