Ivan became a friend over the years, though you wouldn't see him much as he was running all over town, expanding to two separate Hostaria del Piccolo restaurants (on on Rose Avenue in Venice, and one in Santa Monica), opening the gorgeous Ciboteca restaurant/market in Santa Monica, and planning a new Piccolo in the old Powerhouse Theater, also in Santa Monica, while also cooking and operating the original Piccolo (now Bobo) location. He was a busy dude.
Too busy, as it turns out, and with the added pressure of having multiple investors wanting different things, the decision was made to close all but the Dudley location, close that for a couple months to regroup, and reemerge as Bobo, while still working on the future Piccolo location. Bobo has now been firing on all burners again since late September, and I'm so happy Chef Bobo and his team are back in action ... it's truly some of the best food you'll ever eat.
I used to kind of save Piccolo for special occasions, because it wasn't cheap, nor should it have been with its very high top shelf quality. Bobo has the same amazing food, with the concept of "Eat less, taste more" as it's touchstone. The portions are smaller, but that is to say they are the perfect size. I honestly could not eat on more bite of anything I had, so exactingly apportioned were they. The tastes are out of this world, and each dish is unique, special, and entirely delicious. The scallops. Oh, my. Even the TONGUE that I've never had before, but I trust Chef Bobo. In fact, the tasting menu is called "In Bobo We Trust", and that's exactly what you should do.
Dishes appeared on our table, each plated and tasting more wonderful than the last. Bobo does a caprese salad, deconstructed into like heirloom tomato jelly, with creamy burrata and basil on top. SO good. The carbonara is made with quail instead of bacon. It was one of the best I've ever had, and totally original.
This is the after picture, if that tells you anything. (They have great plates too).
As we're inching into fall, we had a pumpkin gnocchi with sage sauce that was ridiculous, and chased down with the Italian wines and Prosecco from the exact region of Italy where Chef Bobo is from. He is from Venice, and always wanted to leave and travel, so decided that a Chef's life would allow him that. It certainly has. After growing up in a family where his parents didn't cook, Chef Bobo has now cooked all over the world, and now Venice, California is exactly where he wants to be.
We reminisced about our friend Sponto while we ate our faces off ... his gallery was located in the exact spot where we were dining, a fact acknowledged on the menu as being a "Historical landmark". So true ... the Solstice parties that took place while diners ate their pasta at the little outside tables, watching all the mayhem next door. The many Sponto sessions spent talking and laughing under his chandelier, that now hung right above us, almost like the angel that Sponto now is. They were great and special times, and we both know and knew it. Those times are also why we're so adamant now about keeping Venice cool, keeping it original.
Bobo is doing just that. His menu is like no one else's, and he is at the forefront of what he calls "Bistronomy" - really good, very high quality food at affordable prices. Simple as that. Chef Bobo is also a musician, and says that with music, like his food, "You have to put it down somehow." You have to have a creative outlet, and Bobo's art is clearly that for him, with bites that you've never thought of blowing your mind throughout your meal. Keeping with the music, Chef Bobo is setting up a vinyl record player, so customers can bring in their own records to dine to. I love it.
I hear of locals driving all the way downtown or Hollywood for their Italian dinners, and while that's fine once in a while, we all need to remember that one of THE preeminent Italian chefs in our country is cooking right there between Speedway and The Boardwalk. Like walk or bike (in heels) to your fine dining right in your own backyard.
While our eyes were rolling back in our heads over the fantastic dessert platter brought out by our wonderful server, Tommaso (that gold leaf chocolate cake! The deconstructed tiramisu!) and sharing stories of our sister cities, Venice and Venice, Chef Bobo looked out at the fog rolling in from the ocean and said, "This is my dream. I'm cooking, there is the beach, it's perfect. I wasn't expecting Venice, Italy here, but it is. And our Venice needs to stay special."
I couldn't agree more. It's my dream to eat food like this right by the beach, and our Venice certainly needs to stay special. Bobo Venice is for sure doing its part ... it's very, very special.