The backbone of The Ordinarie’s origin story is nearly impossible to dismiss when writing about it because the concept behind it is one of Long Beach’s strongest in terms of what it wants to be and what it harkens back toward: American hospitality, in all its complexities—and therefore, American cuisine, in all its complexities.
“American regional food is so beautiful for me because it is defined by immigrants and the Black community that have built the country,” said Chef Nick DiEugenio, brought on earlier this year to take over one of DTLB’s best spaces. “Each city you visit in the States, their food is entirely defined by its history and the immigrants who moved there. Every city you visit has its dominant immigrant population—and that affords American cuisine a lot of creativity that is often dismissed.”
Young, reserved, and extremely focused, DiEugenio grew up in one of the most jealous-inducing situations: His parents were the authors of cookbooks that focused on American cities—leaving him to inspiration about how one can approach a kitchen. (He is also happy to discuss his neo-Platonic philosophical leanings or his more recent dive into medieval Islamic philosophy.)
On top of that, he has had the honor of working in places that rank above our region’s best, including Chefs Ori Menashe and Genevieve Gergis’s influential Levantine space Bavel. (For those that might recognize their names but not that particular space, Menashe and Gergis came to culinary fame in Los Angeles with the creation of Bestia, the restaurant which transformed DTLA’s dining scene. And yes, there are further Long Beach connections: Daniel Flores, co-owner of the rightfully lauded Long Beach bar Baby Gee, served as its general manager during its most formative years.)
And in DiEugenio’s words, ever the scholar and history-obsessed chef he is, “It was humbling to have to return home Googling ingredients.”
This cross-pollination of American regional cuisine expertise with his then-newly minted grasp on Levantine food creates a menu for The Ordinarie that is not just one of its most creative but one of its most distinctly different.
Yes, of course, you still have the space’s stellar burger, chicken pot pie bites—a staple food of Long Beach since the restaurant’s inception if there ever was one—and Ordinarie fries slathered in short rib gravy and cheese sauce.
But his not-so-little bits on the menu is where the space’s food shines best in terms of evolution and, just as importantly, DiEugenio’s obsession with nearly every aspect of cuisine.
It’s exuded in his play on veggies: His grilled squash appetizer, where Italian and acorn squash sit among bits of eggplant and tomato, is a wonder; tart’n’light whipped chèvre and toasted bread crumbs add a texture and creaminess that make the dish a rightful dish on its own.
The tomato salad? DiEugenio’s love of the acidic shines through with bits of strawberry and a lemon vinaigrette, cut with the dairy of crème fraîche and amped up with a chili crisp. It’s a strangely decadently-light salad that can accompany his more richer dishes or, like his squash, stand on its own as a meal.
And while there are other tidbits—a stellar steak (that was ribeye when I visited but alters and will likely be leaving soon) with chimmichurri, a genuinely fulfilling Carolina-style pulled pork sandwich with a mustard slaw that could serve as a side on its own…—there is nothing more plainly Ordinarie-esque than DiEugenio’s play on pork and beans.
A strip of pork belly that is marinaded’n’sous vide-ed before being fried and served atop beans, it is the Hormel-in-a-can American pantry staple on a much-needed dose of steroids and class.
So if anything—before the massive endeavor that is Miracle takes over the space for 2023—catch this menu, experience The Ordinarie as it was always intended to be: an American tavern with all the complexities of a country and cusiine behind it.