The perfect blend of Italy and California. From beautiful Bergamo to shiny Beverly Hills, the Sybarite spoke to Mattia Agazzi, Chef de Cuisine at Gucci Osteria da Massimo Bottura Beverly Hills. After a stint in Massimo Bottura’s Florence kitchen, Mattia is taking California by storm with his use of organic produce in mixing Italian and Californian flavours at Gucci Osteria’s Beverly Hills outpost. The Sybarite spoke to Mattia about his culinary journey, what is a must order at the Gucci Osteria BH and what he thinks of his new Californian life.
You come from the lovely town Bergamo, what role does your heritage play in your cooking?
I would say that the main sources of inspiration are my Italian roots and the new Californian surroundings. I am definitely influenced by the Italian tradition, but also by nature and the music I listen to. To give you an example, the dish ‘Coming from the Hills “I Love Rock Climbing” (local white trout, hazelnuts and mushrooms) is inspired by my love of rock climbing. California is incredible for rock climbing with its stunning landscapes. My Grandpa used to take me on fishing and foraging trips in the countryside and mountains near Bergamo. These memories and new experiences come together for dish development, so the menu is always very personal and unique. Talking about my origin, the region I come from in Italy, Lombardy, is the one that gave birth to the art of risotto. So, another interesting example to mention is ‘Risotto camouflaged as pizza’, a dish that brings together two very recognisable Italian flavours, pizza and risotto. I called it in this way because it tastes more
like pizza than pizza itself and because it is a reference to Massimo Bottura, who joked with me: «Come on Mattia, get ready – quick! – we’re going to Beverly Hills to open a pizzeria!». Obviously, keeping me in the dark – it was anything but a pizzeria! It turned out to be Gucci Osteria that we were going to open.
You travelled the world for a few years. What new cooking skills did you learn where?
When I was at Da Vittorio, in Bergamo, I learned how to organise a cooking station. We are talking about a fine dining restaurant with lots of covers: there was no time to waste, you’d have to keep your focus non-stop, from the beginning until the very end of the shift. But we worked in unison, always “marching” to say, in the same direction, altogether. That was the key to success and an ongoing lesson for me. After that, I have learned how to appreciate the multicultural variety of the cities I have been living in during all my experiences around the world. For example, in Sydney, at the Yellow Restaurant, or in Melbourne, where they were using the local produce but with French techniques. I learnt how to mix these elements, their characteristic flavours.
You then did a stint at the Gucci Osteria of Massimo Bottura in Florence – what was it like working with him and what did you learn from him?
What surprised me at first in Gucci Osteria Florence was this particular and original combination of fashion and cuisine. Let’s be clear, this type of encounter always existed: the chefs have continuously carefully researched the aesthetic aspects of their dishes, in a constant refinement of their appearance. And I have more strongly felt this as I entered the Gucci world through the Gucci Osteria Florence, led by Karime Lopez under the supervision of Massimo Bottura. I was immersed in a restaurant where everything, from the chairs to the dishware, the walls, gained artistic and aesthetic relevance. And it was all designed by Gucci.
Talking about Massimo, he has always been a great inspiration, and I believe not only for myself but for all Italian chefs. He is the ambassador of Italian cuisine in the world! He doesn’t just communicate through his dishes but through so many aspects of our lives. Massimo didn’t stop at the kitchen; he has been a mentor in so many areas, for example, the no waste and the green actions we can implement. He made me understand that it’s not just about “cooking”, if we can say so, but there is a message, an emotion that goes from us to our guests. That’s a big responsibility, but also that’s where the art begins.
What is Beverly Hills life like?
Only good vibes! I found out that the community here is very interested in everything healthy; there’s a deep personal and shared interest in a healthy lifestyle. And that’s not only in Beverly Hills but in Los Angeles in general. From sport to the hospitality sector, that’s incredible! There are many farmers markets, and the city is on the Pacific Coast, allowing a widespread availability of vegetables and fish. In addition to this, the climate is pretty similar to the Italian one so that they can access incredible produce.
What is a must order at Gucci Osteria Beverly Hills?
There are two dishes that you can’t miss here. The first is ‘Coming from the Hills “I Love Rock Climbing”, which is local white trout, hazelnuts and mushrooms. As I already mentioned, fish is incredible in Beverly Hills, the quality, the variety, and I have added an Asian touch to the preparation of this dish. And, as the title already reveals, it inherently talks of my style and my passions. The other one is ‘Risotto camouflaged as pizza’. It’s a signature dish, one of the most fun and interesting ones, if not only for the story behind it.
How important is organic produce at Gucci Osteria BH?
We use lots of fresh organic produce from local farmers markets and specialist Italian products. It’s been exciting to discover and work with new local suppliers. There’s an incredible seaweed supplier in San Francisco, ‘Monterey Bay Seaweed’, and we get our milk from a local farm, that milk by hand in the traditional way, an important practice for us.
How has Italian cuisine been adapted for the LA restaurant?
We use the finest American and Italian produce, that we playfully intertwine through our own stories and dreams. I draw on inspiration from my Italian roots and the new Californian surroundings, so my cuisine is essentially Italian, but also a continually evolving one. I manage a brigade of diverse, enthusiastic young people, each contributes with their personality and brings notes of colour and sensitivity. That’s why it is also very much the result of a great and inspiring teamwork.
It has been a very difficult year for the hospitality industry. How has the pandemic affected your workflow and the restaurant in Beverly Hills?
Given that we had to close our doors twice, it’s been like a new start every time: it has been like opening three times in one year. Every time we got back, we had new ideas, a positive approach, and fresh inspirations to include in the menu. In terms of service, we have organised a to-go menu that could be enjoyed at home, which included dishes like Tortellini and Potato Pie. We studied what could be prepared as takeaways from our menus, and, of course, we paid attention to using only eco-friendly packaging. Also, no one could predict what happened, but being with this fantastic team, with Gucci Osteria, it meant for us also to be able to continue the idea that we can help – practically – through what we are good at, through our job. So much so, during all the lockdowns, Christmas and New Year included, in collaboration with Hollywood Food Coalition, we have served meals to the people in need. All the team has participated in the initiative. I have been involved in similar projects before, as it’s a cause close to my heart, but here, I felt it even more, and I felt a shared value.
What is next for Mattia?
The new menu! The community, the place, my passions, I am continually inspired. My mind and my heart are in a continuous creative state.
What is your favourite travel destination?
Home. At this particular time, with the pandemic depriving us of meeting our loved ones again, my favourite travel destination is home, with my family.