One of the top names in DC’s pastry world is on the move. Alex Levin, who opened the DC branch of New York-based Osteria Morini in 2013, will soon leave his post as lead pastry chef at the Italian waterfront restaurant. While he’ll still call Washington home, Levin will join chef Michael Schlow’s restaurant group in February as the executive pastry chef, overseeing all of restaurateur’s eateries in the District (the Riggsby, Tico, Alta Strada et. al), Los Angeles, and the New England area.
After leaving New York’s finance world, Levin trained with some of the top names in the pastry business, including chefs at Jean-Georges and Cafe Boulud. In Washington, he built a notable pastry program at Osteria Morini during a time when many DC restaurateurs were—and still are—outsourcing sweets and forgoing pastry chefs for the sake of cutting costs.
“There was a time in the restaurant business that all good restaurants had a pastry chef,” says Schlow. “If you think about all the costs that have increased—rent, labor food—where do you make cuts to make a reasonable profit? For some, they looked at desserts and said ‘Well, I’m not making that much money on desserts anyway.’ I’m going the opposite way. Alex is immensely talented, and he’s worth the investment.”
Levin says he doesn’t plan on carrying over any signature sweets from Morini, which stood out for its contrasting textures (creamy, crunchy) and temperatures (salted caramel gelato with espresso and biscotti). Instead, he’ll apply his style to Schlow’s global range of restaurants, which includes Italian (Alta Strada) as well as Spanish/South American (Tico) and classic American (the Riggsby).
“With the growth of the restaurant world [in Washington], pastry is part of it,” says Levin. “You can’t have that growth without having all areas of the restaurant properly staffed. It’s part of the experience that’s the most important one—it’s the last bite many guests have.”