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Before March 2020, there were roughly 8,500 restaurants in and around Los Angeles. It’s unclear exactly how many will remain by the time lockdown is over. On July 30, downtown L.A.’s Patina restaurant closed permanently after 31 years. What seems certain is that the places that carry on will owe it partly to adaptability. And for many, that has meant changing not only what they are offering but also how they connect with and get food to their customers.
PERSONALLY DELIVERED BY THE CHEF “I have been getting a lot of joy from bringing genuine hospitality to delivery,” observes Josh Buckwald, owner of Orso (director Nancy Meyers is a fan; orsopasta.com). The former lead pasta chef at DTLA’s Rossoblu, Buckwald carefully renders items like Bolognese and cacio e pepe and personally delivers his meal kits, which take less than 10 minutes to prepare. “It really can be more of an experience than a transaction. It’s almost our front of house.” Eschewing the impersonal disconnect of a standard drop-off, Buckwald views himself instead as a “pasta concierge” who’ll also happily answer any questions about his dishes.
ORDERING VIA TEXT AND INSTAGRAM DM A growing band of restaurants is bypassing the notorious food delivery services that prey on already razor-thin margins and instead is selling directly through Instagram or by text. Some chefs going this route don’t have dine-in restaurants at all.
Brandon Gray launched his pizza business on the social media platform under the handle @LA_Brandoni_Pepperoni. The Providence restaurant alum has since debuted a website spotlighting his artfully adorned thin-crust creations and takes orders exclusively by text message (323-306-4968). His freshly baked pies are available for pickup from his prep kitchen at 7100 Santa Monica Blvd.
Every Monday morning, Michelin-starred chef Gary Menes (@garymenes) of Le Comptoir uploads a colorful array of ingredients to his IG. They form the backbone of an a la carte menu that can be picked up the following Saturday from his Koreatown brick-and-mortar. The limited offerings — which have included fresh-baked sourdough loaves and smoked racks of rib — sell out within hours of posting.
Other offerings that can be found exclusively through IG include the Italian-inspired flavors of Picnic Sandwich chef Shanna Lynn Milazzo’s (@picnicsandwich) and the decadent desserts of May Provisions’ Sasha Piligian (@sashimi1).
VIRTUAL SIDE DISHING Chef-owners Phillip Frankland Lee and Margarita Kallas-Lee of Encino’s Sushi|Bar have created a virtual version of their omakase experience. They’ve produced a series of videos, designed to be viewed on a phone or laptop, as diners progress at home through a 16-course tasting. The $95-per-person meal is available for pickup seven nights a week (sushibarla.com). At Providence, chef Michael Cimarusti is similarly producing videos, shot in the restaurant’s kitchen, that provide commentary on his family-style to-go meals (see sidebar). Says food show host Phil Rosenthal, “It’s like the world’s best Blue Apron.” Without actually having to cook.
This story first appeared in the Aug. 5 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Click here to subscribe.
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