Recently we visited the Petersen Automotive Museum to admire the special Hollywood car exhibit, featuring the iconic 1982 red Ferrari 308 GYSi driven by Tom Selleck in the hit television show Magnum, P.I., They also have the 1989 Batmobile in Batman (1989) and Batman Returns (1992), and the 1966 Ford Thunderbird convertible featured in the movie Thelma and Louise. Click here to read about these celebrity cars
Walking into the entrance of the museum, I noticed it got even better than my last visit, now that Drago Ristorante opened on the concourse level. It’s a grand collaboration with all four Drago brothers – Celestino, Calogero, Giacomino and Tanino. They are known for their fine dining Italian restaurants, bakery and catering throughout Los Angeles.
Drago Ristorante is a colorful fusion of the museum’s art theme and the chefs well thought out dishes. Designer Stanley Felderman and co-designer Nancy Keatinge from Felderman Keatinge + Associates, compliment the lines of the Petersen Automotive Museum with colors of red, light blue, black and mauve in the restaurant. It’s an exciting melding of contemporary elements that include 65 indoor seats with a eye-catching infinity light fixtures in the center of the dining room.
Officially open in December 2016, we were welcomed by the Francisco Ojeda, the Executive Vice President & Executive General Manager at Drago Culinary Productions/ Celestino Drago Enterprises. This handsome blue-eye man has worked with the Drago company for seven years. He told us that the restaurant’s patio along Fairfax Ave. will soon have 100 seats for al fresco dining in the Spring. We also learned we that tables and chairs will be placed out on the concourse, just outside of the restaurant. Guests can sit near an exotic 1953 Cadillac Series 62 Coupe that was given to actress Rita Hayworth by Prince Ali Khan.
During lunch service, museum visitors and nearby office workers enjoy a casual dining experience with a variety of salads that include a burrata salad; calamari salad and a vegetarian option.They also make a trattoria burger topped with caramelized onions, portobello mushrooms and fontina cheese that comes with truffle fries. Heartier fare offered includes a pan-roasted Atlantic salmon and a pan roasted chicken breast with mustard seeds and sautéed green beans and shallots.
In the evening, dinner service is slightly more formal and elegant. Our professional server Gabriel from the Amalfi Coast, enthusiastically suggested a few of his favorite dishes and recommended two glasses of white wine to pair with our starters. Gabriel brought a glass of a fresh and fruity Bibi Graetz “Casamatta” from Toscana. The wine offered a citrus lemon and lime character that was crisp and made with a blend of 90% Vermentino and 10% Moscato Bianco.
I enjoyed sipping this wine with the pan roasted octopus served with a chick pea tart. The creative tart was similar in consistency to a flan. The octopus plate was beautifully decorated with a variety pickled vegetables and polka dots of olive oil.
Gabriel recommended a glass of earthy Rocco del Gelso Chardonnay “Sietvignis” from Fruli, Italy to enjoy with one of the wood fired pizzas. These pies are really popular with children visiting the museum. Families enjoy sitting on high stools at the pizza kitchen viewing counter to watch the pizza makers flip dough in the air, sauce the top, and add ingredients to make four different varieties. We ordered a roasted vegetable pizza that arrived with a thin crust, fresh tomato sauce, mushrooms, onions, eggplant and sprinkling of herbs. Other pizzas on the menu are a shaved Pecorino cheese with ground black pepper and a little frisee. Elevated pizzas include a smoked salmon with arugula, pickled onions, dill, capers and salmon caviar. They also make an Italian favorite Parma pizza with prosciutto, mozzarella Bocconcini pearls, frisee and basil leaves.
Still hungry, we ordered one pasta from a multitude of pasta offerings and one risotto dish. The pasta arrived in a bowl with wide cut housemade ribbons of fettuccine topped with sliced roasted pheasant and morels. It was brightened even more with a mushroom sauce.
The slightly sweet butternut risotto had a tempura butternut squash flower on top. There were a sprinkling of slightly roasted hazelnuts to give this smooth dish a touch of crunch.
My favorite dish was the braised short ribs on a layer of silky smooth polenta and flavorful cipollini onions. My husband enjoyed the Lomita di Vitello – large pan roasted veal chop served on a plate with creamy truffle potato puree and tangy roasted mushrooms.
For dessert we ordered the Panettone-Nutella bread pudding and plate of tiramisu. With one bite, I posted a photo of the tiramisu on Instagram giving it the honor of best tiramisu in 2017. It’s made in a circular shape with exquisite mascarpone cheese, Lady Fingers illuminated with sugar crystals, and espresso coffee. The top layers include chocolate, a scoop of ice cream and sliced raspberries.
Before leaving, Ojeda visited our table and talked about the new Academy of Arts and Science set to open across the street. Guests can park in the museum’s multi-story parking lot, walk through the concourse, pass Drago Ristorante, and out to Wilshire Blvd. The new location will have a 1,200 seat theatre for the Academy Awards.
Besides Drago Ristorante on the ground floor, they also have a spectacular Penthouse area on the fourth floor for parties, fundraisers and award show dinners that can seat up to 450 guests. The views of the city from this level are as dazzling as the food the kitchen prepares.
The lunch menu at Drago Ristorante is served from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Dinner service runs 5:30 to 10 p.m. Sunday to Friday and until 11 p.m. on Saturdays. 6060 Wilshire Blvd. (323)800-2244.