“I’m excited about cooking in Hollywood — it’s a much later crowd,” says Evan Funke, the L.A. native and pasta maestro behind Venice’s popular Felix Trattoria, who just opened Mother Wolf on Wilcox Avenue. The tighter focus on Roman cooking is very different from that of Felix, which Funke sees as “Italy’s greatest hits.” Just a few days after Mother Wolf opened at New Year’s, Felix regulars like Jeffrey Katzenberg were already stopping by to pay homage to the pasta pro.
Next to the buzzy new Thompson Hotel on Wilcox, the restaurant has taken over the ground floor of the Hollywood Citizen-News building, a sprawling space with a 1931 art deco tiled exterior that you’ve probably passed by a million times without realizing that the historic newspaper offices were just sitting there waiting for their moment to shine as a restaurant.
Inside, Martin Brudnizki Design Studio has created an “opulent and comfortable” setting for 150 diners, says Funke, that melds old-world elements like antiqued mirrored accents and flowered trim with a a large bar area, vast exposed kitchen and a wood-burning pizza oven. “People say they don’t feel like like they’re in Los Angeles,” says Funke, who finds that “people really want to be whisked away within their dining experience.” Indeed, the warm and colorful interior evokes a bustling Parisian brasserie or Viennese cafe more than the typical Los Angeles restaurant.
Rome is an “extraordinary city, quite modern and at the same time ancient,” Funke says. That approach can be seen in his interpretations of classic preparations such as cacio e pepe, carbonara and amatriciana. While seasonally rotating menus take advantage of produce sourced from 20 California farms, other ingredients are imported from Italy to “lend the food a sense of place,” Funke says.
Stuffed squash blossoms use imported buffalo ricotta, while prosciutto, guanciale, pecorino and olive oil have also made the trip from the mother country. One of the city’s most characteristic dishes is artichokes “alla Giudia,” in the Jewish style, and Funke’s crispy, lemony version of the traditional preparation is a must-order appetizer. Funke tops Rome’s signature platter-sized, thin-crusted pizzas are topped with choices like salame piccante, wild mushrooms or porchetta, and Funke is also excited about the New Zealand lamb chops with chicories, soulful oxtail ragù pasta and house-made gelati and sorbetti in seasonal flavors including Meyer lemon, pear, pistachio and the under-stated but delightful fior di latte, or flower of the milk.
The wine list is all-Italian, and cocktails get “small respectful evolutions of classic recipes,” Funke says, like the smoothly seductive Negroni blanco with mescal or White Russian made with nocino liqueur. 1545 Wilcox Ave., Hollywood
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Magari Replacing Paley in Hollywood
Sunset Boulevard’s Paley restaurant didn’t make it through the pandemic, but the Columbia Square space has been re-envisioned as Magari, which will blend Italian cuisine with Japanese influences when it opens in February. Fresh pasta with Japanese toppings, a crudo bar and A4 wagyu beef are among the menu highlights to look forward to, and there’s a 50-seat patio. 6115 Sunset Blvd., Hollywood