A Toast of Prosecco Welcomes Guests to the Latest Sean MacPherson Project
The most recent labor of love from veteran restaurateur Sean MacPherson (Swingers Diner, Jones, The Roger Room), il Covo on 3rd Street in Los Angeles is offering up some holiday cheer. After two years of careful construction, and the final completion of the restaurant’s interior and patio design in place, il Covo will welcome all guests with a flute of prosecco at dinner during the month of December to celebrate the holidays and newly discover this legendary restaurant location.
Set in a 1920’s Mediterranean former four-plex apartment on 3rd Street that once housed the beloved Joe Allen, and subsequently Orso, il Covo has been lovingly reinterpreted to resemble a Mediterranean home and garden. MacPherson named it “il Covo,” translated from Italian as “the den (of thieves).” Il Covo opened very quietly with lunch and dinner service earlier this year while still fine tuning the details of design, food and service. Now operating smoothly according to aspired standards, the restaurant is ready for the experience that MacPherson envisioned when he first acquired the building. With a menu executed by Milanese-born Roberto Maggioni, formerly of Locanda del Lago in Santa Monica, il Covo offers classic and contemporary Italian dishes in a warm and inviting environment that make a visit for lunch or dinner feel like dropping in to one’s neighborhood canteen. The operation is overseen by partner Jared Meisler, who began his career as a musician in Los Angeles and is involved with MacPherson in other projects, including Bar Lubitsch and The Roger Room.
In it for the long haul, MacPherson bought and restored not only the restaurant but also the apartment building next door where he currently resides. MacPherson sees il Covo as an extension of his own home and designed it as such, culling treasures from all over the world. The dark mahogany wainscoted walls were finished and refinished repeatedly to achieve the right lived-in feeling.
The coffered wood ceiling was hand painted by international artisans. Plush horseshoe booths allow for cozy and intimate gatherings. Wine bottles are tucked into niches and backlit for a dramatic effect. MacPherson carefully curated pieces from his own collection to decorate the restaurant with a bounty of art and objects that includes a photograph of Marcel Duchamp and author Eve Babitz playing chess in Pasadena, drawings by the film director Jean Negulesco, and a collection of 60’s Italian Bitossi lamps.
Three salvaged antique fireplaces – the one on the patio boasts a copper bull’s head rescued from New York’s Tavern on the Green – are stocked with fabulous andirons and lend even more warmth to the restaurant’s rooms. The long bar area with its carefully carved wood accents and a line of mohair-topped stools leads to the celebrated outdoor patio – one of the most highly coveted in Los Angeles – that is now fully enclosed, adding further intimacy and charm. The transporting garden is anchored by its original two large leafy trees. Floors are made of salvaged Italian terracotta and marble while the alcoves are decorated with local vintage encaustic tile. Wrought-iron balustrades enclose upper doors and windows.
“We put a lot of work in creating every new detail of this space,” states MacPherson, “but the concept for il Covo has always been to produce a restaurant that would be perceived as a place that has been around for decades.”
The food at il Covo is prepared with exceptional ingredients. Straightforward dishes are well executed and the service is polished yet warm. Menus are highly accessible for grazing, late night snacks and complete, simply elegant dinners. Appetizers feature Crostini of Sea Urchin, Radish and Caviar; Octopus Carpaccio with Celery, Radish, Olives; and Arancini Risotto Croquettes with Mozzarella and Peas in Arrabbiata Sauce. Salads run from Baby Raw Artichokes with Pecorino Cheese to Kale with Tuna and White Beans to Niman Ranch NY Strip Steak with Arugula. Plates of cured Italian meats collectively called salumi and a cheese plate with almonds, truffle honey, and dried fruit are available at both lunch and dinner.
A variety of pizzas prepared in a wood burning oven will change seasonally. Among the selection are a classic Margherita; Fichi e Speck (Fresh Figs, Goat Cheese, Fontina, Smoked Prosciutto); and Genovese (Pesto, Goat Cheese, Green Beans, Pine Nuts). Pastas include house-made Half-Moon Ravioli with Black-Truffle Cream; Cappellacci Filled with Osso Buco in a Gremolata Sauce; Beet and Goat Cheese Risotto with Aged Balsamic and a gluten-free corn pasta, available on request for special diets.
There are half a dozen entrees on the menu for dinner – Jidori Brick Chicken with Broccoli Rabe; Osso Buco with Saffron Risotto; Grilled Branzino with Market Vegetables; a Black Cod with alla Livornese with Tomatoes, Olives, Capers and Anchovie; Oven-Roasted Salmon with Pea Tendrils; and Filet Mignon with Fig and Balsamic Reduction.
Il Covo is open for lunch Monday through Friday from 11:30 a.m. until 5 p.m. On Saturday and Sunday brunch is served from 11:30 a.m. until 5 p.m. Dinner is served nightly from 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. Full menu service is available in the bar which serves premium spirits, signature cocktails and a selection of wines from California and Italy.
MacPherson and his partners have earned a reputation for creating many of the city’s most influential hotspots, all renowned for their style, quality and—importantly—longevity. MacPherson, called “L.A.’s scenemaster laureate” by Los Angeles Magazine and the “bar czar” by Citysearch, has created a long list of hot restaurants, most of them still operating, including Olive, the legendary 90’s hotspot on Fairfax; Swingers Diner; Jones; Good Luck Bar; El Carmen; Swingers Santa Monica; Bar Lubitsch; and The Roger Room. He is equally successful on the east coast, operating several restaurants, hotels and bars in New York and Montauk, known for their excellence and style.
Unlike virtually all of his peers, MacPherson doesn’t hire designers. Instead, MacPherson dedicates his time and talent to personally designing and building all his locations himself, creating environments known for their combination of élan and comfort.