|By JULIETTE ROSSANT|
Nancy Silverton is smart. She turned La Brea Bakery into a national company and sold it for mega bucks: in 2001, with Mark Peel and Manfred Krankl, she sold an 80% stake in the bakery to Ireland's IAWS Group for $56 million. She has now teamed up with Mario Batali to open up a new Italian restaurant in Los Angeles, according to Pulitzer Prize winning journalist David Shaw in the Los Angeles Times -- with much surprise.
Shaw quotes Silverton about Mario: "He's the perfect partner," she says. "I have a lot to learn from him." That's right. Mario brings dried meats from his father Armandino's salumeria in Seattle. Nancy is famous for the sandwiches at her Campanile Restaurant, which she has shed along with co-owner and soon-to-be-ex-husband Mark. At Campanile, she turned Thursdays into the restaurants' busiest by making 12 different kinds of sandwiches. She then turned the idea into a book: Nancy Silverton's Sandwich Book: The Best Sandwiches Ever--from Thursday Nights at Campanile (New York: Knopf, 2002).
Sandwiches of course need great bread, which Nancy can supply from La Brea Bakery. Mario, along with his long time partner, Joseph Bastianich, son of Lydia Bastianich, brings experience running a chain of restaurants, albeit in one city. Surely Mario and Nancy are thinking of more than one restaurant, perhaps a chain? Sandwiches are the hot new food – portable, filling, and richly layered with fancy ingredients. Perhaps they have been following the success of Claudia Fleming's Pret-A-Manger. Let's not forget Tom Colicchio's WichCraft (see Super Chef, p. 200-202), his gourmet sandwich spin-off which first opened in New York next to Craft and Craftbar, then a second in the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, where he already had CraftSteak.
Are there more surprises to come? Wouldn't it make sense to team up with a cheese producer for the mozzarella, since the tentative name for the new joint is "Mozza"? What about a winemaker? An olive producer? Anchovies?
Nancy is already practicing the concept at La Terza where she is installing a tavolo fredo, or cold table, and at Jar, owned by Campanile veteran chef Suzanne Tracht and Philip and Monica Rosenthal, which has "Mozzarella Mondays."
According to Shaw, Mario faults Nancy for replicating her ideas elsewhere, Batali confirmed his opposition when we spoke. "Once we get our real estate deal set, I think Nancy will realize that a brand is something you protect, not spread to the wind," he said.
Hey Mario, these aren't totally new ideas! The Italians have been doing this for ages, and Angelinos do travel over there.
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