Most of us have treasured memories of our grandparents from when we were children. There’s something amazingly captivating as a baby about people who are white with wisdom. “Are you a wizard?” you’re tempted to ask. “Do you have magical powers?” If you consider unconditional love a power, then yes, our ancestors are enchanting.
Chef Steve Samson, chef and owner of Rossoblu, understands the importance of family origins and shared history. When searching for identity as a Chef, he discovered that his heart laid in loving remembrances of Nonno and Nonna. In fact, it’s the world that his grandparents upheld that has led him down the road of culinary success. Behold, Rossoblu!
“Once you’re a chef and not a line cook it’s super important to have a point of view,” says Chef Steve, during our interview with him in the restaurant before hours. “I was lucky because I knew that this is what I wanted to do,” he says, gesturing with his eyes at our surroundings. “I worked my whole career for Rossoblu.”
Chef admitted to us that he wasn’t always so certain of his creative direction. All through his formation he tried cooking cuisines from all over Italy: Southern Italian food, Pan Italian food and lots of pizza. These experiences made him discern that his spirit was back home in Bologna. “One day I just realized that I wanted to cook the food I grew up eating.”
Steve Samson grew up “on the mean streets of Tarzana” (as Chef put it), in the San Fernando Valley. His mother is from Bologna, Italy and his father is from the United States. When school was out during the summer, Chef Steve, and his siblings, would spend 6 weeks to two months with his extended family in Bologna.
“My Grandparents were still living in this working class neighborhood just outside the city center. I had this whole thing where I’d go over there and be the American guy.” Chef made life long friendships with the neighborhood children and throughout the years they grew up together.
“I had two experiences when I became a teenager, one over there and one here."
“Is there any particular memory growing up in Bologna that you’d like to share?” we study.
“The big one would be 1982 when Italy won the world cup. During the Italy Brazil game the streets were absolutely empty,” says Chef with a smile. “During half time my brothers and I went out onto my grandparents balcony and across the street a van was on fire. No one came to put it out because the game was on.”
“Is that the year Italy went on to win the cup?”
“Yes. It was insane. Like there were 10 people hanging out of this Fiat 500 with flags, while on their way to Centro to swim in the fountain.”
“Wow, to be in Italy as they win the world cup must have been special.”
“It was!” he says with glee. “I also saw the Police in concert that year. It was a really good year!”
At the core of Italian culture is good food. Food is everywhere and eating together as a group or a family is the hallmark of Italian living. For Italians, it’s really important to sit down every day for 2 hours and have a big lunch. Dinner has the same routine; everybody eats at the same time, 8pm. Chef confided in us that in actuality, it can be difficult to find a good home-cooked style restaurant in Bologna. Most of the great cooks are in their own kitchens!
“Great food is just a part of life. It’s simple but well thought out."
The fare behind DTLA Fashion District's Rossoblu is inspired by this simple and profound deliciousness. Many of the recipes on the menu are from Chef’s own family members and are easily identified because the dishes are straight up named after their inventors.
Valbruna’s Eggplant, pictured above, was one of the incredible dishes that we sampled which honors Chef Steve’s best friend’s mom— The plate was her innovation. “When we were opening, my friend came over to be our unofficial official taste tester. He loved seeing his mom’s name on the menu. I just want the restaurant to be a tribute to home.”
“Can you tell us a little bit about your grandparents? How did they inspire you?”
“They were just crazy hard working humble people. I never met a harder worker than my grandfather. Even when he’d come on vacation to the States he would be up at the rise of dawn pruning our trees out back,” he recalls with a smile.
“And your grandmother? What was she like?”
“Kind, open hearted, an amazing cook and deeply in love with her family. She was the kind of person that would do anything for her family.”
They both sound like lovely, unpretentious people who would be a pleasure to know. It was genuinely good having a story of family to go with the food we were eating; Nonna's Tagliatelle al Ragu' Bolognese; & Whole Grilled Orata. It made us feel welcome at home + afar in Bologna.
As Chef Steve’s elders so greatly impacted his life we asked him the question, “What do you hope to pass on as an elder to the younger generations?”
“Oh man, that’s a really good question. Nobody has ever asked me that before.” Chef takes a moment to think and then responds, “I suppose, many of the same things that my grandparents taught me: hard working, a love for food, and of family.”
Chef has two small children now and he tells us that he loves it when they come to work with him and run around the restaurant. “If I had it my way, they would be here everyday. I definitely want them to grow up here. And if they start acting like they own the place I’ll tell them, ‘Hey get back there and wash the dishes,’” he laughs to himself.
Family, nostalgia and the divine taste of Italia is what you'll find when dining at, Rossoblu. “After this I don’t think I’ll ever need to open another restaurant,” reveals the renowned culinary artist and mind behind Beverly Hills' Sotto. You heard it here first!
Rossoblu • 1124 San Julian St. Los Angeles, CA 90015 • 213.749.1099