To call Evan Funke uncompromising would be an understatement. The oft-described perfectionist (really, there’s a whole documentary about it) isn’t afraid to laugh at himself when the time is right, but his face changes — lips pursed, brow furrowed — when sitting down to talk business. For Funke, a seventh-generation Angeleno and one of the city’s best and most celebrated chefs, his business is pasta. First, there was the upstairs pasta lab at the closed Bucato in Culver City. More recently it’s been the temperature-controlled, in-the-round glass pasta room at Felix in Venice, where diners can find Funke and his employees sheeting flaxen waves all night long, folding and cutting and crimping shapes depending on the evening need. Now, at Funke’s Hollywood newcomer Mother Wolf, Funke’s focus is tuned to the Roman culinary diaspora, from fried artichokes to cacio e pepe, the guardian pasta that has fed and built an empire.
“Part of my job as a culinary custodian of these histories is to tell the stories in a true and authentic manner,” Funke recently told the Robb Report, adding that he wants to get down to the “molecular level” when discussing, cooking, and learning from the pasta he is making in-house at Mother Wolf. To do that here, in Hollywood’s historic Citizen News Building at 1545 Wilcox Avenue, takes a partnership with Ten Five Hospitality, one of LA’s biggest new restaurant names, and a 3,000-square-foot open kitchen loaded with pasta tools and a wood-fired oven.
The kitchen alone accounts for more than one-third of the restaurant overall, with the rest spread across 150 dining room banquettes, booths, and two- and four-tops, plus bar area seating and a pizza bartop that looks in on the action. A kitchen that size means fewer seats for paying customers, but more room for Funke and his team to hone in on the history and shape of Rome, one pasta at a time.
The Martin Brudnizki Design Studio-built space is far from the stoic days of Bucato, aligning more with Felix as a colorful place for diners to lay down an evening of understanding between man, food, and region. The restaurant’s high ceilings, plaster relief work, deep red tones, marble highlights, and wolf head design motifs are as lively as an Italian opera, as glamorous and sweeping as Paolo Sorrentino’s cinematic ode to Rome The Great Beauty. During dinner service, white-jacketed waitstaff push around an amaro cart for playful anytime sipping, backed by music, kitchen clatter, and the din of upbeat conversation. Again, who says Evan Funke can’t have fun?
Beyond Mother Wolf’s pastas, which cling to classics like cacio e pepe, rigatoni all’amatriciana, and spaghettone alla gricia, there are thin, burnished Roman pizzas and starters like fried squash blossoms and artichokes. Salads and bruschetta open gates to whole branzino, lamb rib chops, and a dry-aged ribeye blackened with flame. There are cocktails, Italian wines, and that amaro cart is always just around the corner, too. The opening menu is below.
Funke’s exacting, loving, intense, and comforting Mother Wolf opened for limited service at 1545 Wilcox Avenue just before New Year’s, and is now running hours from Tuesday through Thursday, 5:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. with an extension to 10 p.m. on Friday and Saturday nights; the restaurant is closed Sunday and Monday. Reservations can be made daily seven days in advance. There will be some room for walk-ins nightly, but expect limited access for the first few months.