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From Nonna, With Love

BY Lesley Balla | August 23, 2017 | Feature Features

At Rossoblu, Steve and Dina Samson pioneer a new corner of downtown L.A. with heartwarming flavors from Italy.
The brutti ma buoni is a sugar sensation of cinnamon meringue, lemon curd and summer blueberries

THERE ARE MORE than 350 pasta shapes around the world. It doesn’t matter how many different ones I try—bigoli, strozzapreti, trofie, orecchiette, manicotti, penne, spaghettini or ravioli—discovering a new shape or strand, tasting a new dish from a different region, is still a revelation.

At Rossoblu, a sexy stunner of a spot from chef Steve Samson and wife Dina Samson, it was the tortellini. Maybe not the pasta itself; we all know the style, pretty little round pillows stuffed with a delicious savory cheese, pork and chicken filling. But with each bite, I think of the time it must take to create hundreds and hundreds of these little dumplings by hand each day. Thankfully, a few handfuls come in each bowl, enough to go around. It’s the broth that really makes my taste buds sing. Light and bright and still hearty, with a meaty backbone and deep golden hue, every last drop was gone by the time my friends and I were done. This is a dish at the heart of what the Samsons are doing here—flavors from the old country firmly planted in the new.

I like to imagine Steve learning how to make that brodo at the hip of his Italian grandmother in the Bologna countryside, a place he’s visited since he was a youngster and where he and Dina now take their own children. The truth is, he’s an utterly talented chef who really knows his way around a good soup stock. Perhaps it was his time training at restaurants throughout Italy, cooking at Piero Selvaggio’s Valentino in Santa Monica and Las Vegas, or working with David Myers at Sona. Either way—in this day of bone-broth madness—he could probably make a fortune selling the elixir from a kiosk out front.

If you’re going to do two restaurants in this town, definitely make them polar opposites in every way, from the location and decor to the menu and overall vibe. The Samsons have done this in spades with Rossoblu, a big urban space located in the new and still developing City Market South complex in the Fashion District downtown. It couldn’t be more different from their first born, Sotto—a charming, candlelit hideaway near Pico-Robertson.

Built inside a former warehouse, it’sa grand space with high ceilings, industrial accents and a colorful wall mural meant to represent the intersection of Italian tradition and gritty L.A. There’s a gorgeous brass and marble bar on one side, and a pretty patio coming to life as the seasons wear on. The open kitchen, busy bar and chatty guests filling every seat add to the conviviality. The atmosphere is on fire, just like the flames you see shooting up from the grills behind a shield of hanging copper pots and pans.

Photography Courtesy Of: