A lot of people ask me how I started writing about food. I’ve always been a writer, but at the beginning of my career I focused mostly on design, architecture and art. Even though food had always played a huge role in my life, somehow I wasn’t writing about it.
All that changed when I met Evan Kleiman. From the first moment that Evan and I began the conversation that would turn into a life long friendship, it was mostly about food. If I can in any way call myself a food writer today, it is thanks to Evan who encouraged me not only to write about food, but to become engaged in a meaningful way that continues to define my life.
Why this homage (which almost sounds like an elegy or even worse a eulogy) to Evan today? Because, after nearly 30 years, Evan is closing her game-changing restaurant in Los Angeles, Angeli Caffe. You can just google her name to find out how this very special restaurant changed and affected an entire generation of diners in LA. I know a lot of people have been moaning and groaning about the closing. And I do realize that it is really sad, for a lot of reasons.
But me? I’m kind of happy. And for purely selfish reasons. You see, the Evan I know doesn’t have much to do with the restaurant. Before I ever spoke to Evan I knew her through her cookbooks. Who doesn’t have Pasta Fresca on their bookshelves? Along with classics by Marcella Hazan and Giuliano Buggialli this book introduced most of us to cooking simple, delicious pastas that have become standards in our homes. Written over 20 years ago, it is still in print today, along with her other books.
And then there is Italian Evan. Evan calls us her Italian family, since she shares our homes in Rome and Todi when she is in Italy. Although I’ve eaten at Angeli a couple of times, my main experience of Evan’s cooking is her stirring up a pot of pasta in Rome or slipping another pizza into the oven in Todi.
LA is a long way from Rome, and Evan doesn’t get a chance to visit as often as we’d like. But I still can pretend she’s hanging out with me. Good Food is her radio show and listening to it, on my iPod, as I walk around Rome, is kind of like having her here with me.
So, Angeli is closing tomorrow. All you Angelenos can mourn as long as you’d like. But me? I’m celebrating. Celebrating not only the fact that Evan kept a successful restaurant going for 27 years (Brava!) but mostly celebrating the fact that she’ll get more time to do all the great things that I hope will bring her to Italy more often: write, broadcast, lead culinary tours and – most importantly – hang out with her Italian family.
Keep up with Evan – post Angeli – on twitter and Facebook