Though chef Steve Samson grew up mostly in Los Angeles, he spent the summers of his youth in Bologna, Italy under the watchful eye of his maternal grandparents, surrounded by his many cousins and friends. The highlight of his time spent under the Bolognese sun was enjoying delicious, locally sourced, homemade food. He recalls a few of the intense flavor memories from Italy that have stuck with him.
“The first time I had truffles, the first time I tried balsamic vinegar on French fries, the first time I had gelato, just watching my grandmother roll out fresh pasta in the kitchen–it’s definitely nostalgic,” says Steve.
Because Italian food was such a big part of Steve’s background, it’s no surprise that when he decided to become a chef, those were the flavor memories he hoped to recreate with the help of his wife and business partner, Dina Samson. Their thriving downtown L.A. restaurant, Rossoblu, explores traditional Italian specialties like pastas and wood-fired meats, while their new restaurant Superfine Playa has a more personal, laid-back take.
“I wanted to do Italian food but through the lens of somebody who’s from California,” says Steve, who will be in the kitchen alongside Chef Mo Marvel. “They’re very similar [places] in the sense that both produce a lot of beautiful things growing in the ground, and people are really into local food.”
Over in L.A.’s fashion district, Rossoblu is going strong, but the couple longed to have a restaurant on the Westside that was more accessible and family friendly. But with a Westside zip code comes high rent, making the perfect location difficult to find. And then there was the pandemic that threw the dining industry out of whack. So when the unexpected opportunity came to take over the space at Bull & Butterfly at the Runway Shopping Center in Playa Vista, the Samsons jumped at the chance.
“We’ve been looking forever in this area. Finally, we get to do it here!” says Dina with palpable excitement.
The Samsons lived in Playa Vista for 15 years, but have recently moved to Westchester. Steve says having a restaurant close to home was important to both him and Dina for a couple of reasons.
“We have twin fifth-graders, a boy and a girl,” says Steve. “So it’s important for us to be close to them and be able to spend as much time with them as possible. But we also felt like the area needed a really great neighborhood restaurant.”
He says Superfine Playa is the type of health-conscious place people can visit multiple times a week and bring the kids without breaking the bank.
“We were really mindful about pricing and making sure the menu appealed to all types of people, regardless of dietary restrictions and all that. We wanted people to feel comfortable bringing their families there because we know it’s a very family-oriented community,” says Steve.
Knowing the importance of giving back to a community that supports them, the Samsons have come up with a creative way to benefit local schools.
“We have a soup on the menu where we donate 10 percent of the proceeds to the elementary school where our kids used to go–Playa Vista Elementary–and to WISH where our kids go now,” says Dina.
The soup is a vegetable-based minestrone that changes as seasonal vegetables become available at the local farmers’ market.
The 10-year-old Samson twins, Luca and Gaia, also love food and enjoy hanging out at the restaurant with their parents.
“They come to the restaurant and want to help out. Everyone knows them. Some people have been working with us for longer than they’ve been alive! The restaurant business is kind of like a big family,” says Steve, who wouldn’t have it any other way.
After a successful soft opening at the end of March that brought out many familiar faces from the Playa Vista Mom’s Group, where Dina used to be a member of the board, Superfine Playa is now open for dinner Wednesday through Sunday starting at 5 p.m., and brunch Saturday and Sunday at 11 a.m.
Some menu highlights include pasta, like Calamaretti (a ring-shaped noodle) with shrimp and squid ragu, Fresno chilies, Sicilian oregano, arugula and breadcrumbs; grilled Baja California striped bass with warm potato salad, yellow tomato sauce and Castelvetrano olive pesto; and an 8-ounce Prime Beef Hanger Steak with pea tendrils, Yukon Gold mashed potatoes and red wine jus. For those looking for something lighter, there’s a variety of salads.
Sides include salt and balsamic vinegar fries, just like the ones that made an impression on Steve all those years ago in Italy. A cannoli, the good old sweet ricotta-filled Italian staple, makes the perfect dessert to end a great meal.
The beautiful horseshoe bar takes center stage at Superfine Playa. It features a fabulous cocktail program with small batch liquors and a wine list comprised of family wine growers from around the world.
At brunch, you might enjoy a coffee from Sip & Sonder, a sustainable roaster located in Inglewood.
To reinforce the grown local vibe, the Samsons have added planter boxes to their indoor-outdoor space that were built locally and feature flora inspired by the Ballona Wetlands.
If you’re wondering why we haven’t talked about Italy and California’s favorite pie–the one better known as pizza–well, that’s coming to the menu soon.
The Samsons, who also have a casual walk-up window eatery downtown called Superfine Pizza, known for its crispy, thin-crust pizza with seasonal vegetables, are just waiting for the permit to add a pizza oven to Superfine Playa and the menu will be complete.
“Our style of pizza is very market driven, vegetable forward, and we think it’s something the neighborhood will really love,” says Steve.
Superfine Playa is located at 12746 Jefferson Blvd. Suite 2200 in Playa Vista. Visit superfineplaya.com to learn more.
Story by Shanee Edwards. Photos by Robert Higgins Photography unless noted.