Going to Officine Brera? Three Signature Dishes You Must Try
Officine Brera puts a contemporary spin on Northern Italian peasant cuisine. Make sure not to miss these three dishes!
Officine Brera occupies a unique place in LA’s Italian food scene. Housed in a modern glass-and-metal building in the up-and-coming Arts District, it doesn’t try to disguise itself as an old-school Italian trattoria. At the same time, the menu offers super-traditional specialties of Northern Italy’s peasant cuisine.
Essentially, you are in one of LA’s hottest new restaurants, eating foods that farming families along the Po river have been cooking for generations.
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Angelo Auriana opened Officine Brera with Matteo and Francine Ferdinandi earlier this year. Together, the three operate another restaurant in the same neighborhood, Factory Kitchen.
While Factory Kitchen represents the whole spectrum of Italian cuisine, from North to South, Officine Brera is very much focused on Northern cuisine. In particular, the flatlands known as Pianura Padana, stretching from Piedmont to Venice around the foggy banks of the Po river.
Angelo was born in Bergamo, north-east of Milan, while Matteo is from Chioggia, a fishing port island south of Venice. With Officine Brera, they are returning to their roots. “There a lot of Italian restaurants out there,” says Angelo. “We envisioned Officine Brera as a regional restaurant. We wanted to represent the Northern Italian countryside and the foods with which we grew up.”
With a menu rich in hyper-local specialties and some rather unfamiliar ingredients (raspadura? lodigrana? culatello?), you may have a hard time figuring out what to order. No problem, Foodiamo is here for you!
What should you order at Officine Brera?
We sat down with Angelo, executive chef and co-owner, and chef Mirko Paderno to discuss the restaurant specialties. Even though Officine Brera is only a few months old, these three dishes already form the backbone of the menu. Enjoy!
1. Lardo al pepe ($10)
In case you just turned vegetarian, Officine Brera might make you to reconsider your life choices.
Behind the glass that separates the kitchen from the dining hall, you will notice what Angelo calls “a line of fire,” consisting of a wood-burning oven, a rotisserie, and two grills. In fact, wood-grilled steaks, slow-braised beef, and roasted pork feature prominently in the entree section.
Meat-lovers, however, should pay close attentions to the appetizers as well. Angelo and Mirko cure their own salumi, as Italian families and countryside restaurants used to do.
For this lardo al pepe, they sweeten the cured pork back fat with a touch of honey, serve it on a bed of arugula, and top it with candied walnuts. This dish is a perfect (and beautiful) example of how Officine Brera offers a refined version of countryside Italian cooking.
2. Milanese ($22)
If you think Italian food equals pasta, you’ll be surprised. Italy is actually Europe’s largest rice producer, with most of the production being concentrated in the Po Valley. In fact, this is the very birthplace of risotto. As a result, the menu at Officine Brera includes more risottos than pasta dishes.
Angelo explains how he’s bringing a bit of the Italian rice culture to Los Angeles. “We use different rice varieties. By now, everybody knows that each pasta shape works differently with different types of sauce. The same is true of rice. Certain types of rice are better for certain risotto recipes.”
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For the Milanese, Officine Brera‘s take on the classical dish from Milan, they use vialone nano rice, saffron, and grana padano cheese. Standing at the center of the risotto, a roasted marrowbone makes quite a dramatic impact. The combination of the two is, in the words of LA Times critic Jonathan Gold, “a shot of pure animal essence against the tang of the risotto’s mellow Lodi cheese.”
3. Pisarei e fasö ($19)
Officine Brera revamps the traditions of cucina povera, aka frugal, countryside cuisine. In other words, making flavorful dishes out of whatever ingredients are available.
“Traditionally, peasant households along the Po River wouldn’t waste any food. Stale bread, for example, can be used the next day to bread cotoletta alla milanese, or to make pisarei.”
Pisarei e fasö hail from the province of Piacenza, in the southern part of Lombardy. These are tiny flour dumplings, made in-house and tossed with a sauce of tomatoes, onion, beans, and cured pork. Think of it as a better version of pasta e fagioli. As with many peasant recipes, this one includes everything from carbs to protein to fat.
“Call it comfort food, call it grandma’s food,” concludes Angelo. “These are the best flavors that my home region has produced over the course of the centuries.”
1331 E 6th Street
Los Angeles, CA 90021
Phone: (213) 553 8006
Photos by Agata Gravante and Damian Turner for Foodiamo. All rights reserved