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THE PASTA LAB

THE EXPERT | EVAN FUNKE | Executive Chef and Owner at Bucato Restaurant

Known For: Making Pasta 100 Percent by Hand 

WRITTEN BY: MATILDA BRESS | PHOTOGRAPHED BY: MATT DOHENY 

Passionate is an understatement when describing chef Evan Funke. From teaching all of his pasta chefs the ancient art of handmade, to knowing the soil content of his locally sourced produce, Funke refuses to be average. After spending several years at Wolfgang Puck Catering, Funke studied abroad in Italy and shifted his whole outlook, learning the art of handmade pasta and shining a shimmering spotlight on it at Bucato Restaurant in Los Angeles. Currently, Bucato is the only restaurant in the entire country that makes pasta 100 percent by hand: No rollers and no hand cranks.

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Disenchanted with the direction in which LA eateries were headed, Funke introduced Bucato to historic Culver City. “The whole purpose of this restaurant is fundamentally and elementally driven. I felt that the status quo lacked in numerous ways, ” said Funke. Instead of the fancy techniques and liquid nitrogen used by others, Bucato focuses on the basics. Accountability is ingrained in the walls of the establishment— literally. The Culver City gem features a 20-foot butcher knife outline of California. Various knives in the middle represent the local farmers and growers that provide Bucato with their produce and proteins. Everything is done in-house from butchering to baking, putting simplicity back on the map. More than cooks, these chefs are virtuosos of a disappearing art form and dinner at Bucato is a rare opportunity to experience a masterpiece.

Bucato Restaurant

Q: Tell us about the vision behind Bucato?

Evan Funke: We wanted to present an eating house, where everything is hand crafted, and everything has a thinking process behind it. Hot steel, wood fire, good cooks, good water, good wine, good ingredients, good soil and that’s it.

Q: What is Italian food to you?

EF: Italian food to me is not about a certain dish. It’s not about pizza or spaghetti; it’s about an approach to life, vitality and radiance. That’s all there is to it. It’s about cooking seasonally, cooking what’s around you and supporting the people who support you.

Q: Talk to us about sustainability.

EF: Sustainability is a constantly moving target. You never get there; you are always chasing it. Here at Bucato, we source locally, and do various things to remain sustainable, such as burning almond wood, but we are always looking to do more and hit that target.

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Q: How did your schooling impact Bucato?

EF: I spent seven years at Wolfgang Puck, which included heavy training with French style cooking, but as soon as I set foot in Italy, and fell in love with the Italian approach to food, all of that went out the window. The Italians are funny; they would never do anything to food that keeps them from having a good time. The approach boiled down to the idea that if you nurture the soil in which the food is grown, you won’t have to do anything else to it, and that blew my mind because I had spent that last seven years manipulating food.

Q: Can you really taste the difference in handmade pasta?

EF: Absolutely. It’s like eating pound cake versus ciabatta. When you hand-make dough, you get these beautiful air pockets that make the dough light and airy, but when you squeeze it through rollers, you lose all of that, making the dough dense. By hand rolling, you distribute those air pockets making the entirety light and airy.

Bucato Restaurant

Q: Do you make all the pasta yourself?

EF: We teach at this restaurant. We feel it is our responsibility to give our knowledge to the people who work so hard for us. Our apprentices will be able to move on from this experience with skills that maybe 10 people in this country have, maybe. I am one of them, and the other woman who works here, Nadia Israwi, is one of those 10 as well.

Q: Is most of the pasta in Italy 100 percent handmade?

EF: Handmade pasta is an age-old craft, but, unfortunately, in Italy, this craft is only done by the great-grandmothers…not even the grandmothers because there is such an onslaught of convenient food. It is killing handmade food, and it is horrendous.

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Q: Can you talk about a particular type of pasta?

EF: One of the oldest pasta shapes is rolled on a knitting needle. So essentially, we take a thick snake of dough, place the knitting needle over the top, pinch to seal it and then repeat for every single piece. That means if every customer gets 12 pieces, my pasta maker has to do that 12 times just for you. The reason we feel so strongly about both our pasta and our no photo rule is because we believe that people should pay the proper respect for it and all the work that goes into it.

Q: Does Bucato honor traditional Italian cuisine?

EF: This is a California restaurant with an Italian approach. Yes, we honor the art of Italian cooking, but that does not dictate what we make or how we sauce it. We focus more on the Italian method than the specifics of what’s on the plate. 

Bucato Restaurant

BUCATO RESTAURANT

3280 Helms Ave Culver City, CA 90034 310.876.0286 www.bucato.la