One of the best ways to experience a city is by delving into its dining scene, trying new dishes and unique flavors. And after all, who knows how to eat well better than a James Beard award winning chef? We spoke with Nancy Silverton, chef, American Express Global Dining Collection partner, and co-owner of Pizzeria Mozza, Osteria Mozza, Mozza2Go, and Chi Spacca, about her favorite places to eat around Los Angeles and her greatest culinary experiences around the world.
What are three restaurants that are worth traveling anywhere in the world for?
"I’d travel to see Dario Cecchini, the butcher in the small town of Panzano in Chianti, Italy. Cecchini owns two eateries, not restaurants, per sé, but rather places that feel like you’re eating in the home of a butcher. I like to go early and snack in the small butcher shop. I would also travel to Osteria Francescana, Massimo Bottura’s temple to honoring and updating the classic dishes of his region around Modena, Italy. Finally, I would say Taqueria Los Cocuyos in Mexico City. While it’s an exaggeration to say it’s worth flying here from across the world, it sure is worth it if you’re in Mexico City. It’s open until 5:30 a.m., and I went last November after a fancy dinner."
What is your favorite place you have ever traveled?
"I am about to travel to Umbria in Italy for my annual six-week vacation. I love Umbria so much I bought a small house there in a little hilltop town."
Is there a single stand-out meal you’ve eaten there?
"There isn’t a restaurant experience in Umbria that stands out, but rather several home-cooked meals at my house. At these dinners, I host up to 30 people and I often assign my guests duties: One might go to the cheese shop an hour away. Another to a butcher shop. I spend the morning and afternoon preparing side dishes, and one friend barbecues lamb shish kebab. The wine flows. The stories grow. And don’t forget my Van Morrison. I wrote about these dinner parties at length in Melanie Dunea’s book My Last Supper."
What are some must-try restaurants you’d recommend to people visiting Los Angeles?
Are there any cities you have visited or cuisines you have tried that have inspired your own cooking?
"This year I’ve only been to London and Israel, but from both places I brought back so many ideas to enrich my menu."
Is there a single most memorable dining experience you’ve had while traveling?
"In the early 1990s, I had a meal at Fredy Girardet’s Restaurant de l'Hôtel de ville de Crissier in Switzerland. It was the first time I realized food could be perfect, both it its execution and its flavor. The meal really became my gold standard. Fredy has since retired, but his restaurant is still earning three stars."
What is a bucket-list trip of yours—a place you absolutely want to visit once in a lifetime—and why?
"Turkey. I’ve never been there and I really want to go because I know I would love the cuisine."