It’s easy to be excited for Rossoblu, chef Steve Samson’s deep Downtown Italian restaurant that finally opens tomorrow night. There’s the patio, the Bologna-inspired menu (more on that below), and the man himself — all working towards one ultimate goal: Make the city’s most enjoyable Italian restaurant. That’s no small feat in this city full of choices.
Here are five reasons to be very, very excited for the opening of Rossoblu tomorrow night, from Eater’s own crack staff of eager diners.
The place, the place, the place
Seriously, Rossoblu is a stunner. From the full-wall mural at one end to the weaving gold bar to the black marble open kitchen in the back, this Marshall Group-built space is about as casually glamorous as it gets. And that’s to say nearly nothing of the ample patio space out front, which is almost Salazar-esque in its simplicity. Guests can walk and wander between tables, wine glass in hand, while the cool evening air surrounds them, then float inside to check out chef Samson expediting orders from the massive grill in the back.
There’s also the entire City Market South property, which is set to receive a Slanted Door, a cocktail concept from a couple of bar vets, and already offers a grand outlet of Cognoscenti Coffee. Rossoblu is determined to anchor the full-scale project, becoming a focal point for a neighborhood in change, and for a community eager for increased walkability and dining choices.
To put it simply, Rossoblu means everything to Steve Samson. The man has said as much himself, and you can tell when speaking to him about the ambitious new restaurant that it’s true. Samson cut his teeth at a number of restaurants before landing at Sotto, a Beverly Hills-ish spot he opened with help years ago, a place that has gone on to become one of the more beloved restaurants anywhere in Los Angeles. There it’s pizzas and pastas and date night vibes from a semi-subterranean space, but Rossoblu will be different.
The restaurant, in its scope and in its reach, is more than just a calling card for Samson. He’s already arrived, and now is the time to talk legacy. Far from the Jean-Georges of the world who drop in on a rotation of a dozen restaurants bearing his name worldwide, Rossoblu will be Samson’s family stand. His wife and partner Dina has been her own integral part of the process, working to secure money and get the word out and make design choices alongside Marwan and Mies Al Sayed and J.P. Guiseppi. Their lovely children are already growing up in the basement walk-ins and outdoor spaces of the eatery. Even the name harkens back to Samson’s family time spent in and around Bologna. This is a deeply personal project that just happens to have a couple hundred seats.
Rossoblu is leaving the pizzas behind in favor of handmade pastas, steak, roasted suckling pig, and a whole lot more. Salumi is made in-house, breads are baked daily, and all manner of vegetables and meats will be grilled off on the restaurant’s signature grill. Here’s the opening menu.
There is perhaps no better time to be opening where Rossoblu is, when Rossoblu is. City Market South as a project is starting to light up with activity, and soon this entire stretch of Downtown — already a saturated dining market in itself — will be abuzz with even more condos, locals, coffee shops, and restaurants.
Rossoblu is also perfectly crafted for the changing culinary landscape of Los Angeles. Whereas many local Italian restaurants of the past 20 years have been stoic affairs, with white tablecloths and the same loose menu of red sauce and wine, Rossoblu is a multi-varied confluence of different regionally-specific flavors, served with farmers market produce and an eye towards keeping things casual. It’s a restaurant primed to be a leader within the city’s modern Italian restaurant renaissance for years to come.
You’ll also notice a 20% service charge applied to every bill, a forward-thinking initiative being undertaken by more and more restaurants around town. Rising restaurant costs and outsized labor overhead means a changing service, payment, and tipping model, and Rossoblu is buying in on a new way of doing things.
Here’s Eater LA City Editor Matthew Kang’s definitive take:
Sotto was a bit of a slow burn for me. It was good at the start, but has improved ever since and is now probably my single favorite restaurant in Los Angeles. It didn’t get too much national attention, nor did it capture the public consciousness like Bestia, which everyone knows about in town. But Rossoblu is Samson’s sophomore effort, the chance to prove something big. If it hits all the right strides, we’re talking James Beard stuff, or Best New Restaurant nods from national publications.
Think of Sotto like the wonderful indie film that pleased critics and got a moderate box office return, but eventually became a cult classic. Rossoblu is the Oscar contender, the serious operation with more at stake and more to prove. It’s flanked by what will eventually become The Slanted Door, which is one of the busiest restaurants in San Francisco, along with Steve and Pablo Moix’s massive lounge. Rossoblu could mark a shift in Downtown’s eastern restaurant scene and pave the way for other big name projects to hit its industrial areas much like San Francisco’s South of Market area has been transformed. I’m optimistic that Rossoblu will represent the best of LA’s restaurant scene right now, and with all the right pieces in place, now it’s time for us to wait and see what happens.
Rossoblu officially opens tomorrow in Downtown Los Angeles. You can make your reservations on OpenTable.
1124 San Julian St.
Los Angeles, CA