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LA Magazine Story Alleges Disarray at Simone in Wake of Chef Departure

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Jessica Largey is gone, and things are complicated

Wonho Frank Lee
Farley Elliott is the Senior Editor at Eater LA and the author of Los Angeles Street Food: A History From Tamaleros to Taco Trucks. He covers restaurants in every form, from breaking news to the culture, people, and history that surrounds LA's dining landscape.

More stories are beginning to trickle out about Jessica Largey’s surprise departure from Arts District restaurant Simone, which Eater was first to report on last week. A big new feature put out by Los Angeles Magazine alleges a series of managerial missteps, financial miscalculations, and a business that is currently “in shambles.”

LA Magazine’s surprising read focuses in many ways on Joe Russo, the wealthy owner of the restaurant who has offices upstairs. The star Hollywood movie director spent millions over three years to bring the space to life, and would often use the dining room to hold court. Per quoted sources in LA Magazine:

“Some nights he’d do like two or three reservations in a row where he’s having different meetings with people.” Another employee put it more bluntly: “I think Joe opened the restaurant so he could have a place to party with his friends.”

Others seemed to blame the organizational structure itself for Simone’s subpar opening, punctuated by a hammer of a review from LA Times critic Bill Addison. Part of the structural issues had to do with the untimely death of partner Bruno Bagbeni, who was supposed to be the general manager for the restaurant. Bagbeni passed away just a week into the opening, and there were few steps taken to replace his position, says LA Magazine.

The chef’s tasting counter
Wonho Frank Lee

Others harped on the “lack of communication” before and after Addison’s negative review, and called into question the restaurant’s ability to deliver on workplace promises made before opening. But most shocking of all? One unnamed source calls the place, in its current iteration, a “money pit” that may not last the year.

Reps for Russo and Simone, on the other hand, remain optimistic about the future of the highly anticipated Downtown restaurant, particularly with Jason Beberman of Empellón and Gramercy Tavern now at the helm. He plans to overhaul the menu and install a more casual touch, Eater has learned, though that will obviously take some time. As for Largey, she posted a thank you notice to her supporters on Instagram, adding: “The decision to leave was not a rash one but what is right for me.”

Simone. 449 S. Hewitt St., Los Angeles, CA.