Al Bacio on Sunset Blvd.

IMG_6305Gourmet supplier Roberto Saracino, who owns and operates Liaison West, a high quality Italian food import business, partnered with Chef Christian Simionato to open Al Bacio, a new Italian restaurant on Sunset Boulevard.

The restaurant showcases Italian dishes made from the finest olive oils, cheese, dried pastas, specialty risottos, prosciutto, and black and white truffles.

Chef Simionato is originally from a city near Venice, Italy. As a young boy he would help his family prepare recipes that were handed down through different generations.

At the age of 15, he started in professional kitchens in Italy. Years later he cooked in London and opened a restaurant in Beijing, China combining the unique flavors of Asian and Italian cuisine.

Before opening Al Bacio, Simionato was a sous chef at the restaurant Andrea at The Resort at Pelican Hill in Orange County.IMG_6325

When he made the move to Al Bacio, he brought sous chef Gabriella Gomez with him. She is the pastry chef and works side by side with Simionato.

Al Bacio opened to the public in December, and my husband and I experienced it last Saturday night. We sat at one of the banquette tables on soft almond colored cushions with comfy backs and throw pillows. The stamped silver ceiling adds a touch of elegance to the dining room. The Italian background music, white linen table cloths, low lighting, and flickering votive glass candles creates a romantic atmosphere.

The manager of Al Bacio, Kevin Lepisto, welcomed us with a warm smile. He has worked at this location when the restaurant was the former Il Sole and Osteria Drago. NowDSC_0713 he runs Al Bacio smoothly. Lepisto is professional and attentive to every guest’s needs and makes each person feel welcomed.

We started with a glass of sparkling Prosecco while looking over the innovative menu. Fakih, our server, recommended a few signature dishes and brought out a basket of thinly sliced crisp Italian bread and thicker slices of soft, warm bread to dab on a plate of freshly poured olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

A delicious amuse bouche of creamy, purple cauliflower purée with caramelized onions and crunchy speck served in Mason jars was brought to our table.

For appetizers, we ordered the fresh scallops on a bed of sunchoke purée with grilled marinated Radicchio and a plate of soft white burrata cheese with a candied tomato and black label San Daniele prosciutto. The black label prosciutto was aged for at least 16 months and offered a delicate sweet taste.

IMG_6307Sipping a lovely, light bodied Italian Ribolla Gialla from Friuli -Venezia Giulia, we agreed it offered crisp acidity and floral notes that paired nicely with the scallops. At $42 a bottle, it’s a good value.

Next arrived a bowl of one-year-aged Acquerello risotto with a quail braised ragu. Lepisto explained to us the difference between regular risotto and aged. Known as the caviar of rice, it is aged and processed in a special way to maintain more proteins, minerals, vitamins and all the other micro-elements, as in brown rice. It also offers a more nuttier flavor than regular white rice.

Kevin recommended a 2010 Primitivo Tenute Chiaromonte Ele from Puglia to accompany our entrées. It’s a dark-skinned grape from southern Italy, also known in America as a Zinfandel. This wine was an excellent choice with the soft beef cheeks on a bed of Sobino polenta with sautéed seasonal mushrooms adorning the dish. The beef cheeks reminded us of beef short ribs with a smoother and less marbled texture.

The moist Atlantic black cod rested upon a layer of soft red lentils and thinly shaved celery.

I enjoyed it with a taste of the Italian 2009 Cantine Ascheri Barolo. Its aromas of dried cherry and roses had notes of raspberries and spice. On January 26, Chef Christian Simionato is hosting a cooking class from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Al Bacio. The class costs $45 and includes lunch and wine. The restaurant would appreciate those interested to RSVP by January 20. $$-$$$ 8741 Sunset Blvd. (310)657-1182. Closed on Sunday. Hours are Monday through Saturday from 5:30 to 10:30 p.m. Al Bacio is scheduled to open for lunch starting January 14 on Tuesday through Friday at 11:30 a.m.

IMG_6324For dessert, Chef Gabriella makes a wonderful caramel ice cream and refreshing pear and green apple sorbet. Her tiramisu is visually pretty and tasted better than most tiramisus, as she serves her Italian favorite with a scoop of housemade chocolate ice cream.

This article was published in the Beverly Press and Park LaBrea News on January 16, 2014.

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