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Imagine walking into a restaurant that offers both the comfort of a family-style environment and the aesthetic of classy, contemporary interior design. Milo & Olive, a bakery and pizzeria located on Wilshire Blvd. in Santa Monica, has successfully mastered this hybrid by offering quality foods made from fresh farmers’ market ingredients, adopting the format of communal table seating, and maintaining a sleek, well-kept image.
Milo & Olive is a restaurant that offers two primary functions as a part-bakery and part-pizzeria.
The restaurant serves a versatility of options to its customers, with breakfast, lunch, and dinner options as well as a beer and wine list. Pastas, salads, and various small plates are available in addition to its famed pastries and baked goods.
However, the common denominator among all menu items is the fact that they all incorporate “great seasonal farmers’ market products,” making the food as fresh as it can get.
“We focus on what Santa Monica needs,” said executive chef Erin Eastland. “We are centered on comfort foods and have a rustic Italian style.”
Chef Eastland, who recently celebrated her first anniversary of service at Milo & Olive, may be relatively new to the restaurant, but is a defining asset to the process of food preparation and the quality of ingredients.
Eastland has frequented the Farmers’ Market for eight years as a regular and personally knows the vendors and farmers. The content of the menu is dictated largely by the produce that is in season, ensuring the enhancement of the flavors created in the Milo and Olive kitchen.
“This is one of my favorite seasons for ingredients,” Eastland said.
She accredited heirloom tomatoes, watermelons, and corn as some of the in-season produce that act as great bases for recipes and that she loves to experiment with.
In fact, Eastland initially met Josh Loeb and Zoe Nathan, the owners and founders of Milo & Olive, at the Farmers’ Market.
What with their common interests – as Loeb and Eastland are both runners – they all fatefully befriended each other even before Eastland was eventually hired at the restaurant.
The three still maintain a close relationship, as Loeb and Nathan take to a hands-on approach when it comes to managing the restaurant.
“We work really closely with the owners,” Eastland said. “They’re as laid back as it gets, and it’s so much fun working with them. The want to be involved.”
Eastland describes cooking as something she had always wanted to do.
“I went to college knowing I was going to go to culinary school sometime afterward,” Eastland said.
She was exposed to the culinary arts at a very young age, as she used to watch and cook alongside her godmother and mother as a child.
“My mom says I first cracked eggs when I was three,” Eastland said. “My godmother and my mom showed me basic cooking skills growing up.”
Eastland went on to earn a diploma at the French Culinary Institute after having learned the ropes as garde manger and manager at Calle Ocho in New York and Le Petit Chateau in California, respectively.
Eastland also worked as a manger at Cube Cafe in Los Angeles and oversaw its Italian-inspired menu, which gave her a sense of the job that was to come.
“I never really set out to be an executive chef,” she said. But as time went on, it started becoming clear that perhaps she was better suited to be a chef as opposed to any other role within a restaurant.
“I touched on different parts of the culinary world. I did pastries at one point, I did catering, I worked on the line as a restaurant, I ran a cheese shop, and this has led me to figure out where I wanted to be,” Eastland said.
At Milo & Olive, all pastries, pastas, and breads are made in-house. One of the ways that Eastland’s skill and dedication is manifested is in her ability to make pastas as well as her willingness to teach others. As a result, Milo & Olive always boasts a stock of fresh pastas to offer to its guests.
Eastland moved to Santa Monica about a decade ago, where she ultimately landed a full-time job as a chef at the renowned Milo & Olive after eight years at Cube Cafe.
“The restaurant is very conveniently located,” Eastland said. “I’m a huge Santa Monica fan in general. I love it here.”
Milo & Olive is also in the midst of exciting changes, as it is set to expand its location later this year on the same Wilshire block.
Tentative plans include more seating options (not limited to only communal-style), and being able to call in and leave names on a list in advance for those who prefer to guarantee a shorter wait (Milo & Olive currently does not take reservations).
Milo & Olive is open from 7 am to 11 pm, seven days a week. The restaurant is located on 2723 Wilshire Blvd., Santa Monica.
For more information, call 310.453.6776 or visit miloandolive.com.