Beyond Meat Italian Meatballs

I was invited to a pop-up Beyond Meat Italian Meatball tasting last week. I could either come and pick up Beyond Meatball sandwiches or spaghetti and Beyond Meat Italian Meatballs. Since my 88 year old father loves spaghetti and meatballs, I invited him to dinner to try them.

With a mask on my face, I claimed my bag with two spaghetti and meatball meals. I couldn’t resist when I got back in the car to try one. These small, two-bite meat substitute proteins are pre-formed and enhanced with Italian spices and flavors. When bathed in a chunky tomato sauce, they are even more delicious.

The true test was my father’s reaction. He cut the meatballs in half, took a bite and said he couldn’t tell the different between real meal and Beyond Meat. He thought the noodles were cooked perfectly and there was just the right amount of sauce.

Now you can elevate your spaghetti or sandwich with ready to cook, nutritious plant-based meatballs. The offer 19 grams of protein, non-GMO, no soy or gluten, and are kosher.

Starting this week, find Beyond Meatballs in the fresh meat aisle at grocery stores nationwide including Albertsons, Bristol Farms, Gelson’s, Lazy Acres, Ralph’s, Sprouts and Whole Foods Market. Go to https://www.beyondmeat.com.

Here’s a recipe for a dinner your entire family will like:

BEYOND Meatballs Pasta with Pesto (Receipe on Beyond Meat Website)

1 package Beyond Meatballs™

1 package pasta of choice

Variety of tomatoes

Pesto, homemade or pre-packaged

Homemade Pesto

2 cups tightly packed fresh basil

3 Tbsp pine nuts or walnuts

2-3 large, peeled garlic cloves

2 Tbsp lemon juice

4-5 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1-4 Tbsp water 

3 Tbsp nutritional yeast

Pinch sea salt, plus more to taste

Pinch ground black pepper, plus more to taste

Preparation:

In a large pot, cook pasta according to the package.

In a skillet, cook Beyond Meatballs™ according to the package.

Slice tomatoes while meatballs and pasta are cooking.

Add cooked pasta to the skillet with meatballs.

Set skillet to medium-low heat and add pesto, toss gently and heat until pesto is warm.

Add sliced tomatoes, toss gently and serve.

Pesto Preparation

In a food processor or small blender, add the basil, nuts, garlic and lemon juice. Blend on high until a paste forms. With the motor on, slowly drizzle in olive oil. Add 1 Tbsp of water at a time until desired consistency is reached. Add in remaining ingredients and pulse until blended. Taste and adjust seasoning to taste. Store leftovers covered in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.

National Pizza Day is on Sunday, Feb. 9

Not only do we have the Oscars on Sunday, Feb. 9, but it is also National Pizza Day. Celebrated on Feb. 9, studies show that 4 billion pizzas are sold in the U.S, each year in a variety of shapes and sizes. Some are thin crust, while others are made thick crust, some are deep-dish, square, round or even heart shaped.

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Here are some interesting facts about pizza discovered on National Day calendar:

  • The most popular topping on a pizza is pepperoni at 36% of all pies ordered.
  • Of the 3 billion piping hot pizzas sold in the U.S. each year,  one billion more are from the frozen pizza section and heated up at home.
  • Pizzerias are 17% of all U.S. Restaurants.
  •  Antica Pizzeria, is the first Pizzeria that opened in 1738 in Naples, Italy.
  •  Gennaro Lombardi, the first Pizzeria in the United States, opened in 1895 in New York City.
  • Americans consume on average 23 pounds of pizza per person each year.

In Los Angeles we have hundreds of pizza spots to get your fill on this national holiday. Here’s my 5 favorites to eat-in or bring home to watch the Academy Awards:

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Paperboy Santa Monica is offering half off pizzas all day and an all new menu of hot delicious Neapolitan pizzas, wings and desserts. Build your own personal 9” pizza and  top it with Italian sausage, pepperoni, jalapenos, cherry peppers, and green onions. Cheese topping include mozzarella, fontina, provolone and parmesan.  No celebration is complete without dessert, try the all new cheesecakes with seasonal fruit or grab a pint of artisanal ice cream. Paperboy in Santa Monica is located inside The Gallery at 1315 Third Street Promenade, Santa Monica, CA 90401.

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DRAGO Ristorante – offers a variety of mighty good pizzas from Margherita, to Siciliana and assorted roasted vegetables for around $15.

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Blaze Pizza – Is offering a special on Feb. 9, with two pepperoni pizzas for $10 with online orders.

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PizzaRev offers all pizzas for $6 on National Pizza Day. PizzaRev is another fast casual concept that specializes in premium pizza customization in under 3 minutes.

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California Pizza Kitchen offers a variety of creative pizzas everyday, however on Feb. 11 through Feb. 16, guests can order any of their favorite CPK pizzas on a special heart-shaped crispy thin crust, for no additional charge. Also, CPK is participating in a nationwide fundraiser with The Children’s Heart Foundation. Guest who dine starting on Feb.11, and mention the fundraiser to their server, will have 20 percent of their bill donated to the foundation. Order a glass of Colby Red wine and the donation will be matched to reach up to 40 percent of the purchase proceeds. Come in before, during or after Valentine’s Day for CPK’s “Sweet Deal” prix fixe meal special. Starting on Feb. 12 through Feb. 16, chose one appetizer, two entrees and share a dessert for $35. As a gift, guests who dine-in during these days will receive a special card to redeem for a buy one, get one free offer during a return visit. Guests will also be eligible to enter the California Wine Country Sweepstakes, featuring a romantic two-night stay in Sonoma, Calif., an afternoon with the winemaker at Truett Hurst Winery, and dinner for two with wine pairings at Charlie Palmer’s Dry Creek Kitchen, courtesy of CPK and premium wine partner, Colby Red. For participating locations, go to https://www.cpk.com.

 

Maddalena Restaurant delights at San Antonio Winery

At Maddalena Restaurant, guests can enjoy the best eggplant parmigiana in Los Angeles and the excellent output of the San Antonio Winery, the oldest producing winery in L.A. and home to Maddalena.

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For National Malbec Day (April 17), I joined Melissa Gonzalo, the winery’s public relations director, for a taste of the eats and drinks at San Antonio Winery, which was named “American Winery of the Year” for 2018 by Wine Enthusiast. Part of the annual Wine Star Awards, the prestigious title represents the highest standard of excellence for an American winery and is based on a winery’s commitment to quality, innovation, sustainability and heritage.

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In the 1880s, the temperate Mediterranean climate made Los Angeles the premier city for growing grapes and winemaking in California, Gonzalo said. In 1917, Santo Cambianica from Lombardy, Italy, immigrated to L.A. and started this winery, which he named after his patron saint, St. Anthony.

However, over its 102-year history, San Antonio Winery has faced challenges. In 1919, the U.S. Congress passed the Volstead Act, which enacted prohibition in America. Cambianica partnered with the Catholic Church to make altar wines for communion, keeping the winery running when the Great Depression hit. Nearly all of the wineries in Los Angeles closed their doors, except for San Antonio Winery.

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After prohibition and with the help of his family – including Italian nephew Stefano Riboli and Riboli’s wife, Maddalena Satragni – the business bloomed. San Antonio Winery purchased vineyard properties in Monterey County in the 1970s and in the prestigious Rutherford appellation of Napa Valley in the 1980s. The family also planted vineyards in the Paso Robles region, where it opened a modern winery facility and tasting room.

The geographic diversity is on display in the spacious wine tasting room in Los Angeles, where a variety of wines are available, including many that bear family names: Riboli Family Wine Estates, Stella Rosa, Maddalena, Bodega San Antonio Sangria, San Antonio California Champagne and many more.

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Winemaking tours are also available, and visitors may receive complimentary wine sips or pay for a $15 artisan flight for premium tastes, including whites, bold reds, sparkling wines, or a sweet and semi-sweet selection. The tours are available on the hour on weekdays from noon to 4 p.m., and weekend tours are available on the hour from noon to 5 p.m.

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There’s plenty to offer for diners, too, and as we walked into Maddalena’s Restaurant, we admired many of the fresh pastas, grilled meats, gourmet salads, sandwiches and large desserts on display. Gonzalo told me the chefs make the best lasagna and eggplant parmigiana dishes anywhere in Los Angeles. We ordered both, as well as grilled salmon and a vegetarian burger with crispy fries.

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We enjoyed our Italian fare with a glass of Opaque Malbec made at their winery in Paso Robles. This family proprietary blend, made with Zinfandel, Syrah, cabernet sauvignon, grenache, petit verdot and petite sirah grapes, offers ripe raspberry and blackberry flavors, as well as notes of vanilla and spice. It paired perfectly with the lasagna and eggplant parmigiana.

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We finished with a tiramisu and cannoli filled with a sweet creamy ricotta. Gonzalo told me the pastry chefs make one of the best cheesecakes ever, but I’ll have to save that experience for my next visit to the trattoria-style winery and restaurant.

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Maddalena is a good spot for lunch, when you’ll find all types of Angelenos enjoying a meal, including Maddalena herself or other Riboli family members, as they’re very hands-on in running the restaurant and winery.

Many of the servers and staff have worked here for years. They know the regulars on a first-name basis, including ladies lunch groups, downtown L.A. lawyers, bankers and a handsome police helicopter pilot who sat near us and told us he eats here once a week.

Next time you are in downtown L.A., enjoy a fun culinary outing at San Antonio Winery for memorable Italian and American dishes with award-winning wines.

The restaurant is open every day for brunch, serving breakfast and lunch favorites starting at 9:30 a.m. The winery is open Sunday-Thursday from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Friday and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Parking is free in a lot at the winery. $$ 737 Lamar St., (323)223-1401.

This review is featured in the Beverly Press and Park LaBrea News

Escape to Downtown LA

When I was invited to participate in one of the Escape Rooms in downtown Los Angeles, you know those intriguing spaces where you’re given clues and a time limit to escape – I wasn’t sure what to expect.

My daughter and I joined six others in the Pyramid room, a secret tomb deep inside a Mayan setting. The physical adventure began as we tried to solve a series of puzzles to reach and uncover the secret Mask of the Jade Warrior to escape. Using clues and sometimes questions from our moderator to enter various themed rooms, our one hour time limit ran out before we could find the mask and escape. Learning only 41% of the participants escape from this room, we didn’t feel completely defeated.

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To pick up spirits, we met others who were in different rooms at Terroni for an Italian dinner. It’s only one block from Escape Room LA. Owners and friends Cosimo Mammoliti and Paolo Scoppio opened their first Terroni in Queen, Toronto in 1992. With its success, they opened two other Canadian Terroni restaurants. Then in 2007, they opened their first Los Angeles location on Beverly Blvd., before renovating this downtown 6,000 sq. ft. space in 2013.

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Walking into the restaurant, we admired the beautiful soaring coffered ceiling (They don’t build banks like this anymore), and elegant floor to ceiling arch windows along the sidewalk. There is also an impressive glassed-in wine room. The large bar offers an array of specialty spirit bottles to make creative cocktails, while in the main dining room there are cozy booths and a viewing window with hanging meat and sausage, bottles of cooking wine and cheese.

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Looking at the menu we noticed an array of creative Southern Italian dishes with starters including bread with handmade taralli and olives. Taralli is an Italian snack similar in texture to a cracker or breadstick. Other crunchy apristomaco (translated in English to stomach opener) includes deep fried zucchini flowers with ricotta & Parmigiano; deep fried arancini with meat and cheese, and fried calamari served with lemon.

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The chefs grill calamari and serve it on greens with sliced onions, a sprinkling of capers and tomatoes. Looking over the salad section, I ordered the Nizzarda and enjoyed the mixture of arugula, slices of Italian tuna, cubes of potatoes, sliced eggs, chopped red onions, tomatoes, black olives, green beans, and two anchovies. White wine vinegar and extra-virgin olive oil brought out the “Nicoise” flavors.

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The chefs come in early and work late to make all the handmade pastas offered on the menu. There are a couple of homemade spaghetti dishes, a bucatini, a potato gnocchi and a rigatoni decorated with dandelions and slices of homemade spicy Italian sausage. The tagliolini is topped with fresh clams, fresh mussels, calamari, scallops and tiger shrimp in a light tomato sauce. My favorite pasta at our table that we all shared, was a slowly cooked lamb rage on top of capunti pasta. This freshly made pasta resembles a short, oval and open peapod.

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With over 30 pizza varieties on the menu, we ordered two of the hand stretched, thin and crispy pies. My daughter enjoyed the traditional Margherita with tomatoes, mozzarella and basil. Another person at our table ordered the C’t Mang white pizza with ripe slices of pear, chopped nuts and a sprinkling of gorgonzola and mozzarella. There were long strips of smoked prosciutto and a drizzle of honey on top to balance the sweet and savory flavors.

Before leaving we noticed next door to Terroni is Dopolavoro (means after work in Italian), a casual Italian marketplace inside the bank building. The Terroni owners opened it for locals to swing by at the end of the day, to pick up some Italian delicacies and pre-made meals. The store offers olive oil, cheese, wine, bread, milk, eggs and handmade pasta to prepare at home.

IMG_5987Looking for a fun outing this weekend? Escape to downtown Los Angeles for a night of solving clues before or after a meal at Terroni.

Escape Room LA has space available through March, 2018. Click on this link to go online to select a date and time Escape Room LA. Prices are Tuesday – Thursday: $32 per person  /  Friday – Sunday: $37 per person. Book 2 or more games for the same day – get 10% off!*  /  Book all 4 games for the same day – get 15% off!* *Must book full rooms to receive discounted prices. Call (213)689-3229 to receive these discounted rates for booking multiple games. Escape Room LA is located at 120 E. 8th Street (between Main and Los Angeles Streets).

Terroni is at 802 S. Spring St. (213)221-7234 and Dopolavoro 808 S. Spring St. (213)954-0300. Terroni in the Fairfax area 7605 Beverly Blvd. (323)954-0300.

This article was featured in the Beverly Press and Park LaBrea News on Jan. 25, 2018.

Since its opening in 1989, Toscana has established itself as a sophisticated Hollywood celebrity dining spot in Brentwood. However, its more recent, 7-year-old addition, Bar Toscana has made a name for itself as well. I recently met some friends at the bar to try their new stuzzichini, or finger foods, menu.
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Executive chef Hugo Vasquez, a member of the founding team, believes the best food is the simplest dish. “You don’t need many ingredients as long as you have the freshest,” Vasquez said.

The warm and inviting space of Bar Toscano features brick-red leather chairs intermingled with taupe leather banquettes. Kathie Gordon and local designer Kathleen Hunt recently added a contemporary twist to the space with aged oak tables finished with a distinctive copper trim.

As I walked inside, I noticed how full the bar was with guests chatting and enjoying an array of authentic Italian cocktails and shared plates inspired by the luxurious Hotel Cipriani in Venice, Italy.

Towards the back of the lounge is an innovative and eye catching digital projection of floral art, created by acclaimed artist Jennifer Steinkamp. There are also four original collage pieces by Los Angeles-based artist Melissa Wenke, providing bursts of vibrant reds, orange, greens and blues to the space.

Some of my friends ordered an Aperol Spritz, while others sipped glasses of Negroni, as they enjoyed an artfully plated Tagliere di Salami served with homemade bread sticks and giardiniera (an Italian relish) with homemade strawberry, red onion jam and assorted breads. Burrata layered on bread with speck and green heirloom tomato jam was another stuzzichini.

A bright yellow dish, Insalatina di Barbabietole combined layers of yellow beets, a sprinkling of goat cheese, a few pickled plums and chopped hazelnuts.

IMG_0317However, my favorite was the Involtini di Melanzane served in a black cast iron dish. The beautifully rolled eggplant was filled with ricotta cheese and baby spinach and was surrounded by a light tomato sauce and adorned with basil leaves.

Another winning dish among the foodies at my table was the Lasagnetta di Carne made with homemade spinach lasagna, a thick beef ragu and besciamella (an Italian béchamel sauce) with shaved Parmigiano.IMG_0312

We ordered a few pizzas and savory T-bone beef sliders with truffle cheese and caramelized shallots. The flavor profile of the small sandwiches immediately produced smiles all around the table.

The chefs at Toscana make a variety of interesting wood-fired pizza, including a classic Margherita with melted Bufala Tartufo, and a Tonno e Cipolla with tomato, mozzarella, Italian tuna, red onion and capers. I really enjoyed the pizza with gorgonzola, prosciutto and sweet figs. Visit an old favorite with a new finger food menu with a group of friends for an entertaining evening.

Bar Toscana is open daily from 5:30 p.m. to closing. $$ 11633 San Vicente Blvd. (310)826-0028.

This review was published in the Sept. 13 issue of the Beverly Press – Bar Toscana

Celebrity Chef Scott Conant & Freddy Vargas – The Ponte

When Terrine closed last year, Stephane Bombet of Bombet Hospitality Group talked to Scott Conant about helping him change his classic French-inspired restaurant into a contemporary Italian one. Bombet knew Conant from Scarpetta at the Montage Beverly Hills. This celebrity chef attracted foodies from all over to order his iconic $24 spaghetti with tomato and basil.
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Conant and Bombet named the new restaurant The Ponte, inspired by the tight-knit Italian community, nicknamed “Pontes,” who live in the neighborhood where Conant was born and raised in Waterbury, Connecticut.

Conant now has multiple restaurants in New York, Las Vegas, Miami, Phoenix and Los Angeles. He and Bombet lured Freddy Vargas from Georgie Restaurant in Beverly Hills to be the executive chef. Conant and Vargas met in New York and have worked together since 2008, first at Scarpetta in New York, then Beverly Hills and at the Fontainebleau in Miami Beach.

IMG_5352When I received an invite to experience brunch at The Ponte last weekend, I immediately accepted. Parking in the back valet lot, my husband and I walked through the patio filled with green and yellow umbrellas to the reception stand and were greeted by Yuri Maldonado, the lovely and charming assistant manager.

Giving us a choice of sitting outside under the 50-plus-year-old tree draped with twinkle lights or inside near the glass and metal doors, we selected sitting inside at a curved booth with olive brushed-velvet upholstery. Rome-born, Parisian designer Marc Ange of Bloom Room Studio provides a retro spirit of Italy with warm woods, soft lighting with gold sea urchin spike chandeliers, gold and green velvet accents and a granite bar near the entrance. It’s slightly formal inside with white linen tablecloths. The ceiling and walls color are painted black, offering a warm and cozy feel. Also new are the 70s style wood and lattice privacy half walls, breaking the dining room into two sections.

We sipped housemade bitter lemon tonics to get started, as Yuri excitedly told us that when the restaurant first opened Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr sat in the same corner table with Joe Walsh from the Eagles and Vince Gill.

IMG_5360On the menu, pastas include braised duck agnolotti, ricotta gnudi with morels and Conant’s iconic pasta al pomodoro. It’s only $22 here.

Listening to an eclectic array of music that ranges from Dean Martin to Tom Petty, I looked at the toasts on the menu. They have the requisite avocado, and a ricotta toast, but the most interesting is a roasted trout mixed with creme fraiche layered on a thick, grilled crostini with tiny spheres of pickled cucumber and radish with bright red edges, chopped dill and dotted with capers. It’s an elegant alternative to an open faced tuna sandwich.

IMG_5364For something sweet we selected the French toast, and were pleasantly surprised. It’s made with thick slices of challah from Schwartz Bakery, the oldest kosher bakery in Los Angeles. What also makes this different from others is its citrus curd glaze, sprinkling of chopped hazelnuts and dollop of fresh whipped cream.

For an egg dish, I chose the baked egg on a layer of polenta with a tangy puttanesca sauce. It’s served in a shirred egg casserole dish. The best way to eat this is to spoon the egg with polenta and sauce onto one of the two pieces of grilled ciabatta bread that accompany the dish. This allows the ethereal sauce to seep into the air pockets and crevices of the bread.

IMG_5362Ryan Wainwright from Terrine is still the director of bar programs, and the all-Italian wine list is curated by sommelier Rosemary Walker. She does a good job pairing wines with dishes.

Sadly my chef crush Conant was not in Los Angeles the day I dined, however chef Freddy Vargas approached our table as we finished. He told me he was inspired to be a chef because of Emeril Lagasse.

I was very impressed with the flavors and creativity of the dishes presented at The Ponte. I’ll be back for dinner, hopefully on a night when Conant is in the kitchen so I can swoon all over again. $$ Dinner hours are 6 to 10p.m., Sunday through Thursday. The restaurant stays open until 11:30 p.m., on Friday and Saturday. Weekend brunch begins at 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. every Saturday and Sunday.

8265 Beverly Blvd. (323)746-5130.

This review was featured in the Beverly Press – http://beverlypress.com/2017/07/contemporary-italian-at-the-ponte/

DRAGO Ristorante at The Petersen Automotive Museum

 

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Italian Street Food at Vinoteca

Adjacent to Culina in the Four Seasons Los Angeles is a newer Napolini culinary experience, Vinoteca Bar. I heard from others that it is so much more than just a bar and was eager to meet my friend Ali for lunch.

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After pulling up to the front of the Four Seasons, I walked to the right and noticed a very happy Marilyn Monroe statue standing on a metal grate with her white dress blowing up to expose her shapely thighs. At the base it’s titled “Forever Marilyn” by Seward Johnson. Seward was inspired to make this likeness of Monroe after seeing the iconic photograph shot by Bernard of Hollywood.

Walking towards Culina restaurant I noticed a row of privacy trees lining the hotel’s driveway. On the other side is Vinoteca.

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Since the weather was nice, we opted to sit on the covered outdoor patio, instead of inside the bar and cafe. It’s a more relaxed vibe than Culina restaurant, yet with the same exceptional service. Vinoteca opens at 6:30 a.m., as an espresso cafe with baristas making warm Caffè Umbria coffee drinks and eight hour drip cold brews made from an elegant, multi-tiered Yama maker.

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Walking along the bar to the patio, I noticed rows of convenient electrical plug outlets for people to plug in their laptop and smart phone to work while sipping a cafe latte and biting into one of pastry chef Federico Fernandez ethereal pastries. Some of his specialities include bacon and cheddar scones, plain and almond croissants, muffins and a powdered sugar pastry called a sfogliatello. To me it looked a little bit like a lobster tail with many ridges. Next to it was another pastry that caught my eye named cannoncini. This flakey treat looked like a croissant and cannoli with powdered sugar dazzling the top. “It’s also known as an Italian horn, filled with hazelnut cream” said the barista. I ordered one for the car ride home.

While sitting at a table, our server discussed the menu and informed us that the produce and fish are local, however the rice, wheat flour for the pizza, burrata, Parmigiano Reggiano, balsamic vinegar and Buffalo mozzarella are delivered from Italy twice a week to provide authentic flavor profiles. “The same products made here in the U.S. don’t taste the same,” she said.

Looking over the menu, it’s separated into sections. Our server recommended we order three to four plates per person to share. There are frutti di mare with fresh clams by the half dozen, California scallops, and two different types of oysters.

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Next are crudos made with yellowtail, salmon, tuna or scallops. My friend suggested we order one item from each section to share. We started with the yellowtail tartare from the crudo section. It arrived with a smear of soft, white mozzarella cheese decorating one side of the bowl. In the center was cut raw fish with compressed cherry bottarga (an Italian delicacy of salted, cured fish roe) and tiny chocolate mint leaves. It offered an fresh briny essence.

Under the Santa Monica Farmers Market section we ordered the ancient farro grain bowl filled with a sprinkling of mustard greens, chopped dried apricots, peaches and persimmons with strips of semisoft Taleggio Italian cheese. The cheese was mild in flavor, offering a slightly fruity tang. During the winter, this section will include small plates featuring brussels sprouts, butternut squash, heirloom carrots and fingerling potatoes.

img_6748Next we ordered Vinoteca’s specialty montanaras. They are small flash fried pizzas that are topped before being baked. “No one else makes these on the West Coast like we do,” our server told us. We ordered three of these Italian street food. The lobster montanara arrived first and looked similar to a lobster roll. It was filled with large chunks of lobster, tomato, onion, and celery. There was no mayonnaise, just a dash of Italian olive oil.

I found the eggplant montanara equally delicious. Shaped in a square it was topped with baked cherry tomatoes and melted smoked Provola cheese and garnished with whole basil leaves. The classic montanara was topped with 36 month old Parmigiano Reggiano.

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My favorite dish of the day arrived in a bowl and looked like a whole avocado surrounded with cream and microgreens. As we cut into the “avocado” we discovered it was like a geode when cut surprising us with an array of colors. The outside was made with crispy black breadcrumbs covering yellow rice. In the middle was a filling of salmon, chopped onions and English peas. What looked like cream, was a frothy Meyer lemon creme fraiche with basil sprinkled around the bowl. WOW! It’s similar to an Italian arancini (rice ball), yet enhanced with a housemade squid ink breadcrumb crust. I inquired with our server how this is made and learned that it takes the chefs one week to make the bread crumbs. They make the dough for the bread and proof it for 24 hours before baking. Then they let it dry out for a few days, slice it, crumble it, and add black squid ink. Saffron is added to the organic Italian grain rice before it’s rolled into the breadcrumbs and shaped into a true Italian triangle to resemble an avocado.

For those who would like a little wine with their L’Arancino, the bar serves three and six ounce pours, as well as a variety of bottles of Italian wines made in Italy and California. They even have a tasting flight of four wines with three ounce pours. One could pair a glass with each dish. The one page wine list offers Italian Spumante and white Italian wines. Some are created Italian-style in Sonoma, Napa Valley, Oak Knoll, Santa Ynez and Carneros. They offer the same with red wine. There are Italian reds made in Campania and Sicily and other reds inspired by Italy that are crafted in the California wine towns of Paso Robles, Lodi and Mendocino.

For those who don’t like wine, Vinoteca offers artisanal Italian beer, aperitivo cocktails and an array of digestivi e grappe.

img_6765For dessert the chefs make a sweet Montanara pizza shaped as a lobster roll. It’s filled with sweet sheep ricotta, bright red seasonal berry compote, and micro-basil. They also make a true Sicilian style cannoli with the same sweet sheep ricotta, a little chocolate, orange and chopped pistachios.

As we were leaving we learned that Vinoteca is offering an oyster and wine pairing special for $20 during their Wine Wednesdays. Guests may order a half-dozen Beausolei and/or Kusshi oysters and receive a glass of Laura Aschero Vermentino from Liguria, Italy every Wine Wednesday until Jan. 25 from 11 a.m. to 10:30 p.m.

Complimentary parking is available for those dropping in to pick up pastries and coffee.  The espresso bar opens daily starting at 6:30 a.m. Vinoteca Wine Bar opens Monday-Wednesday from 11 a.m. to 10:30 p.m., Thursday-Saturday from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.; and Sunday from 4 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. $$ 300 S. Doheny Drive (310)273-2222.

This article was featured in the Beverly Press and Park LaBrea News on January 19, 2017 – http://beverlypress.com/2017/01/vinoteca-espresso-and-wine-bar-outstanding-italian-street-food-at-the-four-seasons-los-angeles-at-beverly-hills/.

 

Fun, Family-style Dining at Buca di Beppo

Photo by Jill Weinlein
Photo by Jill Weinlein

In the Cardinal room at the new Buca di Beppo at the Original Farmers Market, you can dine at the Pope’s table where a plexiglass box holds a bust of the pontiff. It’s fun to spin the lazy Susan resting in the middle of the table, and the Pope looks you directly eye if the round-about stops in front of you.

The walls are filled with decorations and whimsical photos of famous and happy Italians.

This is the 21st Buca di Beppo location in California.

Looking over the menu, most of the items are served family style with two portion sizes – Buca small that serves two to three people and Buca large that serves up to five guests. Since there were just three of us, we started with the small vegetarian pizza on thin pizza dough with crisp edges. Not only did it have broccoli, tomatoes, onions and peppers, but it had breaded eggplant pieces, too. Our server brought two large Italian tomato cans to our table to elevate the pizza to eye level.

Photo by Jill Weinlein
Photo by Jill Weinlein

Salads are always good with pizza, so we ordered the classic apple Gorgonzola salad with slices of Granny Smith apples, crumbled Gorgonzola cheese, dried cranberries and spiced walnuts. They also make a chopped antipasto in a rainbow of colors served in a large bowl with mixed lettuce, sliced pepperoni, chopped red onion, diced provolone cheese, cubed cucumbers, crumbled Gorgonzola cheese, sliced pepperoncini, oregano, diced Roma tomatoes and kalamata olives with a light Italian dressing.

Guests can pair their dishes with a variety of Italian wines. Many can be ordered by the glass, or in a little larger 9 oz. pour that comes in a small glass carafe. There is also a bottle of traditional Chianti on every table. Chianti is made in the Tuscany region and is an Italian favorite that is sometimes wrapped in a wicker basket. It goes well with the spaghetti and famous Buca meatballs that are large, dense and meaty. Our server Justin aimed to please. When we thought the spaghetti was a little dry, he happily brought out more sauce. The servers are extremely friendly and seem to be enjoying their job at this location.

If you order the linguine frutti del mar, a glass of crisp pinot grigio is a light summer wine to pair with the dish.

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Photo by Jill Weinlein

The rosso is an ideal red wine to pair with the chicken saltimbocca topped with prosciutto and sage. There is a sprinkling of artichoke hearts, lemon slices, capers and a glistening lemon butter sauce bringing this chicken dish to a new level.

Guests receive warm Italian bread with oil and balsamic vinegar. They also make a cheese garlic bread that is sinfully good. Both are great for dipping in the Italian sauces on each entrée, especially the layered eggplant Parmigiana, topped with Buca’s homemade marinara sauce, chopped Roma tomatoes, chopped basil and mozzarella.

My favorite dishes are the chicken or veal Marsala cooked until tender, with just a hint of sweetness from the Marsala wine and covered with fresh mushrooms. I also enjoy the broccoli with a pinch of garlic, red pepper flakes and Parmesan cheese.

For little ones with little appetites, Buca offers a kid’s menu that includes six different items and a drink.

I dare you and your party to eat an entire “colossal brownie sundae.” It’s sure to capture attention in the dining room and worthy of accolades to those who finish the enormous dessert. A martini glass is filled with freshly baked Ghirardelli chocolate brownies loaded with Ghirardelli chocolate chips. The brownies are layered with six scoops of vanilla and chocolate ice cream. Caramel and chocolate sauces top the ice cream before a mound of whipped cream is swirled making the dessert even taller. Of course it is finished with a cherry or two and a few sprinkles to make it festive.

Buca di Beppo is a birthday celebration destination. They have a special sign stating “Happy Birthday to you” that will be placed on your table and the staff sings a very festive Buca di Beppo birthday song. You will hear the rendition sung at various tables throughout your dining experience.

Tell them it’s your birthday when you make a reservation, and they will present you with a free birthday cake, as long as it is within 30 days of the actual day. This new dining destination is attracting locals as well as tourists visiting Los Angeles, thanks to its food, decor and prime location.

$$ – 6333 W. 3rd Street (323)370-6560. Located in the former Planet Dailies space, next to Mixology 101, the restaurant is open from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.

This review was featured in the July 27 issue of the Beverly Press and Park LaBrea News – http://beverlypress.com/2016/07/fun-family-style-dining-at-buca-di-beppo/

Pizza Romana: When the Moon Hits Your Eye Like a Big Pizza Pie – That’s Amore!

Proscuitto and argulua top the buffalo mozzarella pizza at Pizza Romano. (photo courtesy of Pizza Romana)
Proscuitto and argulua top the buffalo mozzarella pizza at Pizza Romano. (photo courtesy of Pizza Romana)

When the neighborhood restaurant Cube on La Brea closed for renovations, the street seemed a little quieter. Locals wondered what would become of this popular Italian marketplace and cafe owned by Alex Palermo. Last spring Pizza Romano was born.

After graduating from Pepperdine University with a degree in Economics in the late 1980s, Palermo started his own company, Divine Pasta, based on a college project. His mission was to create hand-crafted pastas and sauces made from the best ingredients to sell to high quality stores and restaurants.

He secured a space on La Brea and opened a store in the front and pasta factory in the back. Cube Cafe and Marketplace was born, creating artisan crafted food. He made a rotating pasta selection, and other Italian dishes using imported Italian tomatoes, fresh herbs, extra virgin olive oil and fresh cage free eggs.

His products were purchased and used by some of America’s best restaurants, and sold in gourmet retailers nationwide. Gelson’s Market was one of his first customers in 1992, and now he sells to over 15,000 retail locations worldwide.

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Owner Alex Palermo and Sommelier Emanuele Rizzo pair excellent Italian wine with authentic Italian cuisine at Pizza Romana. (photo by Jill Weinlein)

I met Palermo at Pizza Romano on a Friday night while dining there with my father. When I asked him why he closed Cube, he explained he accomplished what he intended with the restaurant.

“I achieved what I wanted to achieve, so I closed it to create a different dining concept that is more family friendly,” Palermo said.

It is a casual restaurant where servers behind the counter take your order. The menu offers a variety of pizzas, pastas, salads and paninis. Enjoy the casual atmosphere while waiting for your dishes to be brought to you, as soon as they are cooked to order. “Having my own children, I wanted to create a multi-generational restaurant, that appeals to all ages at a more affordable price,” Palermo said.

The restaurant has an extensive wine list, many from Italy, including much of the inventory from Cube. The cozy, private room in the back is lined floor to ceiling with wine bottles. It’s an ideal spot for parties and wine tasting dinners.

The list is curated by Palermo’s cousin and Sommelier Emanuele Rizzo. Born in Wisconsin, Rizzo’s family moved to Rome when he was 10 years old. He enjoyed coming to America to visit his family and friends. A few years ago, Rizzo obtained his sommelier designation in Rome. With his expertise, he pairs great wines with heavenly pizzas.

FullSizeRender-239The black truffle pizza with a softly fried egg on top is a winner. I remarked that finally someone else, other than a very popular nearby pizzeria, is creating a pizza pie that is interesting in textures and flavors.

I asked Rizzo what makes the crust so good. “It’s a labor of love made with ingredients all from Italy,” he said. Rizzo said the secret ingredient is the water. “Our pizza dough is made in Rome and shipped here. It’s made with Italian flour, Italian salt and Italian water.” He said the water in Los Angeles will not produce the same pizza dough. Now I understand how the restaurant got its name.

All of the dough is fermented for 24 hours in the traditional Roman style. They hand stretch the dough and bake the pizzas in an authentic wood-fired Italian pizza oven. The pizza comes out with the top bubbled and slightly charred from the intense heat. The rest of the crust is golden with a slight crunch.

Rizzo paired my pizza with a glass of Etna Rosso Nanticchia 2007 with a 92 point score that offered a big red color with the essence of sweet and spicy. The grapes are picked from 100- year-old vines growing at the foot of an active volcano – Mount Etna. The wine offered pleasing flavors with a hint of cola, pink peppercorns and crushed berries. “It also has an essence of saltiness, because the grapes are produced near the sea,” Rizzo said.

Besides the truffle pizza, we enjoyed a wedge salad with crispy bacon, red onion, heirloom tomatoes, gorgonzola cheese and Palmero’s housemade Ranch dressing.

A dish of bite size meatballs arrived bathed in a tomato sauce with Parmigiano Reggiano shavings on top. Baked pizza dough slices accompanied the meatballs, perfect for dipping into the sauce.

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For a vegetable, we ordered the roasted Brussels sprouts with chopped bacon and cippolini onions. The crispness and flavors were heightened with every bite. My father enjoyed them too, and he isn’t a big Brussels sprouts fan.

Our last dish ordered was the Mom’s lasagna made with bolognese and béchamel sauces, and melted mozzarella throughout. It was pure homey, comfort food. Nothing fancy, just delicious.

Palermo touted his reverse regional wine hour which is becoming popular. It begins nightly from 9 p.m. to closing, with Roman-inspired late night specials that include $6 rotating glasses of red, white and sparkling wine. Pair the wine with a bianca and salumi pizza or a baked pasta al forno for $6.

Pizza Romana offers an authentic buon appetito dining experience. $$ Open daily from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. 615 N. La Brea Ave. (323)939-1148.

This article was published in the March 17, 2016 Beverly Press and Park LaBrea News. This review is featured in GPSmyCity –  https://www.gpsmycity.com/gps-tour-guides/los-angeles-631.html

Authentic Italian Cuisine – The Factory Kitchen

Loving the perperu at The Factory Kitchen - Photo by Jill Weinlein
Loving the perperu at The Factory Kitchen – Photo by Jill Weinlein

My first meal dining out in 2016 was terrific! New Years Day is sometimes a difficult evening to dine out, because many restaurants are closed after serving a celebratory New Years Eve multi-course dinner beyond midnight. Servers, General Managers and chefs are tired and unenthusiastic to work on the first day of a new year.

On my OpenTable app, I noticed The Factory Kitchen in downtown LA was open and available at 8:15 p.m. My husband had recently had a business lunch there and raved about it. He called the restaurant to see if they had any availability earlier.

The woman answering the phone told him the next opening was at 8:15 p.m., however, if he arrived soon, there were three high tops open at the bar. “It’s first come, first serve, and one can order every dish from the dinner menu,” she told him.

Looking at me, he gave a thumbs up and told her we were on our way. Before hanging up, she said to call back when we were 10 minutes away and she would see what she could do to secure us a space.

Exiting the 5 freeway, I called from the car and was told there were still high top spots available.

As we turned down Factory Place to the valet parking lot, we hurriedly exited our car and walked into the rectangular building that was once a fish factory. As we approached the reception stand, we noticed three guests walking up to the only empty high top table. We missed our dining opportunity by a few seconds.

The two hostesses kindly told us to wait nearby and they would see if there were any “no shows.” Even though the restaurant was packed with guests, there were two empty tables waiting for upcoming reservations.

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Chef Mirko Paderno – Photo by Jill Weinlein

Leaning against a huge pillar, I looked around the 3,000 square foot open space. The surfaces were concrete and the tables reclaimed wood. It’s creative and exciting inside with large windows looking out to Factory Place, that are actually garage doors that can be opened on warm days to provide an inside/outside ambiance.

Next I peered over to the exposed production kitchen and noticed a familiar face. Years ago, the handsome Italian chef Mirko Paderno, wow’d me when he was the Executive Chef at Oliverio at the Avalon Hotel in Beverly Hills. He made a cauliflower soufflé with the consistency of flan. The creamy cauliflower mixed with eggs, Italian triple cream and rich mascarpone cheese rested on top of a warm Parmesan, cream and shallot sauce. I instantly became a fan. I’m sure he didn’t remember me, yet we locked eyes a few times, and I was willing to wait all night to have him cook for me again.

Standing near Paderno was Executive chef/ owner Angelo Auriana. I learned after 18 years as executive chef at Selvaggio’s Valentino Ristorante, he partnered with his fine dining friends Matteo and Francine Ferdinandi to create the Factory Kitchen Hospitality Group.

Auriana and Paderno worked together at Valentino’s and is eas brought in for the opening of BRERA as Chef de Cuisine.

Now I really wanted to start 2016 off with a good meal prepared by these two wonderful chefs. Within minutes, one of the hostesses approached us and had us follow her to a table along the back wall. It was an ideal spot for me to admire chef Paderno, as he was feeding sheets of pasta into a pasta machine. I watched as he hand stamped perfect marjoram infused pasta circles for the corxetti stampati dish.
Here is what I ordered:

Wine: Chef Auriana is an avid wine collector and offers a dynamic wine list with sixteen Italian white and red wines available by the glass. If you must bring your own favorite bottle of wine, you may bring in labels that are not on the wine list. There is a $20 corkage fee for the first two bottles and $35.00 for each bottle thereafter.

Wine/Appetizer: Order the straw-colored Novacella Kerner Alto Adige 2014 to pair with perperu appetizer sounded appealing with soft cheese stuffed into sweet and spicy peppers. When a plate of eight peppers arrived with a sprinkling of arugula leaves, large Grana Padano shavings and a glistening of arugula oil, I wanted more. Biting into the bright red peppers stuffed with snowy white cheese was surprisingly a pleasing balance of flavors. These bite-size morsels would have been a great appetizer to impress my guests at my New Year’s Eve soiree. I made a note to make these at my next dinner party.

Quickly seared tuna - Photo by Jill Weinlein
Quickly seared tuna – Photo by Jill Weinlein

Wine/Appetizer: A dry glass of Sangiovese from the Lombardia region with a plate of tonnetto – sliced wild albacore tuna crusted with black pepper, that was seared quickly and served with puntarelle “little tips” greens, red endive, thinly sliced onions and capers. Puntarelle is one of the favorite greens in Rome and offered an earthiness to this seafood favorite.

Hankercheif pasta with a lovely basil and almond sauce - Photo by Jill Weinlein
Hankercheif pasta with a lovely basil and almond sauce – Photo by Jill Weinlein

Entree: A signature favorite – Mandilli di Seta, a green handkerchief pasta folded over and decorated with an almond basil pesto.

Authentic Rustic Italian Pasta comfort food - Photo by Jill Weinlein
Authentic Rustic Italian Pasta comfort food – Photo by Jill Weinlein

Wine/Pasta:  The rustic Corxetti Stampati with braised ox-tail sugo tomato sauce and shredded Reggiano cheese pairs nicely with a glass of Barbera from Piedmont, Italy. Our waiter August told us this wine is always a crowd pleaser.

Besides Pizza, Pasta and Beef, The Factory Kitchen serves great seafood dishes.
Besides Pizza, Pasta and Beef, The Factory Kitchen serves great seafood dishes.

Seafood: The healthy Merluzzo, a pan roasted North sea cod filet, with San Marzano plum tomatoes, fat cipollini onions, sweet and fruity tasting Taggia olives, and a splash of Ligurian olive oil. San Marzano tomatoes offer a thicker skin than Roma tomatoes and are stronger, sweeter and less acidic. Many chefs believe these are the best tomatoes to use in Italian sauces.

Fowl: Seared duck breast and leg confit.

Beef: Braised braised beef short ribs and pan roasted veal chop.

Be sure to order on of the delicious desserts. Photo by Jill Weinlein
Be sure to order on of the delicious desserts. Photo by Jill Weinlein

Desserts: Homemade cannoli shells are filled with ricotta, orange marmalade, and dusted with pistachios. They also serve a plate of chocolate filled cream puffs, with a cherry and pomegranate sauce, a pinch of praline dusting and dollop of Chantilly cream. The baked granny smith apples crostata with a scoop of spiced white chocolate gelato and drizzle of caramel sauce is heavenly

Price: $$-$$$

The restaurant is open for lunch Monday through Friday from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Dinner is served on Monday through Thursday form 5:30 to 10 p.m. and stays open until 11 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. Sundays it opens earlier at 4:30 to 9:30 p.m.

1300 Factory Place #101(213)996-6000 – http://www.thefactorykitchen.com

This review is featured in GPSmyCity –  https://www.gpsmycity.com/gps-tour-guides/los-angeles-631.html

Italian at its BESTIA

The sumptuous Agnolotti all Vaccinara, braised oxtails with cacao pasta, is one of Bestia’s most popular dishes. The rich dark brown sauce makes this dish perfect for fall. (photo by Jill Weinlein)
(photo by Jill Weinlein)

The braised oxtail with cacao pasta, or Agnolotti all Vaccinara, is my number one dish served at Bestia. Chef Ori Menashe braises the oxtail for hours, rendering the meat off the bone resulting in a rich, succulent stock. Italian Grana Padano cheese, similar in taste and texture to Parmesan, pine nuts and currants add potent flavors without overpowering this superlative dish.

Open almost three years, reservations at Bestia (The Beast in Italian) are still high in demand. I had to reserve two months in advance for a Tuesday night. Dining at Bestia is worth the wait, and the packed house that night proved it.

The decor offers exposed brick walls, meat-hook chandeliers and a long copper top bar. The kitchen is open for all to watch the culinary team perform their craft.

Husband and wife team Ori Menashe and pastry chef Genevieve Gergis create a new menu nightly. “Sometimes they keep the favorites on, while other times they like to introduce a new seasonal dish to see what kind of response they will receive,” our server, Stephen, said.

Chef Menashe makes a country sourdough bread from a biga starter. Biga is pre-fermentation starter agent in Italian baking. The starter is about three years old and adds complexity to the bread, creating a lighter texture with small holes. The dough ferments for at least 12 hours to develop a slight nutty taste. We ordered a plate of three grilled slices, brushed with olive oil and a sprinkle of salt and garlic. It’s worth every carbohydrate and calorie.

Some of the cocktails by Bestia’s mixologist Julian Cox are named All She Wrote, The Company Man and Slot Machine. Some have smoked cherries, flavored bitters or flamed grapefruit oils.

We wanted to try a few glasses of wine with some appealing appetizers. Bestia’s affable sommelier, Ryan Ibsen, recommended two sparkling wines. The first was a bubbly Riesling Odinstal Brut from Pfalz, Germany to pair nicely with the hearty chicken liver crostino. “Many wine critics believe this is the finest sweet white-wine grape variety,” Ibsen said. “It’s light-skinned, aromatic grape balances the fattiness of the liver.”

The second suggestion was a little drier, yet still bubbly – a Cabernet Franc Rose from Broc Cellars in Santa Barbara. The beautifully delicate, pink wine offered notes of soft cherry fruit, spice and a hint of pepper. I thought both were ideal pairings with the liver crostino that had chives, marjoram and aged balsamic vinegar.

The wines also went well with the square shaped Quadretti alla Carota pasta topped with a mushroom ragu and carrot puree. There were steamed carrot tops, chopped summer squash and a squash blossom on top.

The seasonal tomato and yellow plum salad was fresh, yet not too exciting. A paper thin layer of whipped burrata was not enough to give the dish oomph and left you craving for more. The salami and pickled cucumber provided a zip of flavor and the Purslane herb leaves offered additional color to the tomatoes and plums.

(photo by Jill Weinlein)
(photo by Jill Weinlein)

For entrées, meat lovers will swoon over the grilled Aspen Ridge skirt steak served with sweet and sour cipollini onions basted with vinegar and sugar. Ibsen recommended we pair this dish with an old school style 2012 Monte Bernardi Retromarcia, Chianti. It offered a blend of red fruits, dried herbs and bitter cherries. The plate was also adorned with root vegetables of thin carrots and fingerling potatoes, before being topped with fried sage.

We had to try at least two of Gergis’ desserts. We ordered the Valrhona Fair Trade bittersweet chocolate budino sprinkled with sea salt inside a cacao tart crust. It’s served on a plate with a swirl of olive oil and a salted caramel wafer cookie.

FullSizeRender-53The bite-size maple ricotta fritters were served with a scoop of sour cream and blackberry jam ice cream. It also had a little dish of maple butter ganache that we spread on the fritters. Both went nicely with cups of Stumptown coffee.

Don’t be surprised to see a $1 per person charge for the bottles of filtered water brought to the table. On the bottom of the menu it states that proceeds from the filtered water go to the non-profit Gettlove, dedicated to ending homelessness.
Bestia has helped the reviatlization of downtown Los Angeles.

They serve outstanding Italian cuisine Sunday – Thursday 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. and on Friday and Saturday Bestia until midnight. $$$ 2121 E. 7th Place (213)514-5724.

This article was featured in the October 22 issue of the Beverly Press and Park LaBrea Newspapers.