Mother Wolf Offers a Taste of Rome in Los Angeles
Chef Evan Funke's opulent restaurant is reminiscent of a bustling European brasserie, with fresh pastas made in-house
In 2018, I oversaw a New York City Wine & Food Festival dinner at the much missed ‘21’ Club, co-hosted by chef Evan Funke. He impressed us all with his precise requirements and the seriousness of his requests: All his pasta was fatto a mano (made by hand), with passion and artistry. Years earlier, when Funke worked at Spago, he learned how to make his first agnolotti, a pasta shape that sparked his interest to travel to Italy to seek a bigger dream, as he mentions in the documentary Funke: “I want to create the most comprehensive pasta program in the United States.” In Bologna, the queen of pasta, Alessandra Spisni, operated the cookery school La Vecchia Scuola Bolognese, where she taught Funke how to make perfect sfoglia, straight and translucent sheet pasta that is the basis of lasagna, tortellini, tortelloni, tagliatelle and a variety of other dishes from the cuisine of Emilia-Romagna. A maniac about making pasta with his hands, Funke claims he learned how to make 188 of the 365 documented shapes.
In 2022, this maestro of pasta opened Mother Wolf on the ground floor of Los Angeles’ 1931 art deco Hollywood Citizen News building, an opulent restaurant focusing on Roman cooking that comfortably seats 150 people. Mother Wolf is an ode to Rome, featuring fresh pastas made in-house. The warmly lit room is reminiscent of a bustling European brasserie, with ornate glass, porcelain chandeliers and red banquettes and chairs.
Our order of fiori di zucca, squash blossoms stuffed with buffalo-milk ricotta from the mother country, had a crisp bite complemented by the creamy delight of the cheese. Supplì al telefono are beautiful risotto croquettes filled with guanciale, pecorino romano D.O.P. and piping hot mozzarella di bufala that swings like a telephone cord. La Mortazza is a folded pizza featuring thin-sliced mortadella, ricotta and pistachios, a shareable pleasure I wanted to keep for myself. For pastas, we went with the mezzi rigatoni alla carbonara, a half-size rigatoni masterfully tossed in a glossy egg and guanciale emulsion, and the larger rigatoni all’amatriciana, which traps the slightly sweet pomodoro making each bite, two shades firmer than al dente, a perfect rendition of this classic Roman dish. For those with bigger appetites, there is a beautiful 60-day dry-aged prime rib eye, the hard-to-achieve saltimbocca and whole grilled branzino. For dessert, pastry chef Shannon Swindle charmed us with his maritozzo, a sweet fluffy bread resembling a Pac-Man, its mouth full of cream and, hiding inside, coveted Harry’s Berries from Oxnard, California, lightly macerated and waiting to be devoured as a grand finale.