When we showed up at Osteria La Buca on April 27, we never expected to be led down a back alley and into a windowless wood-walled room. However, that’s exactly where we found host bartender Michel Dozois and La Descarga GM Steve Livigni prepping their cocktails for “A Night with Névé.” The Névé Luxury Ice owner debuted his pop-up cocktail series on February 25 at Pasadena’s Bar Celona in an effort to showcase the benefits of his company’s big-block ice. This was the second, even more advanced installment.
The location was an Italian restaurant, so the bartenders approached the event accordingly. One of Livigni’s favorite Italian dishes is prosciutto with melon. With that in mind, he prepared the ELoper, combining Tito’s Vodka, lemon juice, fresh squeezed cantaloupe juice, Prosecco and Dimmi, a liqueur made with small white flowers from northern Italy that wasn’t as sweet as St. Germain. The rolled prosciutto garnish was ingenious.
Dozois’ first cocktail was the Italian Stallion, with a cracked Collins cube for the sake of dilution and chill. He combined Scotch, Carpano Antica sweet vermouth and Cynar, an artichoke spirit that contributed a bitter element, balancing the flavor profile. The overall effect was reminiscent of a Negroni.
Since this “Night with Neve” was titled “The Drink As Art,” guest artist Champion Grubbs drew the night’s first cocktail using colored chalk.
When he’s not painting cocktails, Grubbs can be found behind the needle at Frontline Tattoo in San Diego.
Livigni’s second cocktail was named The Silenzio Dolce by Marissa Medina, winner of Caroline on Crack’s “Name the Cocktail” contest. The drink combined Zaya rum, a 13-year-old rum from Trinidad, Averna Amaro, fresh blood orange juice and Nocello walnut liqueur. The garnish: blood orange peel. This was my favorite cocktail of the night, with bitterness from the Amaro, sweetness from the rum and good acidity from the blood orange.
Dozois closed the show with his I Luv Lucy cocktail, named for his girlfriend. The frothy, fairly sweet drink combined Carpano Antica sweet vermouth, whiskey, lemon juice and egg white.
Chef Alberto Lazzarino provided several passed plates to to soak up all the alcohol, including potato and fig ravioli in butter sage sauce, hand-torn matzoh-like pizza topped with house-smoked salmon, prosciutto purses filled with burrata and heirloom cherry tomatoes, and gnocchi washed with Gorgonzola sauce.
Mid-way through the event, Osteria La Buca owner Graham Snyder appeared with designer Brendan Ravenill. Part of the reason we were in the back room was to learn about Osteria La Buca’s expansion plans. Taped X’s appeared on the west wall, marking which walls will be torn down. Tape “shelves” appeared on the east wall, complete with outlines for dry goods like olive oil and wine. According to local Ravenhill, “Design should be a living, breathing thing.” The adjacent storefront will increase the existing Osteria La Buca space by one quarter. Snyder said “We’ve grown out of our current culture, so we’re going to redesign [the restaurant].” Ravenhill envisions a “welcoming, warm refuge” including repurposed barn wood.
Each “Night with Neve” concludes with discussions about the next event. Dozois said the next event would be mobile, involving multiple venues and multiple cocktails. He wouldn’t divulge the date, yet.
Eventually the room filled up with so many bloggers and the organizers could have had a quorum for the second Blogger Prom. Caroline Pardilla from Caroline on Crack, Pat Saperstein from Eating LA, Shawna Dawson of Sauce LA, Maya Meinart from Shop Eat Sleep, Julie Wolfson and Lindsay William-Ross from LAist, John Colletti from Social Domain, Mar Yvette from CitySearch LA, Daniel Djang from Thirsty in LA, Eric Rosen from Eric the Epicure, Aaron Tell from Savory Hunter, Javier Cabral (The Glutster) and Matt Mitchell from Dig Lounge. Excellent cocktails are clearly blogger bait in L.A…especially when a number of them are comped.