The chef and owner of Oliver’s Osteria talks about his culinary approach and favorite local places after the Italian restaurant was recently named to Michelin Guide’s Bib Gourmand list.
By Sharon Stello
After being open only three years, Oliver’s Osteria, tucked away in Laguna Canyon, has caught the attention of Michelin Guide. This fall, the Italian restaurant landed on the Bib Gourmand list of eateries that offer a great value (where you can order two courses and a dessert or glass of wine for about $40).
Executive Chef and owner Erik De Marchi established the restaurant in 2018, naming it after his son, who was born the same October day that it opened. The cuisine is inspired by the Emilia-Romagna region where De Marchi was raised in Italy; he was born in Imola, within the province of Bologna.
De Marchi, who has more than 20 years of experience in the restaurant industry, graduated from culinary school then moved to Los Angeles in 2002 to work with renowned chef Gino Angelini at Angelini Osteria.
After time there and at Via Veneto, he decided to open his own place, where De Marchi serves authentic Italian dishes from risotto and chicken Marsala to homemade gnocchi with Bolognese, creamy Gorgonzola or arrabbiata sauce.
The restaurant updates its menu seasonally and also offers weekend brunch with bombolini (an Italian doughnut-style pastry filled with chocolate and custard) as well as a traditional frittata and fresh crepes filled with Nutella and mascarpone.
About the restaurant, Michelin writes: “Inside, the dining room oozes warmth. … It paints the very picture of Italian hospitality and that’s even before you’ve had your first bite. Chef Erik De Marchi’s menu has something for everyone. He takes a range of familiar dishes and enhances them with an authentic flair.”
De Marchi says “it’s truly an honor for myself and the entire Oliver’s Osteria family” to be honored by Michelin in this way. “We work hard every day to deliver an authentic experience to our clients and for Michelin to acknowledge us is amazing,” he says.
Why did you want to pursue a culinary career?
Erik De Marchi: I’ve been cooking since I was a child and my family has had a great influence on me as well. I would cook with my grandma in Italy growing up all the time. Other kids would play outside and I would cook and eat. It’s a passion I’ve had for many years and I’m blessed to be able to continue it today.
Where do you find inspiration for creating your dishes?
EDM: From my past, for sure. These are dishes my family has been making that I’ve developed in my own way. Also, from others I worked with. There are so many talented chefs out there and I’ve been blessed to have worked with some great ones. I try to take what I’ve learned and create my own version.
What is the most popular dish on your menu?
EDM: My cacio e pepe has become a signature for sure and a true favorite that I keep on my menu season after season. It’s such a simple dish, with such simple ingredients, but I think that’s what makes it so good. Sometimes less is more—just a little cheese and pepper will do the trick.
What is your approach to Italian cuisine?
EDM: The most important thing to me is fresh, simple ingredients of quality. I do not cut corners when it comes to my cuisine. I take the time and prepare quality food for my customers.
What is your favorite type of dish to make?
EDM: I love my homemade pasta. There’s something so special about handmade pasta—it’s really made with love each and every time.
In Laguna Beach, what’s your favorite restaurant to visit?
EDM: I have to be honest—I don’t go out that much, as I’m either working or with my kids. But I do love sushi and 242 Cafe Fusion Sushi is definitely a great spot here in town. I like to order a little bit of everything or let the chef surprise me.
Where are your other favorite places to go in town?
EDM: I love the beach—any beach in Laguna will do for me. Laguna Beach is beautiful.