Avengers, ‘Community’ Stars Assemble to Welcome Joe Russo’s New Restaurant Simone

When “Avengers” and “Community” director Joe Russo throws a party for the opening of his new restaurant Simone in the arts district of downtown Los Angeles, his people turn out for him. So “Avengers” stars Scarlett Johansson, Chris Evans, Don Cheadle, Karen Gillan, Marisa Tomei and Pom Klementieff as well as Marvel honcho Kevin Feige were among those toasting the debut of the stylish bar and restaurant along with chef Jessica Largey.

“Joe is an epicurean, so it’s not surprising,” said Johansson of Russo’s first restaurant venture. The Black Widow star said she loves the downtown L.A. scene — the restaurants and especially the art galleries.

Russo’s director pals Jon Favreau, Taika Waititi and Feng Xiaogang were also there to celebrate. There was a mini-“Community” reunion, too, with Joel McHale, Gillian Jacobs and Yvette Nicole Brown meeting up with Russo, who directed 21 episodes of the series.

Russo, whose production company with his brother Anthony Russo is headquartered just a few minutes away at City Market South, has become a big booster of the area. “We wanted to be disruptive and do something different — it’s called the Arts District for a reason,” he said at the opening. “I love the energy, what Bestia did, what they’re doing with Bavel and Rossoblu. Some of my favorite restaurants are downtown now.”

Russo said he was inspired by his travels as a filmmaker to come up with the kind of restaurant he would want to go to. “The whole space is curated based off of the experience I have as a diner, being fortunate as a filmmaker to be able to travel the world — to select my favorite experiences from around the world, and try to combine them into one space.”

Showing off the large table  in the jewel box private dining nook, he said, “I love round tables for larger groups. In China they have lazy Susans.”

Scarlett Johansson with Iain McPherson

Getting the bar program right was a big priority for Russo. “I’m the kind of guy who does a lot of research in every area. I go to looking for the best. When I was in Edinburgh, I found a cocktail bar called Panda & Sons, and it became my favorite bar in the world.”

So Russo enticed Panda and Sons’ Iain McPherson to create the cocktail menu, with selections like California Calling, a refined cousin to a margarita with resposado tequila enriched with coconut essence and fino sherry, or Lost & Found, with rum, bramble (blackberry liqueur) and sweet beetroot vinegar.

As far as the food, Russo let James Beard winner and former Manresa chef Largey do her thing.

“Everything I’ve ever eaten of hers is mind-blowing,” he says of Largey’s cooking. “I’m an artist and I wanted to protect her creative process. I’m a sounding board.”

Russo likes the immediacy of restaurants as compared to the long gestation of film shoots. “I wanted to create a space where my extended family in Los Angeles could share great food and great drinks, and have a place that was warm and inclusive,” he said.

He’s particularly excited about McPherson’s mole cocktail, and said “Jessica’s Caesar salad is the best I’ve ever eaten in my life.”

California produce will play a large part on the menu, says Largey, “The produce in L.A., I think is the best in the country by far.” Meats and seafood are sustainably sourced from “incredible places,” she promised.

Largey is originally from Ventura, Calif., but hadn’t spent much time downtown. “That was one of the big draws to come back,” she said, “It’s exciting to meet a whole new side of the city, there’s a really great community here.”

How does she describe the food? “It’s very Californian produce-centric, bright and fresh. But I’d rather cook for people than try to put it in a box,” she said.

More Scene

  • Dwayne Johnson Idris Elba

    Dwayne Johnson: Idris Elba Nixed 'Black James Bond' Joke in 'Hobbs & Shaw'

    In the “Fast & Furious Presents Hobbs & Shaw,” the movie’s villain Brixton, played by Idris Elba, spreads his arms out wide and declares “I’m Black Superman.” It turns out that might not have been the original line. Dwayne Johnson tells Variety that Elba was first asked to proclaim he’s “black James Bond,” but the [...]

  • Matteo BocelliAmerican Icon Awards Gala, Inside,

    Top Music Manager Calls Out American Icon Awards for Failing to Pay Talent

    The centuries-old adage no good deed goes unpunished is a common refrain for star music manager Scott Rodger of late. Rodger, who represents Paul McCartney and Andrea Bocelli at Maverick, says his client Matteo Bocelli, the son of the opera star, was stiffed out of promised expense reimbursement by the American Icon Awards. The event, [...]

  • Mary Bailey Steve D'Angelo, Jim Belushi

    Cannabis Industry Tackles Justice Reform With 'Last Prisoner Project'

    Jim Belushi is standing two feet away in the backyard of his spacious Brentwood home, honking a harp like he’s a Blues Brother back in sweet home Chicago accompanied by noted reggae band Rebelution’s Eric Rachmany and Kyle Ahern, who provide a 12-bar shuffle. There’s the sweet smell of skunk – and success — hanging [...]

  • Dwayne Wade holds up the legend

    Dwyane Wade, Megan Rapinoe Win Big at 2019 Nickelodeon Kids' Choice Sports Awards

    The 2019 Nickelodeon Kids’ Choice Sports Awards was filled with incredible athletes, inspiring moments and — of course — a massive amount of slime. “I love the kids. I love the slime. I loved the games. I love seeing celebrities and athletes like become kids again. And it’s like my favorite thing,” Michael Strahan told [...]

  • Dave Bautista and Kumail Nanjiani

    Dave Bautista Talks Representation in Hollywood and Defying Stereotypes with 'Stuber'

    Dave Bautista and Kumail Nanjiani make an unlikely duo in “Stuber,” an R-rated comedy about a police officer and his Uber driver. But the two connected over the rare chance to star in the film as actors of Asian descent (Baustia is half-Filipino and Nanjiani is Pakistani). “I’ve been stereotyped for a couple different reasons [...]

  • Skin

    How Jamie Bell Transformed Into a Neo-Nazi for 'Skin'

    Anyone who still associates British actor Jamie Bell with his breakout role as a young boy who dreams of becoming a ballet dancer will quickly forget all about “Billy Elliot” after seeing “Skin,” which screened at ArcLight Hollywood on Thursday night. “I was shocked,” the film’s writer-director, Guy Nattiv, told Variety of his leading man’s [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content