5 Questions for Victor Casanova
Victor Casanova is the chef at Culina, Modern Italian at the Four Seasons. Casanova is from the Bronx and has worked with chefs such as Scott Conant, Daniel Boulud and Cesare Cassella in New York. At Culina he's known not just for pasta and pizzas but also for his modern, California-inflected take on Italian cuisine: lots of composed small plates and lots of crudo.
What's coming up next on your menu? North Alaskan king crab leg with winter endive, radicchio, grapefruit, Campari and tarragon. The combination of bitter greens and grapefruit lends a bit of a puckering taste; however, it is mitigated by the taste of sweet crab.
Latest ingredient obsession? Black garlic. It has a completely different flavor profile [than regular garlic]. It’s very thought-provoking –- I keep coming up with new ways to use it!
What restaurant do you find yourself going to again and again? Izakaya by Katsu-ya on West 3rd Street. I’m here at least once a week. I order shishito, Okinawa-style braised pork and maki and sushi to mix it up from time to time. Afterwards I will usually head over to Magnolia Bakery –- the proximity is perfect!
What chef has most influenced you? Chef Mario Batali. He breaks all of the rules. He has helped to broaden the parameters for what it is to be considered an Italian restaurant. For example, are we expected to deliver the same experience as one would have in Italy? No, we’re in L.A. We have to adapt –- and he has had an amazing impact on that. I have the opportunity to be who I am because of who he is and all that he has accomplished.
What’s the last cookbook you read – and what inspired you to pick it up? Most recently I referenced "Eleven Madison Park, The Cookbook" co-authored by Daniel Humm from New York City. I think he is a fantastic chef. I also find inspiration from old-school cookbooks like those by Marcella Hazan.
Culina, Modern Italian, 300 S. Doheny Drive, Los Angeles, (310) 860-4000, www.culinarestaurant.com.
-- Betty Hallock
Photo credit: Culina, Modern Italian