Chef Nancy Silverton has had a long, successful and distinguished career. Calling the ever-popular Osteria Mozza and Pizzeria Mozza in Los Angeles her home for the last four-plus years, she is now bringing some of the secrets of her kitchen to home chefs looking for a wonderful Italian dish or meal.
”The Mozza Cookbook,” her latest book, features not only 150 recipes that are tried and true staples on both menus, but also some of the backstory behind what the thinking was behind each dish. Silverton visited the Bay Area recently for a book signing and special dinner at Camino in Oakland. She said the goal of the book was to give people a chance to make the same delicious dishes that you can find in her restaurants.
“My book is aimed for people who love to cook. The recipes are very thorough and the writing is very deep and clear. It’s aimed to help you make the kind of food that we have at the restaurant,” said Silverton. “The flavors are very layered and it’s for a passionate, patient cook, rather than as a souvenir cookbook.”
The idea behind Mozza came to Silverton while she was vacationing one summer in Italy. Chef Jeremiah Tower, chef at Chez Panisse and Stars, was in Italy at the same time and she invited him over for lunch. “I chose to do a really simple, room temperature lunch. He just really loved that I chose something so simple. And he told me about a place that had just opened in Rome called Obika. I figured it was a Japanese-run place,” she said. “But he said it’s like the mozzarella equivalent of a sushi bar. There are people that work behind the counter and they were doing all sorts of simple things with mozzarella. But what he and I saw is that it was just wonderful to have that presence inside a restaurant.”
When she returned to the states, she took the ideas from her vacation and decided that she wanted to start a new, small restaurant, her own version of Obika, in Los Angeles. With the help of fellow chef Mario Batali and restaurateur Joe Bastianich, they found a space and opened in November of 2006. And the success and popularity of the restaurant has grown with each passing day.
Although I have never been to her restaurants, the complexity of each dish is richly described in every recipe. You can tell that this is real, simple, authentic Italian cuisine, yet with her own personality and style added in.
Silverton is quick to point out that she does not consider herself the chef at Mozza and would much prefer doing what she does now, working behind the mozzarella bar and making her own creations each night. She said executive chef Matt Molina and pastry chef Dahlia Narvaez, who helped with the book, are the driving forces behind Mozza, along with the rest of her team. But not before she gives her stamp of approval first.