Before you go to a new restaurant, what do you want — or need — to know most? In this new series, The Rundown, we’re sharing all the essentials about newly opened spots.
This time out: Nossa in Los Feliz, now open for outdoor dining on an expanded patio — with an impressive team behind it. Here’s everything you need to know.
1. You know that place along Hillhurst that was two restaurants? Now it’s one.
Formerly known as Vinoteca Farfalla and Tropicalia, an Italian-focused wine bar and Brazilian-inspired restaurant, respectively, Nossa in essence combines the two. The place is still owned by John Borghetti, who opened sibling restaurant Farfalla on the other end of the block in 1988. It wasn’t particularly confusing having all three places on one block, but this is much more streamlined.
2. And by streamlined, you mean…
A wall and two doorways were knocked down, which previously differentiated the wine bar and restaurant; now it’s more open, with one big doorway, a bar on the left side, plus communal tables and the kitchen on the right. The menu features Southern Brazilian staples, which have a strong Italian influence, and there’s a new Italian chef — who also happens to be completely obsessed with California’s year-round produce — offering fine-tuned accents to super approachable dishes. The wine program is one of the most interesting to hit Los Feliz in years.
3. Like the song says, it’s a family affair.
Borghetti’s son, Xandre Borghetti, who came back to Los Angeles after working at places like Blue Hill in New York and Nopa in San Francisco, is one of three newcomers to see the changes through. He brought along chef Simone Bonelli, who was at Osteria Francescana in Modena, Italy, before running numerous kitchens in New York, including Saraghina and La Pecora Bianca. And Bonelli’s wife, Michelle Biscieglia, who rose to prominence at Blue Hill and has an event and hospitality consulting business with Xandre, is in charge of the beverage program.
The pandemic actually made the switch easier. “It just needed a fresh vibe, something vibrant and exciting, but not over the top,” Borghetti says. “Within a few days, we all decided that instead of trying to tweak things, we’d shut down and reconcept the whole place. We already have one Italian spot on the block, so we wanted to focus on southern Brazil, where my father is from, for inspiration. The food there is largely influenced by Italy. And Simone is from Modena. So it all fits.”
5. Is it Brazitalian? Italizilian? Where do Italy and Brazil meet?
Much like in the U.S., more than a million Italians immigrated to Brazil around the turn of the 20th century, where they settled around rural areas. And they brought food with them. In Brazil, there are churrascarias, with their endless supply of skewered meat, and galeterias, casual restaurants that serve roast chicken, pasta, salads, soups, and more everyday fare. Nossa takes its cues from the latter.
“You could really see the food influences were specifically from northern Italy, like braised birds with polenta. Even if I’m dipping my toes into unknown waters, I still get to practice my strength — Italian food,” Bonelli says. His menu features popular Brazilian staples like pão de queijo; pasteis; and roasted chicken or grilled steak with traditional accompaniments like rice, black beans, plantains, farofa, salsa campanha, and chimichurri. But there’s also chicken lasagna, tagliatelle with wild mushrooms and truffle ragu, and spring peas with ricotta and pecorino sardo.
As for doing it all in L.A.: “It’s mesmerizing, really,” the chef says. “I went from beets and squashes and apples from Union Square Market to passion fruit and the craziest things. It feels like a carnival for me.”
6. There’s sangria you actually want to drink. Plus some fun wine picks.
Biscieglia paid special attention to the sangria, which can go wrong in so many ways. “It’s not traditional sweet sangria,” she says. “It’s more like a wine cocktail with fruit in it.” That means fresh and juicy concoctions made with a carbonic tempranillo from Spain for the red sangria, plus sweet vermouth and housemade rosemary syrup; for the rosé sangria, whatever she can get that’s nice and dry, plus Bordiga white vermouth from northern Italy, and blood orange and grapefruit juices.
There’s something for everyone on the small wine list, too. Some bottles skew more natural, others are for those who love the classics. Think: Les Equilibristes picpoul from southwest France, a light and zippy wine with a pretty orange-blossom finish; Massican Annia, an Italifornian white blend sourced from small vineyards in Napa Valley; and Diamantis moschomavro, an esoteric red from Northern Greece. “It just blows people away because most people haven’t really had wine from that region,” Biscieglia adds.
7.And a patio that screams, “Sit, stay, sip.”
Since Nossa opened during the pandemic, the trio wanted to keep their staff and customers as safe as possible, so they stuck with counter ordering and self seating in a small parklet in front of the restaurant. That is, until they could build out a lovely patio structure in the adjacent parking lot, which has room to expand once they can. ”Simone and Michelle love plants, lots of plants like passionfruit vines and so many others. It’s like a jungle out there,” says Borghetti. As things move along, they’ll make a few more cosmetic changes, enhancing both indoor and outdoor seating. Both longstanding Los Feliz regulars and newcomers are happy to see it all.
“I’m constantly surprised at how excited the neighborhood locals are,” adds Borghetti. “And there was an overwhelming amount of people who moved here during the pandemic, and now it’s their spot too. Every person is just over the moon to have their neighborhood back.”