“I f***ing love Rome,” says the always confident Evan Funke, a passionate disciple of Italian food. “It’s one of my favorite cities in the world. The deep, historical culinary history there is so amazing, and diverse, going back to the Etruscans, Jewish Ghetto, and papal kitchen. They are maniacal about strictness and dogma of how they cook, and I’m a maniac. Roman cooking speaks to me because it’s so consistent, so historical.” Opening Saturday, August 29, Funke opens his second standalone restaurant called Fingers Crossed, an ode to all things Roman.
When the opportunity to do a six-month residency at a prime Hollywood restaurant and bar space came along, Funke knew the timing to open during a pandemic was certainly questionable from a business perspective. But he says the chance to “create some jobs in the community” and with a little bit of extra time on his hands due to his Venice restaurant Felix operating at a 60 percent dining capacity helped convince him. The limited term joint venture with Relevant, which owns the property, made it flexible to decide what to do after six months (of course if it’s a hit, the hope is they’ll keep it going).
Though this part of Hollywood is perhaps best known for tourist trap restaurants and a busy nightlife scene (pre-pandemic), Funke wants to make it his foray into the rigid expectation of Roman cooking. “This is straight up Rome, not my interpretation,” says Funke. “These are dishes that have been taught to me by Romans. This is dogmatic.” The menu at Fingers Crossed reflects Funke’s serious approach to cacio e pepe, made with a bit of butter at Felix but true to the Roman form here in Hollywood with just pecorino romano and black pepper. Pizzas (which are in the tonda-style instead of the Triple Beam-esque al taglio) use seasonal fresh produce, from bright cherry tomatoes to colorful squash blossoms in an effort to highlight many of the local farmers who have supplied his restaurants for years.
Starters include fried oxtail meatballs, heirloom tomato bruschetta, and buffalo mozzarella sfizi (Roman slang for “little fantasies”) with prosciutto di parma. The rest of the menu fills out with pizzas and pastas that should offer variants for most diners, from the spicy diavola pizza to mezze rigatoni alla carbonara with guanciale and pecorino. Funke is particularly proud of his mortadella-stuffed ‘sandwich’ using the pizza dough, which he says is inspired by his friend Jacopo Mercuro at Pizzeria 180 Grammi, about a 30 minute drive from Rome’s city center.
The drink menu sports simple, Italian-inflected cocktails, which works for this stiffing late summer heat, like a watermelon aperol prosecco slushie. Fingers Crossed opens August 29 with hours from 5:30 p.m. to 11 p.m. Sundays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays, and until midnight on Friday and Saturday (closed on Mondays and Tuesdays).