Unique Artisanal Valentine’s Gifts in LA

A study by Drexel University found that women feel more romantic after they’ve eaten. Published online in the journal Appetite, researchers found that women’s brains respond more to romantic cues on a full stomach than an empty one. Here’s a way to capture a loved one’s heart. Give a thoughtful, unique and loving edible gift on Valentine’s Day.

387E8093-92BD-4645-AD44-C7E4BB153181

Who: Cookie Good

What: Fresh artisan cookies to warm the hearts of your significant other, friend, teacher, or family with a box of classic flavors. Wrapped in a festive box, the founders are perfectionists in making the perfect cookie and bar. They use the best ingredients starting with chocolate from Callebaut & Van Leer, Nielsen-Massey Madagascar Bourbon Pure Vanilla, and AA sweet creamery butter. Cookie flavors include: Chocolate Birthday Cake, Chocolate Choc. Chip-Brownie Chunk, Chocolate S’mores, Cupid, Just Plain Choc. Sugar Cookie, Red Velvet, Turtle and White Choc.-Raspberry Truffle.

Where: 2448 Wilshire Blvd, Santa Monica, (424) 280-4100.

When: EverydayIMG_4591Photo Credit | MW Media

Instead of bringing a bouquet of roses to your sweetheart on Valentines Day, demonstrate your love with a heart shaped pizza throughout the weekend. Here’s some creative and customized pizzas to warm anyones heart.

Who: Mickeys Deli

What: Valentines Day Heart-Shaped Pizza

Where: 101 Hermosa Ave, Hermosa Beach, CA 90254

When: February 14th (Pre-order is available for that day)

Delivery: $.99 cent delivery day of exclusively through DoorDash

Price: $15.99 (additional toppings $1.99 each)

image004

Who: PizzaRev

What: Valentines Day Pizza with messages

Where: 9 locations across LA county, click here

When: Thursday, 2/13 – Saturday, 2/15

Special Offer: Buy one, get one FREE at PizzaRev on all pizzas, salads and calzone. Artisanal customization is completed in under 3 minutes. image001

Who: California Pizza Kitchen

What: Heart shaped pizzas

Where: Participating locations, go to https://www.cpk.com.

When: From 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.

Special Offer: Valentine’s Day for CPK’s “Sweet Deal” prix fixe meal now through Feb. 16, chose one appetizer, two entrees and share a dessert for $35. As a gift, guests who dine-in during these days, they 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.

Celebrate the LA RAMS this Sunday

Trejo’s Coffee and Los Angeles Rams donuts

Celebrate the Los Angeles Rams’ NFC Championship Game on Sunday, Jan. 20, against the New Orleans Saints. Bring some of Los Angeles Rams fan Danny Trejo’s donuts to your football viewing party. The glazed football-shaped donuts features the Rams’ colors and player numbers, including a #16 donut for Jared Goff, #30 donut for Todd Gurley, #99 donut for Aaron Donald, #35 donut for C.J. Anderson and #29 donut for Hall of Famer Eric Dickerson. They will be baked and available on Sunday from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. 6785 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles, (323)462-4600.

Cal Mare’s Culinary NFL Playoff Deal

Cal Mare’s Chef Adam Sobel is among the headlining names cooking at the official Culinary Kickoff Super Bowl LIII in Atlanta, and leading up to the big game, Chef Adam is so excited to cheer on the Los Angeles Rams this Sunday. If they win  against the Saints, Cal Mare will serve $0.53 pizzas (nodding to Super Bowl’s 53rd year) to enjoy during aperitivo hour on Monday, January 21, between 4-7 p.m. The limited-time pizza deal includes a choice of their wood-fired MARGHERITA PIZZA with Fior di Latte and Basil, as well as SCAMORZA PIZZA with Broccoli, Olive, and Roasted Garlic. The offer is for dine-in customers only and available to the first 100 guests; first come, first served. 8500 Beverly Blvd. #115 (Ground Floor) (424)332-4595.

 

 

Triple Treats – Pizza, Beer & Ice Cream at Piencone

A new family friendly restaurant opened in Los Angeles offering a playhouse patio with a small play structure on the back patio, and lots of board games for parents and their kids to play together. Piencone is an ideal spot for mom and dad to sit back and enjoy good food with a beer or cocktail, while their kids play and scream with joy, while playing with other kids. IMG_1449

Opening Piencone is a dream come true for owners and parents Corey and Michelle Wilton. Michelle graduated from San Francisco’s California Culinary Academy (CCA), and moved to Los Angeles to work in the pastry kitchens at L’Orangerie and Patina. After years in other chef’s kitchens, Michelle developed her own business as a private chef. Almost ten years ago, she and her husband, Corey opened an Eagle Rock favorite – Four Cafe just down the street from Piencone.

Corey’s background is in music and as a Beatles fan, he appreciated how the “Fab Four” changed letters around to make something iconic. Corey thought Pinecone was a whimsical play on the words “Pie” for pizza and “Cone” for ice cream.

Now parents, this couple dreamed of opening a family-friendly, wood fired pizza concept serving craft beer on tap, and artisanal ice cream. When this spot became available, their dream finally came true. IMG_1441

Pinecone offers five spacious dining areas offering five different vibes. Walking inside, our server Emily led us on a tour to see where we might like to sit. Walking by the kitchen and ice cream counter, my friend Cyndey and I noticed the front dining room was light and bright with beautiful wood floors, white booths, round globe lighting and shelves with art and green plants displayed.

Down the hallway is a dark and cozy adult friendly Bar 1954, offering a long bar top with padded bar stools and wooden booths. Emily introduced us to partner and bar manager Herb Gualpa. He told us he always has over 10 beers on tap and Whalebird Kombucha Passion Green Tea on tap. “We are the only place in LA serving this on tap right now,” Gualpa said.IMG_1445

Next we walked out to the Playhouse patio and noticed families sitting on picnic tables, while a few kids were playing in the low wood fenced area, near a table filled with Chutes & Ladders, Boggle, Trouble and Sorry! Emily told us “This has become a popular weekday lunch playdate venue, and on weekends it’s also a great birthday party destination.” I bet after the kids go home at night, this space transforms into a millennial beer garden and game night spot. 

Looking over the menu, we started with a small bowl of anchovy stuffed fried olives to snack on with a glass of wine and kombucha on tap. Next we ordered the Escarole salad with Kishu tangerines This orange citrus grows on dwarf trees and are about the size of a golf ball. There was a sprinkle of manchego cheese and chopped almonds on top of a pleasing citrus rosemary vinaigrette.IMG_1464

Emily brought us a round white plate topped with wood roasted cauliflower. This vegan dish was sweetened with currants, and spiced with a serrano aioli and curried vinaigrette. 

At the table next to me, the couple ordered the wild boar stuffed aranacini that arrived in two large fried spheres with a lemon parmesan sauce on top. They remarked it was delicious.

Looking over the pizza column, we ordered two of the most popular pizzas – The Honey Pot and the Green Thumb. What makes these pizzas unique is the naturally leavened dough made with a sourdough starter using 100% organic flour. The sauce is made with organic Bianco DiNapoli tomatoes and the chopped greens are procured from a local organic farm named Country Fresh. 

The Honey Pot was topped with salami Americano, spigarello (Italian broccoli rabe), Sicillian oregano, sheep’s cheese, and a drizzle of fermented aleppo honey. My friend Cydney really liked the Green Thumb pizza with shaved garlic medallions, oregano, dill, tomatoes, sorrel and semi-soft cheese sheep’s milk cacio de roma. Kitchen shears are served with the pizzas for diners to cut wide or thin slices to their liking.IMG_1461

We saved room for the pasteurized organic ice cream made on premise. Looking at the eight flavors available that include vanilla bean, maple with brown sugar pop tart, brown butter lavender, mint chip, chocolate hazelnut, sesame caramel, coconut passion fruit sorbet and Mexican hot chocolate, we ordered a scoop of sesame caramel and Mexican hot chocolate. Emily asked if we wanted our ice cream on a cone or in a cup. Since they make and roll their own waffle style crunchy cones, we both said cone. Looking around the room while licking our ice cream, we noticed we weren’t the only diners holding ice cream cones after enjoying a delicious dinner. 

Next time you are in the mood for a beer, salad, pizza and ice cream, head on over to Piencone. The restaurant is open 7 days a week. On weekdays it’s open from 4 to 11 p.m. On weekends it opens at 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. $$ 1958 Colorado Blvd, Los Angeles (323)274-4728.

Baldoria is a fun apertivo cafe in DTLA

What happens when a poet and a singer meet? They eventually open a restaurant together, obviously.

Pizzas are baked in a Mugnaini pizza oven until they turn a golden color with lightly burnt crust. (photo by Jill Weinlein)

After traveling in Rome, poet David King dreamed of opening an aperitivo bar offering a communal vibe where locals could gather for a drink and a light meal at the end of the workday. Then, while working at Cube Marketplace & Cafe on La Brea Avenue as the wine director, King met the chef Duke Gervais, a singer and graduate from Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in Pasadena. The two paired up to realize King’s dream with Baldoria, a restaurant in the former Aburiya Toranoka space in Little Tokyo, just south of downtown Los Angeles.

IMG_3881As beverage director, King pours a creative craft beer selection and an exceptional list of handpicked spirits and wines, along with inventive cocktails with names such as Balder Cuba Libre, Freisa Azteca and Don’t Burn The Pig. Back in the kitchen, Gervais cooks up heat-blistered pizzas, short rib ravioli, lamb chops, spaghetti Bolognese and creative weekend brunches.

I was recently invited to a pizza-making dinner at Baldoria to meet King and Gervais. When I asked them how they came up with the name of their restaurant, Gervais told me they turned to Google.

“It means shindig – have a good time, wild party,” Gervais said. “This lends to the vibe, good food and drinks we offer.”

Baldoria does indeed offer a good time – a large white brick wall holds a TV screen playing the latest sporting game. The dining room features a long bar, as well as a low counter with seating near the kitchen. High top tables with communal seating run down the middle of the room. The space, ideal for large gatherings, has become a popular birthday party destination. Baldoria also offers rental space, with room for 60 people seated inside, or 80 including the patio.

For my pizza lesson, I donned a white apron and learned how to manipulate a ball of IMG_3887pizza dough into a thin crust. I topped the dough with one of four sauces, and a variety of ingredients that included cipollini onions, sliced figs and prosciutto. As my pizza baked in a Mugnaini gas-fired pizza oven, I watched a blast of hot air give it a nice color with a speckling of lightly burnt bubbles. After baking, Gervais topped my pizza with a brush of garlic glaze to enhance the flavors.

Sipping a glass of rosé while eating the delicious homemade pizza, I looked at the Baldoria menu. There are 10 pizzas with names that include Mrs. Croque made with Black Forest ham, Grand Cru Gruyere, browned butter béchamel and Chino Valley eggs. The Lil Tokyo Steak pizza is made with miso-marinated flat iron steak, yuzu kosho, shiitake, shishito, cherry tomatos and red onions.

IMG_3889There are a handful of vegetarian dishes that include pistachio-crusted grapes, ricotta toast with Black Mission fig compote, and crispy Brussels sprouts.

Carnivores will like the charred BLT wedges made with gem lettuce boats, smoked bacon, cherry tomatoes, egg and chives, or the Caribbean-spiced duck wings.

Desserts include a ricotta cheesecake, espresso cake and persimmon pudding.

On Saturday and Sunday, Baldoria offers a prix-fixe menu that includes a choice of one entrée with a side dish or pizza, plus bottomless mimosas or rosé for $30. Entrées include ciabatta French toast, spinach and three-cheese omelette or spicy fried chicken with apple-cinnamon waffle tacos with WhistlePig maple syrup. Sides include biscuits and honey, two eggs any style, smashed fingerling potatoes or an arugula salad. Pizza-making classes will be offered after the holidays. $$.

IMG_3890Open for lunch on weekdays from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m., weekend brunch from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and dinner nightly starting at 4:30 p.m. Happy hour offers pizzas for $8 and 20 percent off beer, wine and liquor every Monday through Friday from 4:30 to 7 p.m.

Baldoria is located at 243 S. San Pedro St. (213)947-3329.

This review was also featured in the Beverly Press and Park LaBrea News – Nov. 30, 2017.

Fantastic Food at The FLATS

Walking into The FLATS, I scanned the bar to see if the hanging wicker chair in the corner was available. Located by a large window facing Wilshire Blvd., it’s the best seat in the house to swing and sip one of the clever cocktails made by Template Consulting’s Marcos Tello and The FLATS head barman Shaun Summers.

As my friend Carol handed me a white Russian cocktail to sip, I noticed the top was orange instead of a normal white color. This 1960s classic is updated with vodka, espresso liqueur, and house-made carrot cream, giving this drink an earthy sweetness. Near me, people were sipping a Hot Toddy comprised of Japanese whiskey, hot water, house-made winter spice cordial, lemon and orange juices.

IMG_3628
Photo by Jill Weinlein

Looking up on the back wall, I admired the WRDSMTH typewriter mural with a piece of paper rolling up stating, “Aspire to inspire others and the universe will take note.” That sums up Michelin starred Executive Chef Paul Shoemaker and The FLATS owner and restaurateur Lisa Long.

Long isn’t a novice to the restaurant industry, celebrating thirty-years in the industry. I met her seven years ago when she opened Firenze Osteria with Top Chef fan favorite Fabio Viviani and his best friend Jacopo Fellini. When she discovered the former Red Medicine space was available, she created a restaurant specializing in flatbread. When her chef left, she hired Shoemaker to take over the kitchen at The FLATS.

Shoemaker worked with Michelin star chef Alan Ducasse and the French Laundry team in Yountville, before coming down to Los Angeles to work at Water Grill and Providence with Chef Michael Cimarusti. While working at Joe Pytka’s Bastide, he earned himself a Michelin star.

IMG_3627
Photo by Jill Weinlein

I first met this talented chef during the opening of INTRO Art Gallery & Chef’s Table. The multi-sensory interactive dining experience included art, music and imaginative food. It was the first time I ate an edible “dime bag” made with translucent Japanese rice paper filled with powdered foie gras that was sweetened with cocoa puffs, pine nuts and carbonated caramel that offered a pop rocks candy experience. I remember placing the rice paper in my mouth, and discovering a textural whirlwind of melting, crunching and popping. Another treat I fondly remember were the crispy salmon skins topped with smoked salmon roe, a dollop of creme fraiche and sprinkle of Meyer lemon and micro celery. It was delicious.

Shoemaker prepares these creative appetizers at The FLATS plus adds a few more that include housemade soy mallows. These unique housemade mallows are ethereal and the wasabi peas on top give each one pizzazz. He dazzles fried olives with a whipped cremè fraiche and Meyer lemon gastrique dipping sauce. The long crispy Hen of the Woods mushrooms are served tempura style and enhanced with garlic water giving them an umami quality.

Shoemaker assembles a handful of seasonal salads that include his winter pear salad sprinkled with honey poached cranberries, cocoa, and goat cheese. His grilled Little Gem is adorned with avocado, pickled blueberries, Reggiano dressing, and brioche croutons.
Since The FLATS is located in the flats of Beverly Hills, the menu still features a variety of artisanal flatbread vegetarian and house-cured meat pizzas. They are made with in-house pizza dough and sauces.

IMG_3616
Friendly Service at The FLATS. Photo by Jill Weinlein

Biting into the FLAT’S Burger, I tasted the savoriness of bacon, Gruyere cheese and earthiness of the caramelized onions and rosemary aioli spread on the bun. This dish is served with hand-cut Kennebec fries. He also makes a pork belly burger called the Honey Boo Boo Burger that is intensified with whipped honey butter and a soft-ripened Robiola cheese made with cow’s, goat’s and sheep milk.

For those seeking pasta, there are two winning dishes, a vegetarian housemade Pappardelle with porcini mushrooms, tomatoes and parmesan cheese. The Maine lobster Bolognese is topped with a tomato sauce over the housemade Italian-style egg spaghetti alla chimera.

IMG_3610
The FLATS offers a variety of Flatbread. Photo by Jill Weinlein

Two other Italian dishes include meatballs bathed in tomato sauce, with burrata, arugula, and crispy ciabatta; and a meatless ricotta gnocchi dotted with macadamia nuts, sauteed spinach, tomatoes, and burgundy truffle.
Other vegetarian items include broccolini florets with a dripping of anchovy butter, and Brussels Sprouts sweetened with brown butter and honey dates. It’s elevated with cured egg yolks.

Seafood lovers will enjoy Shoemaker’s personal favorite, the Big Eye tuna tartar made with organic avocado, umeboshi (pickled plums) and smoked sesame. It’s served with fresh ciabatta. His Dungeness crab cake is heightened with pumpkin, currants and a cocoa and ginger reduction.

Desserts are created by Pastry Chef Raymond Morales and include gooey Valrhona chocolate brownies, crème fraiche cheesecake with pickled blueberries, and a carrot cake with whipped butter meringue.

Now with a more imaginative and inspiring menu, the universe has taken notice of Shoemaker’s skills at The FLATS. Open for lunch starting at 11 a.m. Monday through Friday, parking is free in the lot on Gale Drive. Happy Hour starts at 4 p.m. Monday through Friday and nightly from 11 p.m. to closing. Dinner service begins at 5 p.m. nightly. $$ 8400 Wilshire Blvd. (310)909-7549.

This review is also featured in the Nov. 16 issue of the Beverly Press.

Spinning Pizza Dough and Vinyl

What looks like another pizzeria in Hollywood is actually so much more. 800 Degrees Pizza founder and corporate executive Chef Anthony Carron, created his first authentic Neapolitan-style pizzeria in 2012 in Westwood Village. What makes his pizza different is the delicious Old World flavors made with chewy, hand-stretched dough, innovative sauces, premium-quality cheeses, farm fresh produce and charcuterie. Now, Carron and 800 Degrees’ new C.E.O. Tommy Lee are turning up the heat with a new 800 Degrees concept in Hollywood. Not only does this location offer a new look, but they are introducing rotisserie chicken, new side dishes, desserts and craft cocktails.

IMG_2728

Chef Carron is a St. Louis native who moved out West in 2001 to pursue a career in fine dining. First he worked at Michael Mina’s San Francisco restaurant, AQUA and within six years he became the Corporate Executive Chef of the Mina Restaurant Group. During his tenure, Carron developed and opened more than a dozen high-profile, fine-dining restaurants throughout the country. Dreaming of opening his own concept restaurant, he left the Mina Group 2011 and launched 800 Degrees one year later.

IMG_3120
His new 800 Degrees Hollywood is inspired by visiting Isola d’Ischia, a volcanic island off the coast of Naples. While eating at a variety of rosticcerias and pizzerias, Carron noticed a connection between the union of pizza rotisserie chicken and salad.

IMG_3139
Carron partners with Palisades Ranch to provide the all-natural rotisserie chickens to his guests. When they are skewered on spinning long solid rods and roasting in a glass oven, the rotation cooks and self bastes the meat evenly in its own juices. When rows of chickens are cooked just right, they are taken off the spit and placed in a warming drawer for guests to purchase a whole chicken to eat in or to take home. The restaurant also offers half and a quarter of a chicken on a plate with two sides. Some of the sides include delicious cubes of roasted fingerling potatoes, shaved brussels sprouts, a farm green salad, and an ancient quinoa tabbouleh.

IMG_3135
Carron also makes fresh sauces to enhance the chicken. You can select six different types including a Middle Eastern tahini sauce; 800 Degrees barbecue sauce; and my favorite, a light green Peruvian jalapeno-cilantro offering cool and earthy flavors to dip into with bite sized piece of chicken.

What makes 800 Degrees unique, is the specially designed wood-fired stone hearth ovens that burn almond wood. This offers a subtle, smoky taste to the pizzas and everything else cooked in the pizza oven.

IMG_3138The beauty of almond wood is that it burns extremely hot compared to other woods, allowing temperatures to reach 800 degrees, baking pizza to perfection in about 90 seconds.

For a unique dessert 800 Degrees offers a Nutella Calzone made with pizza dough filled with Nutella and dazzled with berries and a scoop of gelato. We really enjoyed a scoop of chocolate brownie gelato.IMG_3143

The interior of 800 Degrees Hollywood is completely redesign with new lighting and warm brown leather booths. On the side of the Sunset and Vine walkway, near The Hungry Cat, is an expanded outdoor patio decorated with Peroni Italian umbrellas as a canopy for a comfortable dining. Guests can sip cocktails, a glass of wine or cold beer inside or out.

Another spot for libations is hidden upstairs at 800 Degrees Hollywood. Beyond the restrooms is a stairway leading guests up to Carron’s newest venue Sunset & Vinyl. It’s a funky, retro cocktail den offering high fidelity record players and a case with a nice selection of vinyl records. Guests can bring their own collection, or search for their favorite music from the record.

IMG_2737

Most of the diners inside 800 Degrees Hollywood don’t even know this exists, because there is no signage. Carron hired designer Richard DiSisto to provide the style and design of a speakeasy type of lounge. The lights are low in the inviting 1930s study accompanied by midcentury furniture and period knick knacks that include luggage, old school art pieces and light fixtures. “It’s a place where you can get away from the craziness and hubbub of Hollywood and have your own private sanctuary,” said Carron. The second night I visited, the upstairs lounge with low windows facing Vine, had a rock band celebrating with a round of drinks made by Carron’s long time friend mixologist Devon Espinosa. He was hired as the consulting beverage director for both 800 Degrees and Sunset & Vinyl. From tending bar at The Tasting Kitchen in Venice Beach, to being hand-picked by Top Chef winner Michael Voltaggio to lead the bar program at Ink, Espinosa has created an interesting cocktail list with names of drinks that include Rich Mahogany made with Bourbon; Bubba’s Way made with Rye; and a tequila blanco base Off Sunset, mixed with grapefruit, jalapeño and a pomegranate juice based grenadine. There are about 13 varieties of beer available by draft, bottle and can. Five red wines are available by the glass and three white wines that include J. Lohr and True Myth.

Bar manager Brandon McCulloch utilizes the vintage record player resting on the long wood bar near the entrance. It’s better than a juke box, because you can adjust which song on the album you would like to hear, or walk away and listen to the entire side.
$$ 800 Degrees Hollywood is open daily from 11:00 am to 2:00 am. For more information, please visit http://www.800DegreesPizza.com or call 800 Degrees 1521 Vine St, (323)329-9656.

This review is featured in the Beverly Press on Nov. 2. 2017.

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.

FullSizeRender-237
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.

FullSizeRender-238

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

Deals of the Day – Pi Day on March 14

TODAY – Monday, March 14 is Pi Day representing the ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter, or approximately 3.14159…. It’s a never ending number. Here are a few restaurants offering FREE or discounted items to celebrate, however these deals will end at closing time.

Photo courtesy of BJs.
Photo courtesy of BJs.

1.Enjoy a Free Pizookie on Monday March 14 during National 3.14 = Pi. Purchase a lunch or dinner totaling $9.95 while dining in at BJs Restaurant Brewhouse. One free pizookie per check. Check out the nearest BJs location at www.bjsrestaurants.com.

Photo by Blaze Pizza
Photo by Blaze Pizza

2. Math and pizza fans can celebrate Pi Day on March 14 by enjoying pizza “pis” for $3.14 at Blaze Pizza. Customers can win 10 free pizzas by posting a photo of themselves with a Blaze pizza on Instagram on March 14. Every 314th customer to post a photo using #BlazePizza wins 10 pizzas – with to up to 100 winners. Blaze Pizza offers a casual and hip vibe. Visit http://www.blazepizza.com to find your nearest location. MIB_logo_final_white-shadow

3. During lunch service on Pi Day, Monday, March 14, the newly-opened New York pizza truck Made in Brooklyn will sell whole pies at 50 percent off. The Made in Brooklyn truck will be at 3000 Exposition Blvd. from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Customers can also place orders by calling (323)844-3642. Go to http://mibpizza.com to learn when to Hold It, Fold It and Eat It.

Rolling down the Miracle Mile with Spare Tire

IMG_1558Last time I dined at The Spare Tire, I sat under a full-size crocodile hanging on the wall. I enjoy the eclectic decor in the bar with silver, pewter and gold painted tires hanging on the wall. On the ceiling is an interesting black and white mural above a wall decorated with posters of Marilyn Manson, Rolling Stones, Jim Morrison and the Ramones.

Executive Chef Isaias Peña Spring/Summer menu offers a multitude of international flavors. “I focus on dishes I likes to eat. I have also included more gluten-free and vegan dishes,” Isaias said.

On his new menu there are at least 14 gluten-free plates that include five grilled pork belly lollipops on long skewers served with a citrus gastric; squash blossoms stuffed with goat cheese and an interesting prosciutto and fig stuffed quail with a Sherry pan sauce.
For some hearty fare, try the chicken and waffles stuffed with gorgonzola and bacon and served with a rosemary syrup or the pub burger with smoked cheddar and bacon.

From the sea section on the menu, Isaias creates octopus carpaccio, seared scallops with black gnocchi, pan seared halibut with a purple cauliflower puree and New Zealand green mussels cooked in Alagash Belgian white with orange, garlic and butter.

IMG_1559Bring your friends to share one of the wood-fired pizzas, there are at least ten different pies, such as the new Bahn Mi with pork belly, peanut sauce, mint, carrots, cilantro and bean sprouts. I was pleased to see that they still make my favorite pizza with a delicious fig jam as the sauce on the dough, then covered with prosciutto, red onion and arugula. The saltiness of the prosciutto and sweetness of the fig jam is a dynamite combination. The pizza pies pair well with one of the 20 draught beers, 15 varieties of bottled and 5 cans of beer.

The bar makes a mint julep. Rob Roy, Manhattan, Old Fashioned, Dark and Stormy and a variety of mules.
I was happy to see on the menu the heirloom farro salad with roasted butternut squash, black truffle, and boschetto cheese. It’s topped with greens and aged balsamic vinegar.

The hanger steak with small Yorkshire pudding popovers is gone. It’s been replaced with a 16 oz. Cowboy ribeye and short ribs with blue cheese butternut risotto.

The lunch menu has a multitude of entrees, salads and sandwiches that include a Thanksgiving sandwich, Chicago Italian beef on a French roll and a beer battered fish filet.

Spare Tire Kitchen & Tavern is open for lunch, happy hour, dinner and late-night snacks from 11:30 a.m. to 2 a.m., Thursday through Saturday; and from 11:30 a.m. to midnight, Sunday through Wednesday. $$ 5370 Wilshire Blvd., (323)525-2618.

This article is featured in the 2015 Beverly Press Dining and Entertainment Guide.

CPK Keeps Getting Better

DSC_0079In 1985, attorneys Rick Rosenfield and Larry Flax opened a bright yellow casual pizza restaurant on Beverly Drive. It was located on a block in Beverly Hills that didn’t get as much foot traffic as the Beverly Drive north of Wilshire Blvd, however within a year the street became more of a social hub as locals and visitors flocked inside to try a unique barbecued chicken pizza and wickedly good chicken tequila pasta dish.

In 1992, with CPK at its height opening many new restaurants nationwide, PepsiCo bought the company for almost $100 million. Unfortunately, the restaurant changed. Regulars noticed the difference in quality and service. Flax and Rosenfield were not pleased and in 2003, this dynamic duo resumed control of CPK.

In 2011, hospitality expert GJ Hart became the CEO of California Pizza Kitchen. First, he renovated the flagship Beverly Hills restaurant, revitalizing the success of CPK’s future. It was received so favorably, that Hart and his team have planned similar makeovers at 80 CPK locations nationwide to celebrate the restaurants 30 year anniversary this year.

One of the most recent renovations is at the lively Hollywood and Highland location. The interiors have been transformed with reclaimed wood floors throughout and warm colors with a hint of the trademark yellow. Near the entrance is an herb garden and Restoration Hardware-style wine case. Artwork on the walls are photographs telling a story about Hollywood with its classic and whimsical architectural highlights.

The new Callfornia Pizza Kitchen’s menu is by chef Brian Sullivan, Senior Vice President of Culinary Development. Working at CPK DSC_0081for almost 30 years, he has kept many of the signature favorites, yet upped the menu with steaks and seafood.

Some of the new dishes are featured in Sullivan and Paul Pszybylski CPK’s Senior Director of Culinary Innovation cookbook – CPK “Taste of the Seasons.” It’s a collection of flavorful and wholesome salads, meals, desserts and drinks.

I really enjoyed the 10 oz. USDA Ribeye sprinkled generously with homemade Pinot Noir sea salt. It rests for 24 hours to tenderize before being grilled and served. With a dollop of creamy bleu cheese butter, it’s served with delicious crispy roasted fingerling potatoes sprinkled with sea salt and an arugula salad. The price point on this steak is half of the high-end steak houses in town, yet just as good or maybe even better.

There is also a hearth-roasted piece of white halibut served with slightly sweet butternut squash, crunchy farro, baby kale and grilled asparagus.

DSC_0076Soups include a new baked potato with bacon and Farmers Market with squash and a variety of vegetables with a touch of cream.

The seasonal California field salad has cubes of sweet watermelon and slices of strawberries with mixed greens, a sprinkling of feta cheese and California pistachio. It glistens with a housemade Champagne vinaigrette dressing. Guests can add grilled chicken, shrimp of sauteed salmon to this salad.

The General Manager Michael Palaski and Assistant General manager Matthew Ross circulate the dining room and try to touch each table checking on guests. They are pleased with the new renovations and feel the open dining room allows management and servers to offer better service to each guest.

Pasta dishes include eight different varieties and pair nicely with the seasonal harvest sangrias or 18 oz. draft beer. Wine flight of three – 3 oz. pours include California whites, California reds and adventurous wines with a pink Moscato.

Of course they still have hearth baked pizza made with a hand-tossed crust on the menu. In fact there are 19 varieties of pizza pies, including a Jamaican Jerk chicken and roasted artichoke. The new Tricolore salad has caramelized onions and large shavings of Parmesan cheese. It’s a pizza and salad on one plate with greens tossed in Dijon balsamic dressing.

They have five flat breads that include a new Maine lobster with fresh herbs. It’s similar to an open face lobster roll, DSC_0085yet had too much mayonnaise for my liking.

Save room for the desserts in a glass jar. They are fantastic.

For midday diners, the lunch duos on the menu offers a lunch size 7″ pizza with a salad or soup for $10.95. The half-sandwich with salad or soup is $8.95. Lunch specials are available Monday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Come see the new and improved CPK in the heart of Hollywood.

$$ 6801 Hollywood Blvd. 2nd Level (323)460-2080.

This article was featured in the Beverly Press 2015 Dining and Entertainment Guide.

Top 10 Favorite Restaurants in Los Angeles for 2014

We have enjoyed some wonderful meals at restaurants throughout Los Angeles. As devoted foodies, our team IMG_0980selected a repertoire of new and old dining establishments that provide creative fare, that is beautifully presented by attentive service, in an inviting atmosphere. Here is our list of honorees from some unique dining venues:

#10 Sonoma Wine Garden – Executive Chef Garee Battad, Sous Chef Jefferson Reyes

Located up on the third-floor dining deck of Santa Monica Place, the atmosphere offers the quintessential sunset viewing spot to have a glass of wine with a farmers market fruit and cheese board. The creative cocktails by the talented mixologist Rob Floyd go nicely with Reyes’ lamb meatballs served over linguine. Open for lunch, weekend brunch and dinner nightly. 395 Santa Monica Place, Ste. #350. (424)214-4560.

IMG_1459

#9 Open Sesame – Ali Kobeissi

This full-service, casual restaurant serves some of the best Lebanese cuisine in Los Angeles. Our favorite dishes include the grilled halloumi cheese with sliced watermelon, skewers of lean beef and lamb, smokey garlic baba ganoush and the fried cauliflower pita sandwich. Kobeissi has another Open Sesame in Long Beach and is passionate about using the best products for his classic dishes with a contemporary twist. Open daily at 11 a.m. 7458 Beverly Blvd. (323)525-1698.

#8 Crossroads – Founder and Chef Tal Ronnen, Executive Chef Scot  DSC_0096Jones

The elegant supper club serves vegan and vegetarian dishes that will convert almost every carnivore in town into eating healthier. Ronnen makes his buttery cheeses with almond and macadamia milk. Oprah Winfrey, Ellen DeGeneres and actor James Caan are all huge fans and dine here often. Make reservations for their Sunday Brunch to try their Bloody Mary rolling cart, Crossroads Benedict and fried “chicken” with waffles. There is a full bar and wine and beer list. Open for lunch during the week starting at 11:30 a.m. Dinner is served daily at 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. and Sunday Brunch begins at 10 a.m. 8284 Melrose Ave. (323)782-9245.

#7 smoke.oil.salt – Executive Chef Perfecto Rocher

The scent of the wood burning oven lures foodies into this Spanish tapas and wine establishment. So does Perfecto’s multi-course paella dinners on Sundays for $49 per IMG_8645person. Partner Stephen Gelber offers some rare Spanish wines for guests poured by the glass using the Coravin system. Order the black skillet filet with a light artichoke omelet topped with a mosaic of sliced pickled fennel, celery, mint and cauliflower. Another must-try is the butcher’s filet of lean Iberico pork wood-fire grilled to seal in the succulent flavors. Dinner is served Tuesdays through Sundays from 5:30 p.m. to midnight. The Wine Bar menu is served until 2 a.m. 7274 Melrose Ave. (323)930-7900.

#6 DOMA – Executive Chef Dustin J. Tranibabt-beets-Doma

Visually stunning dishes come out of Trani’s kitchen, from grilled octopus to braised veal with crispy polenta. His special handcut pasta dish is coated with garlic, tomatoes, Dungeness crab butter and Parmesan cheese. Etheral light pasta pillows are dusted with truffle sauce. The restaurant offers pre-theater dinners for guests seeing a show at the nearby Wallace Annenberg Center of Performing Arts. The four-course meal is $38 per person. Open for lunch and dinner Monday through Saturday at 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Sunday for dinner at 5 p.m. 362 N. Camden Drive (310)277-7346.

#5 Plan Check – Executive Chef Ernesto Uchimura

DSC_0293This is a fun gastropub with three locations in Los Angeles serving savory burgers, innovative cocktails and comfort food. Uchimura incorporates an Asian flair to his pastrami sandwich with Kimchi mustard spread on to layers of double smoked pastrami, Swiss cheese and a sunny fried egg on top. The Plan Check burger has Americanized Dashi cheese with Uchimura’s famous ketchup leather, and schmaltz onions on a crunchy bun. Diners love the short rib pot roast, French fries cooked in beef tallow and sprinkled with smoked salt. Try the cruller donuts filled with cream and fruit. They offer a variety of draft beer, wine and Japanese whiskey. Open seven days a week from 11:30 a.m. to closing at 351 N. Fairfax Ave. (323)591-0094 and 1800 Sawtelle Blvd. (310)444-1411. Opens at 11 a.m. at 1111 Wilshire Blvd. (213)401-1616.

#4 Perch – Executive Chef Gerardo Benitez IMG_0326

After taking two elevators up to the 15th floor before arriving on the rooftop of a historic art-deco building in downtown Los Angeles, guests are treated to spectacular 360-degree view of Los Angeles while sitting at tables on the outside patio or near a blazing fireplace. Twinkling lights provide a festive ambiance. Chef Benitez prepares cuisine with French flair, like boeuf Bordelaise, steak with frites, Bouillabaisse, scallops, ravioli of rabbit and delightful fromage and charcuterie plates. Bring out of town guests here at sunset to show off our magnificent city. Open Monday through Friday at 4 p.m. for Happy Hour and at 5 p.m. dinner is served. On weekends, Perch opens at 11 a.m. for brunch and later dinner service. Live music and lively bar scene keeps this place open until 2 a.m. during the weekend. 448 S. Hill St. (213)802-1770.

Connie.Teds_.Lobster#3 Connie and Ted’s – Executive Chef Sam Baxter

Named after the award-winning Michael Cimarusti’s (Chef and partner) grandparents, this classic crab shack in West Hollywood offers some of the freshest seafood in town. Looking for oysters on the half-shell? A platter filled with Kumamoto from Washington, Matunuck from Rhode Island and Beau Soliel from New Brunswick are available. So are peeky toe crab cakes, and soft shell clam steamers bathed in butter and clam broth. Their lobster roll can be ordered hot or cold. Enjoy this fare with bottled or draft craft beer or with a glass of wine from California, Washington, Oregon or France. Spiny sea urchin can be spread on toast, and their Hook burger is better than most. Open for dinner only on Mondays and Tuesdays from 4 to 10 p.m. Wednesday through Saturdays Connie and Ted’s is open for lunch and dinner from 11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. Sunday it’s open from 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. 8171 Santa Monica Blvd. (323)848-2722.

#2 Whisper Restaurant and Lounge – Executive Chef Anthony Jacquet

Located at The Grove is Rick Caruso’s romantic restaurant that offers an engaging American menu with an international twist by Chef Anthony Jacquet. Last summer, Jacquet was selected amongWhisper-Lounge.-Tuna-Tartareover 30 talented chefs across the U.S. by the Taiwan Tourism Bureau to participate in an immersive culinary journey throughout Taiwan. He was one of three esteemed chefs selected. To celebrate his arrival back to Whisper Restaurant and Lounge, Jacquet is offering a new dish from Jan. 5 to Feb. 5, 2015 – a Taiwanese influenced Berkshire pork belly bun with housemade Hoisin sauce, pickled Fresno peppers, five-spice candied peanuts and a sunny fried quail egg. Other winter fare includes his slow-cooked short rib pot roast, Australian lamb burger, and whole grilled sea bass. Tuesdays they serve a Maine lobster roll on a brioche. Happy Hour is everyday from 3 to 6 p.m. Open Sunday through Thursday from 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Friday and Saturday from 11:30 a.m. to midnight. 189 The Grove Drive, Suite F-90B (323)931-0202.

#1 Scratch Bar – Executive Chef Phillip Frankland Lee

Sitting at the bar and having an 11-course tasting meal prepared right before your eyes by a talented chef is a memorable experience. The 11-course menu at Scratch Bar is filled with innovative Cheff-Lee-Margartiasmall plates including “oyster, mussel, egg, belly, smelt, head, prawn, escolar, duck, chocolate and vanilla,” as the menu reads. Some of our other favorite dishes include a shooter of sake-enhanced green mussel and avocado mousse with a sea urchin. Another favorite is the bone marrow roasted in a hollowed out sourdough bread with pickled red onions and shimeji mushrooms. Desserts are prepared by Chef Lee’s beautiful wife Margarita. Open nightly at 5 p.m. 111 N. La Cienega Blvd. (310)289-8010. This article was published in the Beverly Press and Park LaBrea Newspapers on January 1, 2015.

800 Degrees in Old Town Pasadena

DSC_0208I was so excited to see a line of people eager to try 800 Degrees pizza last week. Co-owner Allen Ravert greeted me inside and showed off the interior decor. All of his Umami Group restaurants have chandeliers, an animal head (usually found in consignment stores in Palm Springs), unique wall colors and mirrors. 800 Degrees in Pasadena doesn’t disappoint.

Located in a historic building on the corner of Colorado Blvd. and Fair Oaks, it’s designed by John C. Austin, the architect who designed Griffith Park Observatory and the Los Angeles City Hall. Ravert took me into the ordering area and had me admire a beautiful mural on the wall. “As we removed the drywall, we discovered this  beautiful mural from famed Pasadena artist Kenton Nelson,” Ravert said. “It’s now restored to its original beauty and located in the ordering room.” Ravert is talking to Nelson about putting up more artwork in the dining area.

DSC_0222
Executive Chef Anthony Carron and Allen Ravert

The Umami Group, Adam Fleischman and Allen Ravert, met Executive Chef Anthony Carron in Las Vegas years ago and discussed creating a new concept in pizza that would change the pizza world. Fleischman had so much success with his Umami Burger and believed pizza offers that same satisfying Umami experience.

Carron created a menu of pizzas that could be assembled and baked in less than two minutes. They opened their first 800 Degrees in 2011 in Westwood, near UCLA and became an instant success. Soon after, fast-concept pizza restaurants opened soon all over Southern California.

800 Degrees enjoyed the Westwood community and opened in Santa Monica. They also believed it’s an ideal concept at LAX for travelers to order quickly and take a meal to enjoy during their flight, so they opened at LAX. Then Vegas called, and they opened in Las Vegas at the Monte Carlo Resort.

What makes this pizza so tasty? Carron perfected the crust made in-house from only Italian flour, wild yeast, sea salt and filtered water. He purchases the freshest ingredients to create classic Neapolitan pizza. Naturally grown California tomatoes, and cheese from Di Stefano by the Bruno Family, known for their amazing Burrata cheese.

They also make classic salads that include a Gorgonzola, Caesar and a “Create Your Own. Their Burrata is served with beets with balsamic, cherry tomatoes with pesto, artichokes, olives and prosciutto with melon.terrific wood-oven meatballs baked with tomato, oregano and Parmigiano.

There is truffle cheese bread and wood-roasted broccolini with garlic, Calabrian chiles and olive oil.

DSC_0219You tell your personal chef the ingredients you want on your pizza and he/she will assemble it, pop it in the 800 degree oven and hand it to you within one minute. It’s easy to walk out satisfied for less than $10 per person.

They have other 800 Degrees planned to open soon at Downtown LA – 800 Wilshire Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90017. Another in Las Vegas – SLS Hotel and Casino – 2780 Las Vegas Boulevard South, Las Vegas, NV 89109 and The Runway at Playa Vista – 12751 Millennium, Suite #B135, Playa Vista, CA.

To learn more, go to – http://www.800degreespizza.com