Courtesy Jessica Biel
Jessica Biel has been quietly at work building the menu for Au Fudge, the kid-friendly restaurant she’s opening in L.A. with designer pal Estee Stanley.
Every few weeks, a new photo from a menu tasting pops up on Au Fudge’s Instagram feed — with the latest few name-checking L.A. chef Vic Casanova as the culinary mind behind the mouth-watering salads, pastas, desserts and more.
“Get ready b***** for some delicious salads!!!” was the caption on this shot.
“Its happening again!! #aufudge #tasting #chefviccasanova #carbonara soooo divine!!”
“And #desert [sic] @aufudge tasting. #bananapudding #smashedcookies #chocolatemousse. Start drooling!!”
Casanova, who owns L.A. restaurant Gusto and is opening Italian spot Pistola in the next few months, says he didn’t know Biel very well when Stanley, a good friend, asked him to create the menu for Au Fudge.
But, as a young dad, he immediately identified with their restaurant vision: To create “somewhere that’s an oasis for families, a place where the kids can go do educational things and the parents can have a great lunch or breakfast or dinner,” Casonova tells PEOPLE.
The 120- to 130-seat restaurant will be set up with areas where kids can do art projects and other activities — but, of course, they’re also welcome at the table with Mom or Dad. “The purpose for me is to create food that can make a whole family happy,” Casanova says. “Comforting, approachable, relaxing fare that shows off [ingredients from] California.”
That might be a baby artichoke sandwich with fresh mozzarella, prosciutto and lemon gremolata, or a peanut butter blondie topped with banana pudding, peanut butter budino, pieces of frozen peanut butter cups and vanilla bean whipped cream. (Half of the menu will be healthy and the other half will be “super indulgent,” Casanova says.)
Although the restaurant won’t open for another six months, and possibly not for another year, Casanova says the PB dessert and artichoke sandwich will make the opening menu, alongside plenty of others he’s been presenting to Biel and Stanley at tastings.
A bakery within Au Fudge will be making bread on site (we hope the rainbow loaf above, from the restaurant’s Instagram, makes the final menu cut!), and as much food as possible will be sourced from local farmers.
“Jessica insisted that everything in the restaurant has to be 100% organic,” he adds. “That was very comforting as a chef. I find a lot of people talk the talk [about going organic], but when it comes down to it, they don’t want to spend the money. But it really means something to her.”
Casanova says he’s enjoyed getting to know Biel: “I think the clincher was one day, Jessica hit me up with a text message. I guess it was her and Justin’s one-year anniversary and she said that Justin loves coconut and she wanted to get him the coconut gelato pie we make at Gusto.” The problem: The pie is made from scratch, and she needed it in two hours.
“We made it happen for her, and I definitely think that sealed the food relationship,” he says.