July 10, 2023 by Arden Montgomery
How I Argaux: The Art of Aperitivo with Olivia Muniak
Olivia Muniak is a self-taught chef who grew up in a New York City restaurant family. She designs enchanting events for clients like Nike, Mytheresa, Moet Hennessey and Laura Mercier and has developed custom content and recipes for fashion and lifestyle and brands including Jenni Kayne and Anthropologie.
Her popular blog and IG feed is an ever evolving compendium of what she’s cooking (and eating), and a shoppable edit of her favorite kitchen and entertaining essentials.
Oliva’s entertaining M.O.? Settings should be candle-lit, evenings always begin with an aperitivo, and the conversation should be as delectable and inspired as the food. A good time around the table, she insists, spills into everything.
In 2019, newly arrived in Los Angeles, Olivia hosted a series of intimate dinners out of her tiny backyard. The multi-course family style meals, whipped up on her vintage stove, were as much about making new friends and connecting with a new community as they were about the thoughtfully presented food and wine. Supper Club, as she called the now-legendary gatherings at home, remains at the heart of everything she does.
Tell us about yourself, Olivia! Please introduce yourself to the Argaux community.
Hello! Growing up in a New York City restaurant family, and when I moved to Los Angeles six years ago I launched a Supper Club out of my tiny backyard in the West Adams neighborhood. That 30-person dinner was as much about creating meaningful connections and building a community, as it was about the thoughtfully prepared food and curated cocktails & wine. Those dinners turned into Muniak Studio offering bespoke event design and curated catering to companies like LVMH, Laura Mercier, Mytheresa, Lulu & Georgia, Wall Street Journal and many more.
How did your business concept come about? What is your goal with the company and where do you see it taking you personally and professionally?
When I moved from New York City to LA and was seeking a community, I couldn’t find it, so I built it. Once Supper Club was off the ground the business took, catering became a natural extension of the business through demand and my background in event production supported my clients, streamlining the conversation, offering both event design and catering.
I feel so grateful for the partners we’ve had to date and my goal for Muniak Studio is to expand our event design business, so often we are thought of just for catering but we offer full event design and production services.
Personally, my sights are set on a cookbook, launching a subscription platform for recipes (and video), as well as partnering with brands like Crate & Barrel, Williams Sonoma and luxury fashion brands like Dior, Chloe and Khaite.
You’ve curated events in some phenomenal places. What’s been your favorite destination/installation thus far?
Last year we flew with Aero, a semi-private jet company to Sun Valley, Idaho. It was an incredible dinner tucked into the mountains on a balmy, summer evening. Sun Valley holds a lot of special memories for me, so being able to bring my work there was meaningful. Next on my list would be a snowy event in Aspen.
When did you first fall in love with entertaining, food, hospitality, and everything that comes with it?
I’ve always felt a strong connection to food and the warmth of hospitality because I grew up immersed in the industry, and I loved it. My parents began a small cafe in New York City in the early 1980’s and the concept quickly became a New York City staple for quick, elevated lunch with multiple locations across the city.. I worked with my family for two years during grad school, then set my sights on Los Angeles. Shortly after landing in LA and purchasing my first home, I worked at Gjelina and spent six months in what felt like a crash course in wine, food and hospitality. I barely had two pennies to pinch together, a mortgage, and burned out quickly. But the magic of that time was being inspired by the food at Gjelina, I was starving coming home from work, shot from adrenaline of working at the restaurant for the day and cooking had always been a way to unwind for me, and that time is when I my self-education of being a chef began. And with lots of food being prepared, I craved
Can you tell us more about the La Cura Supper Club and your inspiration behind these events?
The idea was born very naturally, I was seeking environments where I would be able to connect and form relationships in Los Angeles. I found events like store or gallery openings, cocktail parties great to meet someone but a relationship was hard to form because the format of conversation was brief. So I manufactured an environment where people could do that. At a dinner one has the opportunity to drop into deeper conversation, and the memories that come from that evening linger almost as long as the good food and wine! The format was simple; cocktail hour for people to mingle and meet each other, followed by a three to five course meal, in a breathtaking setting. I place equal importance on the food & beverage, as I do the decor and service. We always have conversation cards or an educational component built in.
Four years later, we’ve designed supper club experiences for brands like Mytheresa, Wall Street Journal, Stella McCartney, Ruinart, and many more.
In your opinion, what’s the secret behind a good dinner party?
Atmosphere (ie lighting, temperature, aesthetics) Food & Drink, Conversation – this is the perfect blend.
In your own words, what is aperitivo?
Aperitivo is a verb. A drink and small bite with friends (or solo).
What is your favorite thing to sip on during aperitivo hour?
I’m a seasonal drinker so depending on the time of year I have a cocktail that becomes my go to for the season and then my palette changes; in summer I love a Mezcal on the rocks, in a margarita or something refreshing and effervescent like a spritz. Bordiga makes both a Bianco and Rosso, and I love to have them both on hand all summer.
How about favorite small bites that aren’t too filling but perfect to stimulate the senses before dinner?
This is such a good question – cheese and charcuterie platters have become such a trend they really are an appetite killer! My go-to dishes that are classically Italian aperitivo are: Crudite with Bagna Cauda (warm anchovy garlic butter) and focaccia bread, Grilled Vegetables (eggplant, asparagus, bell peppers, onions) with burrata & toast, and Seasonal Crostini Platter (smoked salmon, fig or peach & ricotta, eggplant caponata). My recommendation is if you have dinner planned is to skip setting out a second round and just move to dinner – or do like the Italians and serve Aperi-cena, a snack-time dinner!
You recently launched a line of linens, including some beautiful Aperitivo Napkins! Congratulations. What are some accents like these napkins that can help elevate aperitivo hour?
Elevating meals or Aperitivo Hour is simple, it’s all about thoughtful details. Decide on a specialty cocktail or a few, plus the wines and non-alcoholic beverages for the evening. Set-up a bar by where guests will be relaxing – I like a tray on a table, pull out the glassware, create an ice buckets (one for wine if serving, one for cocktail ice with a serving utensil) set out cocktail garnishes in a pretty dish. Skip anything disposable (if you must, I like the bamboo style especially in summer). If you are using disposable, I think its especially important to go with our Aperitivo Napkin and real flatware, it elevates the actual eating experience. Finally, for atmosphere candles, some fresh flowers or greens in bud vases.
- Italy or France? Italy
- Butter or Olive Oil? Both
- Stem or stemless (glassware)? Stem
- Negroni or Sbagliato? Negroni
Olivia’s Argaux Favorites: