Luigi Fineo

Chef de Cuisine

La Botte Ristorante

Luigi Fineo - Linguine with shrimp

A native-born Italian from a Southeastern coastal community in Puglia, Luigi Fineo has found a second home in another seaside town: Santa Monica, California.  The move has recently paid off for Fineo, with the 2007 awarding of a Michelin Star to La Botte Ristorante, where he presides as Chef de Cuisine.  Perhaps it’s not so surprising that this young chef should be affiliated with a restaurant of La Botte’s stature and culinary kudos.  In addition to a fervor and knack for his craft, Fineo possesses a drive to succeed and soar.

The youngest of five children, Fineo spent a lot of time in the kitchen helping his mother prepare family fare on a daily basis.  He enjoyed working in the kitchen and jumped at the opportunity to extend his education at Castellana Grotte, a well-respected local culinary school in Southeastern Italy.  While only 13 at the time of his enrollment, Fineo chose this school for its reputation as an institution that has produced very successful career chefs.  Even then, at his youthful age, Fineo determined a destiny among the culinary constellation. 

Starting off in his first professional position through the help of an older brother, Fineo spent several years at Beccofino, in Florence, Italy, first working in the kitchen as an assistant then later as sous chef.  When asked to specify his most valuable lesson from the experience, without hesitation Fineo commented about the education in teamwork that he received.

“It was the biggest teamwork I’d ever seen,” commented Fineo.  “There were 10 to 12 people in the kitchen, all working together, six days a week, like a family.” 

With teamwork, Fineo also learned about managing people and running a restaurant operation.

Working his way up professionally and geographically, Fineo next took a position further north in the Alpine resort town of Alto Adige at the Michelin rated Schöneck Ristorante.  Under the guidance of the ristorante’s executive chef, Fineo expanded his culinary capabilities and refined his management skills.  The restaurant’s cuisine, with its focus on local meat and game, demanded more complex preparation which led to elevating Fineo’s skills to a higher mastery.

“Each dish was complicated,” stated Fineo, “so I learned a lot about technique.”

The resort town was a popular destination for the wealthy and well-connected, and Fineo prepared food for many of his country’s political glitterati.  “I saw people in the restaurant that I knew from the T.V. news,” Fineo elaborated.

It would seem Fineo was destined for Southern California.  Hailing from a coastal hometown and familiarity with a celebrity environment, Fineo possessed a resume ripe for L.A. and its passionate penchant for dishing over food and people.  Having visited the city previously during the early years of his career, Fineo was ready to move when an opportunity presented itself.

Through friends, Fineo met Stefano de Lorenzo who courted, then claimed the chef for La Botte.  Since then, Fineo has grown to become Chef de Cuisine, contributing his own signature style while working closely under Lorenzo’s leadership. 

“I’m grateful to have Stefano’s trust,” commented Fineo.  “Stefano gives me freedom with the recipes.”

For inspiration, Fineo refers to an old Italian recipe book that he treasures, twisting the traditional into contemporary classics for today’s connoisseurs.  As well, this modern maverick remains at heart a hometown boy who doesn’t hesitate to call his mother or aunt in Italy for a recipe which he remembers from his childhood and reinterprets for La Botte.

Relationships play a very important role in Fineo’s life, whether it’s family, friends, or restaurant fraternity.  In speaking of his professional experiences in Italy or now at La Botte, Fineo cites the importance of working together towards a common goal.   In fact, one of Fineo’s favorite times in the kitchen is the morning with his crew, when the day’s food is reviewed and culinary creativity begins.

“Creation starts to work in the morning,” Fineo revealed, “when along with my ‘right hand,’ we check the food that we’ve bought and plan for the evening.”

While Fineo draws motivation from a drive for freshness and quality, he also is inspired by the satisfied faces of La Botte’s diners.  Whenever possible and pace permits, Fineo frequents the dining room personally to serve dishes to the guests.  A quintessential Italian with a charming and engaging manner, Fineo, however, possesses an earnestness and focus about his responsibilities as chef.  Touring the floor and seeing the smiling faces and eyes of satisfied guests reassures the young chef that he’s done his work well.  Fineo also draws a similar satisfaction when plates delivered full from the kitchen return empty from the dining room, indicating satisfied customers.

Yet, Fineo manages to reserve a little time to enjoy the California sun and surroundings.  This son of the sea lives close to the beach and gets his fill by running or riding his bicycle along the strand.  Constantly on the lookout to learn, Fineo opts for opportunities to eat and discover new taste combinations.  A pizza-lover, Fineo says he hasn’t found a bad slice yet among L.A.’s eclectic and sometimes offbeat offerings.  Yet, what gets this culinary king charged up is sushi!  Judging by the many and multiple Japanese restaurants and simple sushi bars around Los Angeles, it will be a long while till Fineo samples his last sashimi, ensuring his L.A. stay will be an extended one.  

Restaurant Info

  • 620 Santa Monica Boulevard
    Santa Monica CA 90401
  • Restaurant: La Botte Ristorante
  • Address: 620 Santa Monica Boulevard, Santa Monica CA 90401
  • Cross Street: 6th Street
  • Location: Beverly Hills & Westside | Santa Monica
  • Cuisine: Italian |
  • Cost: $$$ | Moderate | $50 - $75
  • Category: Fine Dining
  • Reservations: Recommended
  • Dress Code: Business Casual
  • Meals Served: Lunch | Dinner |
  • Parking: Street | Valet Parking |
  • Payment Options: VISA | Amex | MasterCard | Discover |
  • Corkage Fee: N/A