huckleberry los angeles
This week’s roundup includes a killer brunch spot in Los Angeles, Neil Perry’s latest venture in Sydney, a perfect pit stop in Italy, and a recent addition to Chapel Hill’s restaurant row.

Los Angeles: Huckleberry Cafe

Before young pastry chef Zoe Nathan opened her crowd-filled, noisy new bakery/café Huckleberry, there was a sort of Saturday morning workshop version across the street at her and husband Josh Loeb’s restaurant, Rustic Canyon. It was Nathan’s way of proving to her reluctant spouse that the westside crowd would turn out for weekend brunch. “It was utter chaos, a motley crew,” Nathan remembers of the eight months she spent pulling baking all-nighters with her father—whose day job, of all things, is as a writer-producer on Bones—and her best friend Alice, which culminated in Rustic Canyon’s long bar being transformed into a sugary tableau of coffeecakes, doughnuts, blueberry cornmeal cakes, her famous maple-bacon biscuits, and vanilla bread puddings featuring caramelized seasonal fruit. With Huckleberry, Nathan has a bigger support team, an Italian deck oven, and the opportunity to expand the savory side of her menu. There’s a crisp-bottomed flatbread topped with potato and onion; a Niman Ranch beef shepherd’s pie; and a dreamy sandwich involving a fried egg, bacon, crisp arugula, and Gruyère that’s melded to slices of rustic bread. Nathan grew up ten blocks away from Huckleberry and therefore has the culinary whims of her yoga-loving, upper-middle-class clientele down cold. But when the typically giggly Nathan talks about her turkey meatballs, there’s a hint of something else in her voice. “They fly out of here,” Nathan says, sounding surprised, wistful, and maybe a little sleepy. “I’m a turkey meatball factory.”

Huckleberry Café 1014 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles, CA (310-451-2311;

Italy: Arnaldo Clinica Gastronomica

Okay, I admit it: The name scared me a little. “Arnaldo Clinica Gastronomica”—gastronomic clinic? After molecular, now there’s medical cuisine? I pictured waitresses dressed as nurses, food served on hospital trays, or, worse, dishes concocted purely for their curative properties and never mind what they taste like. But more than one food-savvy Italian friend had recommended the place as a perfect stop for lunch along my planned route between Bologna and Parma, so I got out my insurance card and stepped through the door…into a warm, traditionally furnished place full of brick and wood, flowers both real and straw, and friezes of mythological beasts around the tops of the walls. Not a gurney in sight. But plenty of serving carts—big, no-nonsense ones—laden with salads and vegetables, antipasti, meats both boiled (like capon) and roasted (pork in Barolo). Everything but pasta is served from these conveyances, in fact. One holds an exquisite prosciutto di Parma, a mortadella as thick as a tree trunk, and some serious-looking salami, as well as non-meat treats like erbazzone, a spinach tart from nearby Reggio Emilia. Another cart has a garden’s worth of salads and cold vegetables. Yet another has desserts. It’s all traditional and local and very, very good. But why “clinica”? When it opened in the 1960s, Arnaldo became a favorite eating place for doctors and nurses from the main clinic in nearby Modena, and the name was adopted in their honor.

Arnaldo Clinica Gastronomica Piazza 24 Maggio 3, Rubiera, Italy (39-0522-626-124;

Rockpool Bar & Grill

Drivers, start your Martinis. Rockpool Bar & Grill in Sydney is perhaps the grandest restaurant Australia has seen and the perfect antipodean setting for playing out your Don Draper fantasies—or those that involve white-jacketed service, carefully crafted cocktails, and expense account–busting steaks, at any rate. Opened by Neil Perry hot on the heels of his pan-Chinese Spice Temple (located in the basement of the same Art Deco building), it’s the Sydney sequel to the successful luxe wood-fired steakhouse model he opened in Melbourne two years ago. There’s $9 million worth of wine in the cellar and meat from four leading producers in the dry-aging facility. Our picks? The hugely marbled Blackmore Wagyu skirt and the grass-fed rib-eye on the bone from Tasmania’s Cape Grim, the latter an elegantly nuanced piece of meat, the former somewhat akin to eating an old-school gentlemen’s club—all smoke, leather, and hardwood. The lengthy selection of sides includes braised green beans and poached organic carrots “inspired by St. John” (the restaurant, not the apostle), while Catherine Adams’ prune and Armagnac brulée and pink almond floating island lend a touch of frivolity to the sweet finish. It’s impressive stuff.

Rockpool Bar & Grill 66 Hunter St., Sydney, Australia (02-8078-1900;

Chapel Hill: Cypress on the Hill

This birdhouse of a space is on Franklin Street, the local restaurant row, cater-corner from Lantern, Andrea Reusing’s Asian hothouse, and just down the street from Elaine’s on Franklin, where Brett Jennings mans the stove. Chef Alex Gallis is a veteran of Magnolia Grill, Ben and Karen Barker’s New South standard-bearer in Durham. That pedigree carries real weight hereabouts. And Cypress shows promise. As in: North Carolina tilefish, with macque choux grits, in a country ham beurre blanc. And grilled quail with creamed corn and arugula. And a lovely crab cake, made with North Carolina–harvested lump, puddled in a hash of homemade chorizo and grainy mustard.

Cypress on the Hill 308 W. Franklin St., Chapel Hill, NC (919-537-8817;
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