Upon walking into the new RivaBella, I spied actor David Spade sitting in a cream-colored booth next to the windows. Later, Kyle Richards from The Beverly Hills Housewives walked in to enjoy renowned Chef Gino Angelini’s famous Italian dishes. Entertainment reporter on Channel 5 News, Stan Rubin, walked out with me to the valet stand.
Located in West Hollywood inside the old Hamburger Hamlet space, RivaBella is near Doheny and Sunset and directly across the street from BOA restaurant. It just opened two months ago.
Raised in San Clemente, Italy, Chef Gino developed a passion and talent for cooking by the time he was 14 years old. He lived near the richest food region, Emilia Romagna.
When he was 23 years old, Gino became the youngest chef of a five-star Italian hotel restaurant, The Ambasciatori. Later, he acquired the status of Master Chef as he prepared his signature dishes to every Italian head of state, including the Prime Ministers Craxi and Adreotti. Loyal devotees include tenor Luciano Pavarotti, and film director Federico Fellini, and Pope John Paul II.
Arriving in Los Angeles in 1995, Gino became a chef of Rex, il Ristorante. In 1997, he opened Vincenti Restaurant in Brentwood. Later in 2001, Chef Gino opened his own restaurant, Angelini Osteria. Now in 2013, he is the Executive Chef and partner at RivaBella. He works 16 hours a day everyday, because cooking is his passion.
The décor of RivaBella reminds me of a sprawling Tuscan farmhouse with comfortable modern furniture. The indoor space can instantly become outdoors with the touch of a finger, as the ceiling retracts allowing guests to view twinkling stars while sitting under warm heaters. Private parties or overflow diners can sit in the breathtaking bricked wine cave for more intimate dining. For those who seek privacy, there is a secret door leading out into the parking garage, in case one is in need of escaping from Paparazzi out in front.
Trees and plants are strategically placed to offer greenery and tranquility among the excitement of the crowd and food.
Our waiter, Jason, expertly explained each dish and wine as they arrived at our table. We started with Gino’s Beef Carpaccio Romagna style topped with wonderful spices and a hearty salad. It was a pretty dish. I enjoyed that each setting had a utensil holder, so one doesn’t have to rest their clean or used utensils on the table.
My favorite salad was the roasted octopus salad entwined with potatoes, taggiasche olives and salsa verde. It was paired with a delicious Elena Walch Pinot Grigio 2010. Its pale yellow color offered delicate notes of apples and pears with a hint of celery.
For pasta dishes, I recommend the Nidi Di Rondine. It’s rolled pasta nested with sweet Italian ham and Parmigiano cream. Gino’s lightly breaded eggplant parmesan was one of the best I have ever tasted. It had the true elegance of simplicity and paired perfectly with a glass of deep garnet color Martin Ray Merlot from Napa. This wine drinks like a French Pinot with fresh cherry and a hint of chocolate flavors.
Our entrée was a Branzino on a bed of spinach with a lobster stock sauce and sliced sea urchin. I’m not a huge Branzino fan, yet this dish was satisfying.
For dessert, who could resist a rich chocolate bonnet with an Italian cookie? Jason also brought me an Italian favorite; Affogato. He put on quite a show pouring the hot espresso into a glass of vanilla gelato.
RivaBella is the 14th sophisticated dining destinations for IDG (Innovative Dining Group). Soon they are scheduled to open their 15th restaurant, Chi-Lin towards the end of April 2013. This new fine-dining Chinese restaurant is adjacent to RivaBella. Chinese culinary talent Cecile Tang of Joss is helping to create the menu. Designed by Studio Collective, this new West Hollywood restaurant will exhibit a chic, intimate atmosphere ideal for enjoying cocktails, appetizers, or dinner.
During the dinner hour, valet parking is $30 if you don’t get your ticket validated. It’s $10 with a validation. Street parking is not easy at this location. $$$ LUNCH is served Mon. through Fri. from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Dinner is served from 5:30 p.m. to closing. Happy Hour is from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. 9201 Sunset Blvd. (310)278-2060