Longtime actor and Los Angeles native Alison Brie had to learn a lot about the restaurant industry for her new film Spin Me Round — well, sort of. The rom-com turned dramedy, set in the Tuscan hillsides, follows Brie as an employee at a lowly chain Italian restaurant named Tuscan Grove who earns the opportunity to head to Italy on a work trip meant to more deeply immerse her in the culture of the restaurant and the flavors of the region. The whole thing has deep Olive Garden Culinary Institute vibes, but with more danger, more jokes, and a bungled love triangle.
“I think the restaurant industry is too crazy,” says Brie when asked about whether or not she’d ever consider owning her own place some day, as many other celebrities have done. “Silent investor? Maybe. I just think that I derive so much joy from food and from being at restaurants, that I’d hate to make it my job.”
Eater spoke with Brie on the eve of her new film’s debut (watch the trailer below), touching on her favorite Italian restaurants in LA, restaurant jobs she’s had, and where the South Pasadena local used to eat as a teenager.
Since you were born and raised here, what has your relationship been to food in Los Angeles over the years?
Alison Brie: It certainly has evolved over my lifetime so far. I grew up in South Pasadena and Highland Park originally. I feel like Highland Park taco trucks have always been great. When I was younger I didn’t have a great interest in food, but Old Pasadena was definitely the hot spot.
Then I went to college at CalArts in Santa Clarita, the home of the chain restaurant and mini mall. [There was] a lot of eating sushi on a conveyor belt. Needless to say, as I’ve gotten older it’s been fun to try better restaurants.
Obviously your new film focuses on the world of Italian restaurants, some better than others. What are some of your favorite Italian spots in LA?
I have to start with Felix, though being in Venice it’s far from our place on the Eastside. I just think Evan Funke is making the best pasta in the United States. And the focaccia is to die for. During COVID-19, Dave [Franco, her husband] would drive there and pick up their pasta to go so we could make it at home, which was not the same, but still delicious.
But the focaccia really traveled well. We’d pop it in the oven, and it just melts in your mouth. And all the pastas, they’re just exciting and beautifully done. I’m never disappointed. We love it, it’s our favorite restaurant.
Good for you. I tend to find that most celebrities just default to saying Jon & Vinny’s as their favorite Italian spot in LA.
I’ve still got them on my list! I love Jon & Vinny’s. We’re a spicy fusilli, chicken cutlet household. And I love Helen’s Wines. I feel like that’s a great treat when you go there, to experience some of their funky wine choices.
Very much agree. Who else?
Pizzeria Mozza. Mozza proper, great, but Pizzeria Mozza we love. We had our wedding reception there. I love the mushroom pizza, I love the cheesiness tomato pie. All the food is great there, and I just love the casual atmosphere. It’s a classic.
Speaking of classic, where are your old-school Italian spots?
I was just reminiscing with someone yesterday about Mi Piace, which when I was in high school was like the fancy Italian restaurant that you would go to for a special occasion. But I haven’t been there in a very long time, so I can’t speak to them currently.
My favorite restaurant in Pasadena is actually not Italian, it’s Cafe Santorini, where I used to work as a hostess. Their food was so good, it was the great perk of working there.
Oh wow. Have you worked in any other local restaurants?
Not unless you count 21 Choices frozen yogurt. It’s obviously a play on 31 flavors but as froyo, and we’d have to chop in these flavors a la Cold Stone Creamery. Just like loud music, big, smiling faces, and mixing in your cookie dough all fast. It was an awful job.
It does sound like a perfect job for a teenager, at least. Anywhere else you’re loving these days?
Antico Nuovo. It’s so fantastic. I feel like the pandemic was a real opportunity for us as diners to dig into some of these other spots, places that maybe were newer or were doing something different during COVID. During the pandemic, Antico was doing those pizzas, just giant thick, almost deep dish pizza. And the ice cream! It’s the greatest ice cream of all time. I’ve got a couple of pints in the freezer right now. Everything they make is good there; the pastas are divine.
As a person with a big background in frozen desserts, I do trust your opinion.
Thank you. They have officially been given my sign off.
Alison Brie stars in the new IFC film Spin Me Round, out now in theaters. The above interview has been lightly edited for brevity.