Full of Sound and Fury, Signifying Nothing - The Roman-style Pizzas and Pastas of Chef Funke's New Eatery - Mother Wolf [Thoughts + Pics]

Chef Evan Funke developed a steady following among local foodies for good reason. The Chef de Cuisine at Rustic Canyon in its heyday, the cooking under Chef Funke was delicious, with good seasonal Vegetable dishes, a killer Burger that our old Chowhound veterans raved about, and more. He then went on to open Bucato, a standalone Handmade Pasta restaurant and that’s when his obsessiveness with Italian Pasta seemed to really blossom. From instructional videos to exploring all different sizes and shapes… then with Felix, Chef Funke seemed to really embrace a full Italian celebration, even though it had its missteps (but also standout dishes).

Coming out of the first 2 years of the pandemic, Chef Funke has decided to expand, with a massive opening of Mother Wolf, which is devoted to all things from the city of Rome, Italy. It sounded promising enough and we were excited to give it a try.

Mother Wolf occupies the Citizen News building in the heart of Hollywood. Walking in, you are greeted by a grandiose dining hall. The term “grand ballroom” is befitting a space like this. It’s loud, and packed with people. There are high ceilings, and the whole aesthetic has a bit of Bottega Louie mixed with old school, fine dining charm.

During our 1st visit, Chef Evan Funke was personally making some Pies when we arrived, but then moved over to overseeing the dishes as they came out.

The menu continues Chef Funke’s devotion to Italian cuisine (like Felix) with all the dishes listed in Italian, with mainly Italian descriptions. There’s an opening bread section, appetizers, pastas, pizzas and main courses.

Bruschetta di Porchetta (Porchetta della Casa, Finochietto):

Chef Funke personally recommended this dish to us, so we had to oblige. And, it was pretty spectacular! Thin slices of Porchetta are layered on top of a Housemade Bread, topped with Fennel and Pork Cracklin’ (Fried Pork Skin)! It’s then topped with a luscious, fatty Pork Jous.

When you take a bite and the thin, fatty, tender, melt-in-your-mouth slices of glorious Pork Roast mixes with bites of crunchy Fried Pork Skin it’s absolutely delicious, decadent and glorious! :heart:

It’s like an absurd “French Dip Sandwich” in a way, and totally worth ordering. Highlight of the meal!

Polpette di Coda (Oxtail Meatballs, Sugo di Pomodoro, Pecorino Romano DOP):

These were far better than the Meatballs at Felix (Chef Funke’s previous restaurant). The Oxtail meat really gives each bite a deep, unctuous, succulent quality. The seasoning was also balanced, and just a satisfying bite overall. :heart:

Sadly, things only went downhill from here.

Boscaiola Pizza (Fior di Latte, Wild Mushrooms, Caciotta di Capra, Salsiccia, Finocchietto):

As aforementioned, Mother Wolf is Chef Funke’s tribute to the city of Rome. He claims these Pizzas he’s serving (wafer-thin) are authentic and the style that’s present in the city. However, it’s all for naught if he doesn’t have properly trained staff making them. We saw Chef Funke making a few pies, but then stepping away to watch over all the dishes coming out of the kitchen. His assistants in charge of making the pies… might need more training. We saw (over the course of a couple visits and hours at a time), them mangle countless Pizzas. They were trying to make them as thin as possible (to follow Chef’s guidance perhaps), but it was probably like ~20% of the pies we saw them make got ripped, or accidentally folded over, torn going in or out of the wood burning oven, etc., and thrown away as a result. :frowning:

But maybe the ones that were safely cooked might be fine?

The Boscaiola arrived, with half the Pizza burnt on the outside (see pic above). The other half was fine, with no burnt crust (very inconsistent).

The actual taste? It was fine. Of course, Pizza right out of the oven, piping hot, will have an inherent appeal and certain level of tastiness, but that’s where it ends.

Like Felix, Mother Wolf’s Pizzas are not their strong suite. The crust is OK, wafer-thin. The Wild Mushrooms were the highlight of the Pizza itself, fragrant and meaty tender. But for overall flavor and final taste? It didn’t really resonate, nor sing. And when the restaurant is charging you $47(!) ($36 + tax & tip) for a Pizza? It better be great. (@ipsedixit @paranoidgarliclover @A5KOBE @js76wisco and all.)

Napoletana Pizza (Stracciatella di Burrata, Salsa di Pomodoro, Alici di Cetara, Olive Oil, Origano Selvatico):

This was another Pizza made by Chef Funke’s assistants. This turned out worse than the previous one, with totally burnt Pizza edges (see pics above). This made the entire outer portion of the Pizza inedible. :frowning:

As for the flavors here? Fresh Burrata, so creamy and delicate, worked well to mellow out the pungency and salinity of the Anchovies.

Mezzi Rigatoni alla Carbonara (Guanciale, Egg, Black Pepper, Pecorino Romano DOP):

Knowing Chef Funke’s obsession with Italian Pastas, this was the section we were looking forward to the most. There are fewer Pastas than Felix, but with them stating Mother Wolf was focused on Rome, I suppose it’s not surprising that there’d be fewer Pastas, since Felix paid tribute to all regions of Italy with its offerings.

The Rigatoni alla Carbonara Pasta was solid. The Pastas are cooked very al dente (similar to Felix, but maybe a little more forgiving here), but definitely on the firmer side of al dente, compared to being slightly over, FYI. The Carbonara flavor? Was fine. We’ve had better Carbonara at many other places, some around town, such as Leo Bulgarini’s Carbonara (when he makes it and can source the Guanciale he likes) blows this version away. (And Mother Wolf’s version is a $40 plate of pasta.)

Tonnarelli Cacio e Pepe (Pecorino Romano DOP, Black Pepper):

I’ve been obsessed with finding great Cacio e Pepe, ever since Chef Anthony Bourdain raved about it years ago on his No Reservations food show. In fact, Chef Evan Funke’s earlier iteration of this dish at his now closed Bucato was one of our favorites in L.A.

Taking a bite… it’s merely OK. It’s a simple, humble dish, so that means each aspect of it needs to be executed to the utmost. When it isn’t on point, you get Mother Wolf’s version. You taste the Pecorino Romano, the Black Pepper and the Pasta is al dente, but it doesn’t shine. It tastes heavy, a bit stodgy and by the numbers. Clearly, the issue is that Chef Funke is not personally cooking the Pasta dishes. We liked Chef Funke’s personally prepared Cacio e Pepe at Bucato far more than this version made by his assistants here.

2nd Visit:

Our first visit was during its Grand Opening period, so we wanted to come back later to see how the restaurant progressed.

Walking in, the restaurant was still as packed and loud as our first visit. You had to shout to have any conversation while dining.

Fondatore Spritz (Cocchi Americano, Blood Orange, Lambrusco):

This opening cocktail felt like it had too much Cocchi Americano in it, which made the drink far more bitter than expected.

Calabrese Pizza (Mozzarella di Bufala, Salsa di Pomodoro, Nduja, Spigarello, Peperoncino):

As before, Mother Wolf’s Pizza arrived burnt for the outer crust. :frowning: The Nduja Sausage was spicy, but it didn’t have a lot of deep, meaty flavors like great Nduja Sausage can have. It was overcooked and dry in parts as well.

Misticanza di Campagna (Coleman Farms Lettuces, Herbs, Wild Greens):

Mother Wolf’s Salad (Misticanza di Campagna) was a tasty celebration of California local produce. These are the types of greens and fresh Salads we take for granted at times, and only appreciate it when we’re traveling out of state. This is a large plate of vibrant, local farmers market greens, so fresh that it tastes like it was just picked from the farm fields the day before. It’s a bit overdressed, but we appreciated it for being so fresh.

Fiori di Zucca (Squash Blossoms, Ricotta Romana DOP, Parmigiano Reggiano):

Fried Squash Blossoms are something we’ve seen Chef Funke do well at Felix, and thankfully Mother Wolf’s version is also well done. Not overly oily, fried nicely, definitely something worth an order.

(Special) Pappardelle Al Cinghiale:

On special this evening was their Pappardelle al Cinghiale, or Boar Meat Ragu with Pappardelle Pasta. This was good, but not great. The Boar Meat was cooked down to a hearty, simple, classic tasting Ragu Sauce. You actually couldn’t discern it was Boar, but beyond that, a tasty Tomato Ragu.

But that was it.

It tasted like a competently made Pasta Sauce, but it also tasted a bit straightforward and basic. It was missing that extra oomph that would take it over the edge and into the realm of soulful and deeply satisfying. And when you’re charging ~$40 for a plate of Pasta (including tax & tip), it just feels a bit overpriced for what you get.

Rigatoni All’ Amatriciana (Guanciale, Salsa di Pomodoro, Pecorino Romano DOP):

Their Rigatoni All’ Amatriciana was another competent Pasta dish. It looked wonderful, but the actual taste was again in the category of good, but not great. The Guanciale lacked the deep porcine flavor of the best Guanciale. The Pomodoro was OK, not overly acidic, but just tasting a bit one note.

Arrosticini (New Zealand Lamb Belly, Insalata di Cipollina, Lemon):

From their Secondi section of the menu, their Arrosticini features dual skewers of Grilled Lamb Belly. First, this is probably our fault for ordering Lamb Belly and expecting something balanced, but these turned out to be ~75 - 90% Fat in every bite. :frowning: It was pretty off-putting after the first bite. Even with it grilled, so some of the fat was rendered, you were biting into excessive pure hunks of Lamb Fat. We didn’t finish this (and I hate wasting food).

Overall, Mother Wolf was big, loud, and bombastic in nature. The dining room din was at once full of energy (from hundreds of people, and poor sound dampening), it had a lively “grand ballroom” ambiance, but it also grew tiresome after awhile. After a couple of visits, it’s clear you have to shout to hold a conversation during dinner, the service is terrible (because there are too many tables / diners, and not enough staff, even with a small army of servers, bussers, and managers running the floor. But it was packed with people. Hats off to Chef Evan Funke for hiring enough back of the house and front of the house staff to churn out his Italian recipes, to serve that to hundreds upon hundreds of guests per night.

The system is working, but at the same time, the food suffers as a result. There were a few specific Appetizers that turned out to be the highlight of the meal. We’d come back to eat their Bruschetta di Porchetta, the Oxtail Meatballs, and Fried Squash Blossoms.

But the heart of the menu, what Chef Funke says is exploring real Roman Pizza and Pasta is a disappointment. The Pizzas are consistently burnt (black charred crust), the flavors feel like they are just ingredients thrown on some dough, and the Handmade Pastas arrive sufficiently al dente (great), but the actual Sauces and Recipes just taste like they are following instructions by the book. None of the Pastas moved us. The best Pastas we’ve had over the years have been from Chefs that cared and they drew out that extra something.

Consider the Spaghittusu cun Allu Ollu e Bottariga (Fresh Spaghetti, Spicy Garlic Oil, Salt Cured Fish Roe) from La Ciccia in San Francisco. Chef Massimiliano Conti cooks up a humble, stunning dish from his Sardinian roots. Every time we’ve had it (multiple times), it is downright stunning. No bling ingredients. Just soulful, passionate cooking. Same for so many other favorite Pasta dishes we’ve had over the years. The cooking at Mother Wolf by Chef Funke’s assistants taste like it’s a “by the book” output, churned out at high volume, like a factory. They can continue to list most of the menu in Italian, to make it sound more “exotic / add mystique,” but that doesn’t help the actual taste if it’s not well executed. There’s no passion; no inspired cooking.

To be clear, Mother Wolf’s Pastas are OK (certainly not terrible). But for the prices they are charging (we averaged about ~$125 - 150 per person each time we went), it felt like you were paying for the grand ballroom and rent for this trendy section of Hollywood. As the great Bard has said, with all the din and clanging, Mother Wolf is full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.

Mother Wolf
1545 Wilcox Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90028
Tel: (323) 410-6060


I don’t even know how a spot could serve a burnt up pizza like that; at any price point; that’s really insulting to a customer.

Thanks for taking one for the team.

It’s certainly not an homage to my favorite animal !



Those burnt pizzas are rookie mistakes. The thinness of the pizza has no bearing on whether the person manning the ovens is keeping an eye and rotating the pies. Maybe they are super busy but seems like a fairly easy error to fix. It’s impossible to get a reservation so I feel less bad about not being able to try Mother Wolf.


Thanks @chienrouge. Yah, we saw pizza after pizza coming out of that oven all burnt badly as well, on both visits. Definitely save your money and skip those pies.

Thanks @js76wisco . It felt that way. Besides the absolute, complete burning of those pizzas, as we were observing the team making the pies, you could see them making other mistakes (over-rolling, stretching it too thin and tearing the dough, trying to put the pizza into the oven and then you see them take out a mangled, accidentally folded / crushed pizza, and they had to start another pizza again). It was like they were training and learning how to make pizza on the job, while the customers are being charged ~$35 - 40 per pizza for the privilege.

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I plan on skipping the whole joint. I can’t believe a restaurant that pricy and highly touted by the press would repeatedly serve up carbonized bitter poison. Could Michelle Obama have received some crap like that? I sure hope not! If I’m going to spend big bucks for food it’s not pizza and pasta, I’d rather save up for your Mori experience! Your reviews are valuable to me - it seems that press from LAtimes, eater, etc may be pay-to-play PR and not actual journalism.

If one were to send back a burnt pizza, what would happen? THAT will be the real test for this place. Please go again and report. (LOL)


Thanks for the superb report. My daughter is starting at USC in the fall, and this is the kind of place she would pick when a parental unit comes to visit. LOL


This is crazy. I’m all about good leoparding, but this is not leoparding, this is burning and overcooking. And at those price points!


I think LA diners actually like charred carbs… kinda like the people who like charbucks.


Thanks @chienrouge. I’m just reporting back on various meals, hoping it’s helpful / useful info for others. :slight_smile: I agree with you that spending the type of money Mother Wolf is charging for badly burned pizzas and average pastas (no fancy ingredients) feels like something I wouldn’t want to do again. It’s got the loud, fancy, “high energy” dining room and I guess one can feel like they are out for a special evening, but food-wise, it’s just passable for their core menu.

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Thanks @BobfromRIinVA . Yah, leoparding is one thing, but what’s at Mother Wolf isn’t that. Hopefully you get to try some delicious restaurants when you visit LA! :slight_smile:

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Thanks @Chowseeker1999 for your excellent report and rundown. I was excited to hear about Mother Wolf when its opening was announced, because I love (the four iconic) Roman pastas in particular.

This style of food is deceptively simple, but there are lots of potential pitfalls when scaling it up to serve so many covers. I’m hoping that they’ll fix the system to ensure quality and consistency.

I think that difficulty in staffing now, especially for a restaurant as big as Mother Wolf, will likely lead to challenges in execution - there’s only so much that a head chef can do at this kind of place. I’ve had to temper my expectations of service, quality, and cost when dining out. On the other hand, I totally get the disappointment, especially by relatively “simple” food and all the more at these prices. The problems with the food seemed to persist throughout your main pizzas and pastas and overly charred crust is really unfortunate. Re: pizza in particular, it seems just overcooked - dried out and burnt - and/or maybe an inconsistent touch / unideal temperature of the dough. No excuses for that.

Re: pasta - the Roman pastas have relatively few ingredients, but at their best they exemplify the expression of the “whole being greater than the sum of its parts”. Their simplicity also entails them being unforgiving by nature and it’s a few cooking details that ensure texture, balance, and synergy taking them to the next level - perhaps as it’s said, “uno piu uno uguale tre” (1 + 1 = 3). With pasta, it seems less about a science / exact recipes and more about knowledge / feel and technique - so perhaps more rigorous training and experience is needed.

I’m strongly of the opinion that Roman pastas - and Carbonara, in particular - are best prepared with dried pasta, not fresh pasta. The pasta’s bite is different, and a good carbonara will have a slick, smooth sauce and guanciale that’s crisp outside but a bit tender inside. I think that it’s very easy to become a goopy mess with a fresh noodle, and the carbonara at Mother Wolf looks almost purposefully dry in comparison to that of say Santo Palato in Rome (which was very yolky and creamy).

And on Alle Vongole (which isn’t Roman in origin but is served at Mother Wolf), I think that one of its most essential elements is the texture of the “cremosa” sauce that coats the noodles. I believe it’s achieved by the “mantecatura” cooking at the end to create an emulsion of the pasta starch and water, olive oil, and clam juice or even cooking the pasta in the strained clam juice “risotatta” style. In my opinion, that’s going to be very tough to achieve with a fresh noodle - it just takes too long and the fresh noodle is easy to overcook.

I understand that there are merits to a fresh pasta, especially one made by hand with the mattarello instead of a machine. It’s impressive when done right, and it’s certainly ideal for some sauces and preparations, but not for all. I like the fresh pastas at Felix, but I didn’t think that Funke would have a carbonara on the menu at Mother Wolf because I think that a dried noodle is a much better candidate. I think that a good dried pasta is underrated among some restaurants. I get that fresh pasta is Funke’s thing, but for carbonara and vongole in particular, I have difficulty seeing why a fresh noodle is preferable to dried one.

In terms of the Cacio e Pepe you had being “heavy” and “stodgy,” I’d think that chef Funke is not making all the dough and rolling out the sfoglia himself. A fresh pasta not rolled out correctly can feel tight and not have the right “bite” back. Chef Funke goes into detail about how to ensure a fresh pasta’s extensibility and elasticity (from timing, resting, hydration, even how to wrap/store pasta dough, how to stretch and roll it, etc.), and I can see difficulties / shortcuts in making enough fresh pasta for a restaurant that big.

A few cooking tips that I’ve had work really well with Cacio e Pepe in particular: grinding the pepper by mortar & pestle but then sieving out the finer dust (which would get bitter), partially cooking the pasta in simmering black pepper water but constantly stirring it to let it “breathe,” mixing in some parmigiano-reggiano (about 30%; I learned this one when hearing about Bistrot64 in Rome), adding half the cheese at a time and off heat (with constant stirring) to prevent lumps, vigorous tossing, etc. There’s lots of different ways to cook Cacio e Pepe, but all the techniques I’ve found to help were little details that went a long way.

Well put! It seems all too easy for the cooking to falter with deceptively simple food and with a place this big…hoping they get things dialed-in and I look forward to trying it then!


Changed ownership this month! Although my understanding is that the recipes have been transferred over. I tried to reserve a seat when I was there for an overnight trip earlier this month but, of course, they were all booked out.

Thanks for the report. That’s really disappointing to read about the pizzas. :frowning:

Wonderfully informative post, @BradFord!


Hi @BradFord ,

Great, informative post on pasta making! :slight_smile: That’s fascinating to hear about the intricacies, and thanks for the tips on making a good Cacio e Pepe.

I agree with the Mother Wolf situation overall. It’s just too big of a restaurant, and without a strong, well-trained staff that has mastered (or gotten years of experience on what Chef Funke wants to do), you get meals like what we experienced twice.

Note, of course we’re sympathetic to the restaurant industry as a whole, getting back into the swing of things due to the pandemic, but when you’re charging markedly elevated prices (we averaged ~$125 - $150 per person, with no wine, no dishes with fancy ingredients), getting completely burnt, overcharred pizzas, average pastas in return is just not a good dining experience.


Hi @paranoidgarliclover ,

Thanks! I just heard about La Ciccia changing ownership, I think the owner retired? Very sad. :frowning: La Ciccia will be missed. I hope the new owners do it justice, but we’ll see. Bummed you weren’t able to get a seat on your last trip.

I agree, and I’d definitely feel the same way if I was served the food you received (particularly the pizzas). That’s simply too much for what you were served overall, and price aside, the pizza was poorly executed. Baking a pizza correctly is not as complex as say cooking various meats to the right doneness in a game torte. With that said, I hope it can be easily rectified in the future with a little more training and quality control. Admittedly, making a good fresh pasta by hand is not easy, but I still struggle to see why fresh noodles are really better than dried ones for several of the pasta dishes. I’m not a chef though, and technique or ingredients aside, what matters is the enjoyment of what ends up on the plate. Clearly, there were missteps in your meals.

I will try Mother Wolf with friends this summer in part based on liking Felix but also because I’m hoping that their errors in execution aren’t too hard to fix…hoping that they’ll be firing on all cylinders then!

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Really nice info here Brad for use at home. Thank you. In particular I like the plan to put some black pepper in the pasta water.

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To be clear, it’s having a separate pan of a little bit of simmering water with mortared and sieved black pepper, not the cooking water itself. The cooking water is boiling with a bit of salt added. Cooking the pepper at that high heat would change the pepper and darken the water, so instead the pepper is just simmering in water in a separate pan (the one in which I’m going to eventually toss the pasta). Some even toast the pepper on a dry pan first before mortar and pestling it, but it should definitely be sieved because you want to get rid of the fine dust lest it get bitter. Some add a pat of cold butter (Parma is nice) to the simmering pepper water to help the emulsion along. To keep it really pure, I choose not to, but also because I want to improve my cooking so I can make the cremosa texture without the use of butter.

Proportions matter for pasta water (not too much), salt, and pasta (I do about 85g per person if it’s a primi, maybe up to 120g per person for a more substantial portion - since I cook for two people, anything beyond 240g of pasta is not going to cook well at all in one pan). Half cook the pasta, and importantly, take some pasta water out and let it come down in temp a little bit. The reason is it’ll mix with the cheese but pasta water that’s too hot will make the cheese clump and sticky, which it should absolutely not be. Put the half-cooked pasta in the simmering pepper water. Cook it “risotatta” style with ladeling in a bit of pasta water at a time with the heat up, letting the pasta starch really break down in the pan, which will help the sauce become cremosa. For the cheese, 70% pecorino romano, 30% parmigiano-reggiano, about 200g total (140g pecorino, 60g parmigiano). Half ofthat gets mixed with the (slightly cooled) pasta water (up to 100g, but less if you have a lot of simmering pasta water; it needs to be cooked down and release the pasta’s starch enough to make it creamy but not too much that it becomes a puddle), quickly using a spatula to mix it so it does not get lumpy, then add in the other half while continuously mixing so it becomes a paste / “cream.” OFF HEAT, mix in the cheese paste / “cream” and toss with vigor. It really helps to use the long pasta tongs that look like long tweezers. Spin in ladel, plate, and add a small sprinkle of fresh ground pepper, and some more cheese. I use Monograno Felicetti matt Spaghetti for carbonara, cacio e pepe, and gricia, in particular, and rigatoni / “sedani” for amatriciana and sometimes carbonara. For a different bite, I also use Martelli or Pastificio Faella, though I like them best for others such as pomodoro. Monograno is my favorite for Roman pastas. This works for me, and there are many ways to do it. I’m not a chef, but I’ve found through research, trial, and error that these details help.


Brad just call it Wolfsford or something !

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