Matteo Ferdinandi and Angelo Auriana waited patiently for Los Angeles to be ready for something like Officine BRERA, their new restaurant in the Arts District. This is not Italian cuisine with California inflections (not that there’s anything wrong with that). Instead, it’s pure unadulterated Northern Italian dishes. Thing is, they already have a very Italian restaurant, The Factory Kitchen, in the same building. So how do the two differ? Ferdinandi helps us break it down.
Ferdinandi and Auriana really wanted to open their first restaurant where Officine BRERA is now located, but the space a—1920’s warehouse—wasn’t ready. “The guys said we could have that other space first, so we took it for The Factory Kitchen,” Ferdinandi says. The word ‘factory’ is two-fold: It’s lives in the Factory Place lofts building, but it’s also a little pasta factory, with chefs rolling, filling, and extracting fresh shapes all day long.
As for Officine BRERA: “Officine means workshop, a place where things are created, where traditions are preserved,” says Ferdinandi. “Brera is my favorite neighborhood in Milan. At the end of the day we are Italian and our goal is to preserve the history and what our heritage is all about.”
Factory Kitchen is long and narrow, with low ceilings but filled with natural light from floor-to-ceiling windows in the front of the building. It feels like a more intimate setting. With lots of white marble and light gray cement columns, it has a daytime glow. And it’s perfect for light handmade pasta dishes or puffed bread stuffed with creamy burrata and fresh arugula on top.
Officine BRERA is exactly the opposite. High ceilings, lots of dark leathers, exposed brick, raw wood, metal, and industrial elements throughout. It’s sexy, sophisticated, masculine. “It has a magical feeling,” Ferdinandi says. “We wanted to keep the integrity of the elements that the building already had: metal, bricks, glass, wood. And we integrated all of these elements to bring warmness. The layout and everything–the place is just grandiose. Huge restaurants are dispersive and don’t create energy the way I like it. So we made subtle delineations, but it’s very integrated. The lighting is on the darker side, a more amber color. The way the light reflects on the bricks is very unique.” There’s also an outdoor patio and private dining rooms and event space.
Both restaurants have open kitchens, although BRERA is more of an exhibition kitchen with views into the wood-fired grills and oven.
The bar at Factory Kitchen is great as a stopover for cocktails before or after a meal, or for walk-ins without reservations. There are plenty of stools and two communal tables. If it was open all day, this is the bar to sit at in the middle of the afternoon, between busy lunch and dinner, to sip a Firefly, a spicy margarita made with muddled blood oranges.
At Officine BRERA, the bar sits along one side of the room, has its own food menu (although you can order from the full menu there), and lustier cocktails like the Via Brera made with Whistle Pig rye, applejack brandy, Cynar, walnut bitters and shaved nutmeg.
“Factory Kitchen is focused on fresh pasta, with the accent on Luguria. At Brera, it’s about meat,” Ferdinandi says. There are three different fires going at all times: in the wood-burning oven, the grill and the rotisserie (all use almond wood or oak). “We wanted to go back to the primordial way of cooking, where we can really extract the flavors. We can really cook here. At Factory Kitchen, everything is made in the moment. At BRERA, the cooking is a little more complex and heavier—more meat-driven. The risotto, the braises, the stews.”
On Creating Your Own Competition
With The Factory Kitchen on the northwest side of the building and Officine BRERA on the southeast side, they worked hard to create two different experiences. “Obviously each is a different concept. In the kitchen, it’s like day and night and night, but both are unique in that we offer Italian food that you don’t see everywhere else,” Ferdinandi says. “When I worked with Wolfgang Puck, I worked at Spago and then we opened Cut. He used to say, ‘If it’s not me it’s going to be someone else opening a restaurant nearby’. Might as well be us!”