By Jessica Koslow
Superfine Playa’s electric blue building and bright red letters near the roof boldly announce its arrival at Silicon Beach’s RUNWAY Playa Vista. The playful structure is energizing and eye-catching. What used to be The Bull and Butterfly Steakhouse transitioned to a casual California osteria on January 1 and officially opened its doors on March 22.
It was a quick turnaround, explains owner Dina Samson, who shares that her team had to hit the ground running, repurposing and refinishing.
Although they kept much of the prior restaurant’s design, the place was given a chic makeover. They added wooden planters outside handmade by Victory Gardens and filled with native plants, many of which were transplanted from the nearby Ballona Wetlands.
The bespoke wallpaper in the bathrooms is beautifully illustrated with the same plants popping out of the outdoor boxes; it’s brightly colored in the women’s bathroom and more muted in the men’s.
The space has 86 indoor seats, including 16 at a communal bar and 10 bar seats. Outside, there is a capacity for 20 on the patio and 20 on the terrace.
Dina Samson co-owns it with her husband, Steve, chef-owner of Downtown LA’s Rossoblu. They connected with Lemonade founders Heidi and Alan Jackson to take over the space and open Superfine Playa. One of the kitchen’s main attractions is Steve Samson’s signature New York x Neapolitan hybrid-style pizza, which he serves at Superfine Pizza, a walk-up window in the Fashion District in Downtown Los Angeles.
“The menu is equal parts Italy and California,” says Steve Samson about Superfine Playa. “We want the menu to be light, bright and approachable.”
The menu boasts housemade pastas, wood-grilled meats and fish, and dishes highlighting fresh produce from the Playa Vista Farmers Market. Chef Mo Marvel leads the kitchen with Steve Samson, having moved over from his position as sous chef at Rossoblu.
Ella Zoller of Honey House curated the beer list, the centerpiece of the full-service bar.
Because the restaurant specializes in natural wines, wine jails divide the bar section from eating area, showing off rows of shiny bottles of different hues. The wine list focuses on family growers and winemakers and was curated by James Saidy and Dina Samson. Brunch service is available, too.
It’s somewhat of a departure from their previous establishments, Rossoblu and Sotto, but the chef remains committed to quality Italian meals and open-armed hospitality.
“Foodwise, my mom and nonna were my biggest influences,” Steve Samson says. “Personally, my mom and dad gave me everything I ever needed to become a decent person. We strive to treat our guests like we treat our family and friends, with compassion and understanding.”
The Jacksons opened Bull and Butterfly Steakhouse for business in 2020 during the pandemic, which made success near impossible. Although today’s culinary climate is more optimistic, launching a restaurant is no piece of cake.
“Opening a restaurant is overwhelmingly hard,” Steve Samson says. “There are so many moving parts and details that constantly jump out at you. It’s physically and mentally demanding. I’ve learned I’m getting too old for it.”
Superfine Playa offers outdoor dining on the patio and terrace, a feature that now seems to be a must-have for places after the pandemic.
“The pandemic has affected the restaurant industry in so many ways,” Steve Samson says. “One of the positive things is that people in LA finally enjoy dining outdoors.”
Despite the long days and nights, Dina Samson’s excitement for what’s to come gushes as she points to the little and big additions to the space on a recent tour. Her enthusiasm trickles down to the 100-year-old host stand, which they found on eBay from a church in Missouri, and the Italian-imported tiny tiles that spell Superfine Playa on the floor when you first enter the front doors.
“They were stuck in Turkey during the earthquake,” she reveals.
Kids are always welcome at Superfine Playa, which is a plus in a community where children are the order of the day. The Samsons live in neighboring Westchester, and their 10-year-old twins, Gaia and Luca, attend WISH Charter Elementary School.
“We’ve watched Playa Vista grow from a strictly residential community to one with incredible amenities that attract shoppers and diners who live elsewhere,” Steve Samson says. “We love raising our kids in this community, so it’s super important for us to make Superfine Playa a family-friendly neighborhood restaurant.”
Once Dina Samson’s day-to-day routine settles into business as usual, she’s looking forward to meeting her neighbors, especially the female restaurateurs. She’s the co-founder of Regarding Her, a nonprofit hub highlighting women-identifying and nonbinary food and beverage entrepreneurs. The website includes an LA and Washington, D.C., guide listing food and drink experiences inspired and curated by women-owned businesses.
As Dina Samson stands in front of her latest dining endeavor, she points at the brightly painted Superfine Playa letters near the roof: “I need to get a spotlight,” she says, which is one more way she’ll make sure Superfine Playa stands out at Runway Playa Vista.