Does it come from magic? The Divine? Or by eating a Double-Double from In-N-Out Burger?
“I wandered into In-N-Out eating a Double-Double and that’s it, we’re going to do a Vegan Double-Double. And we sell a ton of them.”
Immediately after lighting struck, Fiorelli put his plan into action. He went to Whole Foods, bought the ingredients, made a test at home, and received a C at best. No one will ever taste his rough draft, they’ll only experience the final A+ version, the one that took days in and days out of tinkering to get every single component just right.
“I don’t want to use our guests as guinea pigs. I rather know that it’s going to be well received by the time it hits the menu.”
That kind of care is what you experience not only in the food but in the whole dining journey at Olivetta, a freeing fortress of solitude and fulfillment kiddy corner near Melrose and Doheny, a block or two away from the world-famous Troubadour concert venue.
You walk into a casual living room space where one sips a scrumptious tequila cocktail, orders an appetizer or two, and ponders where the best seat in the house is. Options are the sunroom where fans hang from a glass ceiling skylight and botanicals cling at the sides. The tropical-themed dining room sets your mind to vacation mode.
After one chooses their idyllic location, Chef Fiorelli makes the menu selection process one of the easiest in Los Angeles by instilling homegrown flavors with a slight twist.
Take the Rye Macaroni (made in-house) with fennel sausage, black kale, and ricotta. Fiorelli’s mom cooked him a similar dish when he was little. “She used boxed orecchiette pasta, went to the butcher for the sausage, put in any vegetables we had around, and mixed it with a little Parmesan cheese and olive oil. A staple in Italian American homes.”
Fiorelli’s version might involve a few more steps, but the same first bite is there. The bite that transports one to their halcyon days. The dish that makes you forget you’re in a cloth-napkin restaurant because you want to eat with your hands as if no one is watching.
He knows people who loved his cooking from past kitchens will be pleased to know his simple dishes continue to create a timeless experience. His whole roast chicken remains on the menu: a deboned bird roasted for 20-25 minutes with crispy skin on top and toasted bread on the bottom to collect all of the fowl’s natural au jus. As well as the Chopped Black Kale salad, Fiorelli’s take on the Italian chopped.
His personal favorites besides the pasta and chopped salad are the branzino, brown sugar budino, and sourdough bread, the best table side sourdough in all of Los Angeles County.
Grandparents and parents alike tell children not to fill up on bread before the meal, but Olivetta is the exception to the rule. Fiorelli was warned not to sell bread in a posh place on Melrose where many fit and attractive people frequent. Turns out the sourdough is their best seller and walks the walk to everyone’s talk. The seared golden sustenance doesn’t need the butter beside it. Whereas San Francisco chowder places along the wharf might have put sourdough on the map, Olivetta perfects it.
Olivetta’s great artist behind the stove could have never been if it wasn’t for someone in the stands who saw his promising talent. Back in Philadelphia, he walked into James Beard Award-winning chef, Susanna Foo’s, restaurant only to be humbled from the get-go. “She hired me and it didn’t go well at all. I couldn’t keep up and she was not a fan of me. I wouldn’t say she fired me but it was sort of a mutual agreement.” Fiorelli’s inherent drive caught the attention of a sous chef who told him about an apprenticeship at the historic Greenbrier Resort in West Virginia. After a stint in a different kitchen that went much better than his first, Fiorellii spent almost three years inside Greenbrier where he earned all of his culinary badges.
“I learned skillsets you can’t even learn anymore. It was a big resort, they had a butcher shop, candy shop, bake shop, fine dining restaurant, high volume restaurant, all of that. From there, I was able to go anywhere as a cook. It was all because I got let go from Susanna Foo that that happened. Seemingly the low point of my culinary career was also the best thing to ever happen to me.”
A kitchen brigade is a hierarchy of leadership similar to military ranks. Though Fiorelli runs the ship, at this stage of the game, he’s equally motivated to teach and learn from all of his peers and colleagues behind and in-front-of-the-house.
“My job is to see the big picture and grow other chefs. Teach them not only about food but find out what it is that they’re excited about. That’s the most fulfilling thing for me right now.”
Many admirers of Fiorelli’s work munch on a few tender grilled octopus tentacles taking a dip in salsa verde soaking next to four crispy potatoes.
Then, they go after the filleted branzino with a slight sprinkle of lemon conserva. A dish like this shows how cooking at the highest level with supreme ingredients remains uncomplicated and first-class. Finally, they earn gold medal status at the Clean Plate Club with the brown sugar budino, a caramel-flavored thick pudding, layered with crème fraîche, sea salt, cocoa nibs, and a toasted almond-anise cookie. Even the crème fraîche king, Randy Marsh (a character from the TV show, South Park) would be in awe.
When one asks to pay compliments to Fiorelli and it’s his day off you’ll find him at several different restaurants in LA. But at least once every couple of months, the best place to find the chef besides Olivetta is in a movie theater eating movie theater nachos.
“People think it’s the grossest thing. I know they’re gross, fatty, salty, and I love them. I don’t know what it is. Something about it.”
And in Fiorelli’s defense, like the In-N-Out Double Double, inspiration is found in the unlikeliest of places. Who knows, Olivetta regulars and first timers might discover a new menu item pretty soon (wink).
9010 Melrose Avenue
West Hollywood, CA 90069