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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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

LA’s newest Ice Cream sensation

Opening on Feb. 1, 2018 The Dolly Llama Ice Cream shop is the newest sweet treat in Los Angeles.

Its a Four Step process to achieve cones like these.

Step 1: Order a bubble waffle ice cream cone. They are currently a street food sensation in Hong Kong. Unlike a regular waffle cone, the Bubble cone batter is pillowy in texture. Once the batter is poured, it’s coiled into a cone. Black and white Dolly Llama paper is wrapped around it creating a unique, puffy edible ice cream holder.

Step 2: Choose an ice cream flavor. There are 8 different flavors: Vanilla, Chocolate, Red Velvet, Salted Caramel, Cookie Monster, Horchata, Green Tea and Coffee.

Step 3: Get Saucy with a selection of over 10 that includes: Nutella, Maple Syrup, Peanut Butter, Caramel, White Chocolate Matcha, Sweetened Condensed Milk, Speculoos, Red Berry, Milk Chocolate or Dark Chocolate.

Step 4: Top it off. There are almost 30 different fresh fruit, favorite candy and whimsical toppings. The topping section has Strawberries, Bananas, Raspberries, Blueberries, Pineapple, Mango, Almonds, Coconut Shavings, Gummy Bears, Cinnamon Toast Crunch, Captain Crunch, Fruit Loops, Cocoa Puffs, Graham Crackers, Chocolate Chips, White Chocolate Chips, Circus Animal Cookies, Kinder Chocolate Bar, Maltesers Malt Balls, Oreo, M&M’s, Reese’s Cups, Snickers, Sprinkles, Marshmallows, Brownie, Pretzel Balls, and Popcorn.

Stepping inside for a tasting, I was encouraged to build a unique ice cream filled with all my favorite flavors. My Bubble waffle cone had a generous scoop of salted caramel ice cream, peanut butter and chocolate sauce, pink and white circus animal cookies and gummy bears. It was delicious.

The staff also make Waffle Sticks dazzled with sauces and toppings.

Dolly Llama makes Shakes too. Four different creative flavors include :

1. The Dolly Llama made with Cookie Monster ice cream, whole milk, cocoa puffs, whipped cream, and sprinkled with M&M’s and topped with a Kinder Chocolate Bar.

2. Peanut Butter Shake served withvanilla ice cream, whole milk, Reese’s cups, and topped with whipped cream, peanut butter, crushed almonds and chocolate chips.

3. Cookie Snob made with vanilla ice cream, whole milk, speculoos cookie, whipped cream, and sprinkled with cinnamon and topped with Circus animal cookies.

4. Chocolate Lover made with chocolate ice cream, whole milk, Oreo cookies, whipped cream, and sprinkled with white and dark chocolate chips and topped with a brownie.

Other beverages include Hot-chata, Hot Chocolate or Hot Vanilla topped with marshmallows.

A second location is scheduled to open in Koreatown inside the historic Western Avenue gilded corner building near The Wiltern Theatre. Stay tuned for its grand opening.

The Downtown Los Angeles location is at 611 S Spring St, Los Angeles, CA 90014.

Astro’s Golden Delights

With award season approaching, Astro Doughnuts & Fried Chicken is making glittering gold red velvet doughnuts that are a perfect treat for your awards show viewing party. They are available for $5 each, and must order 24 hours in advance online or by phone.

I was invited to try one of these red velvet cake doughnuts with a edible glittery gold glaze. During Oscars weekend these special doughnuts will be available at the restaurant.

The Boston Cream Pie doughnut is one of my favorites

For Super Bowl Sunday on Feb. 4, Astro’s is offering a game day package, which includes six football shaped Boston cream doughnuts and 24 honey sriracha or Korean barbecue wings for $59.95.


The individual football-shaped doughnuts are $3.50. Pre-order starts Jan. 29 for pickup or delivery on Super Bowl Sunday. They will also be available in the restaurant only on Super Bowl Sunday.


While I was there I tried a few of the fried chicken sandwiches, kimchi cole slaw and tater tots. The fried chicken on a buttermilk biscuit with flecks of Cheddar cheese is pure comfort food.

Astro doughnuts & fried chicken is located at 516 W. Sixth St. Los Angeles, CA. (213)622-7876. There is another location in Washington D.C.

Otium at The Broad

The last time my husband and I explored The Broad, we strolled over to the contemporary urban Otium restaurant designed by architect Osvaldo Maiozzi. With its striking box-like design, we peeked inside and admired the soaring ceiling and handmade glass pieces that resembled falling raindrops. The open elegant kitchen is near a long bar with floor-to-ceiling shelves stocked with bottles lined up like soldiers. Bartenders were climbing and pushing the tall, rolling ladder from side to side to grab bottles up near the top. It was lively and fun, so we made a note to come back another time for dinner.

Grilled octopus is brightened with a squeeze of lemon and complemented with tzatziki spread. (photo by Jill Weinlein)

With tickets in hand to the opening night of “Jersey Boys” at the Ahmanson Theatre, we decided to make an impromptu visit to Otium for a pre-theater dinner. Without reservations, we were seated at a long communal table next to another couple from Manhattan Beach. It was their first time dining at Otium too, before seeing a show at the nearby Walt Disney Concert Hall.


We told our server we had theatre tickets for the 8 p.m. show and needed to leave by 7:45 p.m. He assured us that he would do his best, and recommended a few dishes that could be prepared quickly.

The chef of Otium, Timothy Hollingsworth, was once the chef de cuisine at Thomas Keller’s French Laundry, earning the distinctive James Beard Rising Star Chef award in 2010, so we were expecting a great meal.


Even though we were dining indoors, it was near the outdoor patio, offering views of the 100-year-old olive trees gracing The Broad’s park-like plaza. Looking up, we gazed in wonder at the restaurant’s open mezzanine with a private dining area and vertical garden created by LA Urban Farms. Hollingsworth utilizes its herbs, vegetables and edible flowers to enhance each menu item.

The wine list offers more than 20 wines by the glass – some as much as $22 per glass – and an extensive offering of bottled wine. If you prefer to bring your own bottle, a $35 corkage fee applies.


Freshly baked bread arranged in a cloverleaf pattern arrived in a mini cast-iron skillet glistening with butter, chopped chives, herbs and a sprinkling of sea salt.


A plate of wood-fired octopus arrived next with a long tentacle sticking straight up saluting us. Hollingsworth combines octopus with a variety of spices, maybe a bay leaf, a pinch of thyme, garlic, salt and pepper. I’m sure he squeezed fresh lemon before and after grilling. The octopus was served on tzatziki spread with thinly sliced cucumber medallions and pickled red onion ribbons with a few arugula leaves offering a peppery enhancement.


Another dish from the sea was the ceviche made with a combination of kanpachi (Amberjack or Japanese yellowfish), sliced squid, chopped green tomatoes, shrimp and avocado. A few squeezes of lime juice, chopped parsley, salt and thinly sliced aji peppers dazzled the fresh and chunky ceviche served in an artistic blue Irving Place Studios hand-thrown ceramic bowl.

Avocado and grapefruit salad.

Our waiter recommended the falafel plate, with four deep-fried, ground chickpea balls placed on a puree of chickpea and eggplant with cucumber, Meyer lemon, parsley and micro greens. There wasn’t anything spectacular about this small mezze plate for $17. I’m unsure why our server singled it out, however his suggestion aboutthe grapefruit avocado salad was a winner, with ancient amaranth grains, thinly sliced radish, a sprinkling of sesame seeds and glaze of miso dressing.

Even though the service was friendly, our dishes took longer coming out of the kitchen than we had hoped. While apologizing repeatedly, our server inquired in the kitchen about my husband’s poached halibut several times, before finally bringing it out. At almost $40, it was a disappointing piece of bland fish, with an unmemorable Green Goddess glaze on top of a jardiniere of mixed vegetables and caramelized onions.

We paid our bill and ran to the theater as the lights were dimming. Fortunately, the show was better than our experience at Otium and the evening ended on a high note.

The restaurant is open for weekend brunch from 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., lunch from Tuesday to Friday from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., snacks Tuesday through Sunday from 2:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m., and dinner nightly starting at 5:30 p.m. Closed on Mondays. $$$ 222 S. Hope St. (213)935-8500.

This review was also featured in the June 1, 2017 Beverly Press and Park LaBrea News.

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.

Church and State – Country French Cuisine

IMG_6015Being a fan of the talented Chef Tony Esnault, I was excited to visit Church and State, located near the outskirts of downtown Los Angeles in the Arts District.

I first met the gifted French chef four years ago when he was the Executive Chef at Patina next to the Walt Disney Hall. Each dish he prepared was a work of art. Some were almost too beautiful to slice a knife through or pierce with a fork. I was saddened to hear that he left Patina, yet eager to find out what kitchen he would be improving with his French artistry.

Fortunately, owner Yassmin Sarmadi of Church and State snatched him up. She hired Esnault to help her open a new restaurant, Spring, scheduled to open in October. The menu will feature lighter-style French Mediterranean cuisine.

While developing Spring, Esnault turned his attention to preparing rustic, country style French fare at Church and State.

The noise level is loud and tables are very close together with just enough room for a server to walk between them, making for a lively, bustling atmosphere.

The restaurant offers a New York vibe with brick flooring and outdoor lighting strung from one corner to another. The wall of white tile and glass in the back are remnants of the National Biscuit Company’s loading dock. Built in 1925, this gorgeous space once had trains pull up in the back with raw goods to make Nabisco products.IMG_8231

The building was designed to look like a castle with mini turrets on each end. Above the restaurant are luxury lofts with hardwood floors and spiral stairways. Across the street is the old Toy Factory with retail on the ground floor and more basic lofts above.

Looking over the menu, it flows from lighter to heartier dishes. Many guests sitting at tables near us ordered the beautiful puff pastry escargot with garlic butter, so we did too. It looks and tastes like a luscious soufflé in a classic egg cup. Others enjoyed the roasted marrow bone served with marinated radish salad or a charcuterie plate that is cut and cured in house. We all raved about the rabbit ballotine with young greens, herbs and mustard.

On the menu it states that all of the products used in the dishes come from organic farms and have been without antibiotics or hormones.

Near the kitchen are white ceramic vases stuffed with fresh French baguettes. Every table receives bread and on the evening we dined, a plate of fresh out-of-the-oven baked cheese puffs were served.

Esnault makes colorful tartes for appetizers that are actually flat breads, savory onion soup and an array of salads.

IMG_5989For my entree, I opted for the healthy three-beet salad and Coq au Vin that is braised for three days in red wine, herbs, salt and pepper.
The beet salad arrived with deep magenta roasted beets and sunshine yellow soft beets. To add texture and a crunch, Esnault includes some candy cane raw beets to the salad with baby lettuce, hazelnuts, goat cheese and a leek vinaigrette.

I ordered a glass of 2012 Moulinde Gassac Guilhem Rose to accompany my meal. It had pleasant pink hue and intense red fruit nose.

While enjoying the wine and salad, I noticed Esnault is usually in the dining room next to the kitchen’s serving counter. He stands with his back to his diners, looking at the multitude of chefs preparing various dishes. Since the noise level is high, he often cups his hands to shout out orders.

The coq au vin arrived with pearl onions, carrots and mushrooms in the lovely Burgundy colored sauce. On the plate were two drumsticks and a meaty thigh that was so tender, the meat just fell off the bone.

Since my husband was in the mood for seafood, he had a choice of scallops, a filet of Scottish salmon or a Provençal fish Bouillabaisse stew with fresh prawns, Manila clams, mussels, fennel, potato, leeks and garnished with a rouille, made with olive oil, breadcrumbs, garlic, saffron and chili peppers.

He opted for the salmon, which was served on a bed of lentils with pickled red onions and textured with bits of crispy bacon.

Meat dishes offered on the menu are a clean cut of venison saddle that is not too marbled or a 100 percent grass-fed flap steak with frites and a béarnaise sauce. A duck IMG_8226breast with confit leg adorned with orange is another option.

The dessert tray arrives on a plank of wood with several delights to choose. All are made in house. They are small in size, yet big in flavor. The chocolate tart was dense, rich and satisfying with a salted caramel drizzle.

Church and State offers a prix-fixe Sunday Supper. Last Sunday, Esnault served an amuse with a choice of two appetizers, choice of three entrées and one dessert. It was $44 per person with an optional $22 wine pairing for three courses.

$$-$$$ Open for lunch Monday through Thursday starting at 11:30 a.m. Open for dinner on Monday through Friday at 6 p.m. Dinner on Saturday and Sunday begins at 5:30 p.m. 1850 Industrial St. Go to Church and State at OpenTable or call (213)405-1434.

CHAYA is Full of Delightful Surprises

IMG_5511My daughter came home from college for the weekend and craved sushi for dinner. We came up with a list of restaurants in Los Angeles to take her on a Saturday night. Since she has never been to Chaya downtown, we made a reservation.

As I walked up to the hostess stand, I admired the colorful chandelier. From a distance, it looks like an elegant glass light fixture, however up close, I was surprised when I noticed it’s made from plastic toys and everyday items.

The dining room manager Mike Javaherpour noticed my facial expression as I pointed to a plastic hairbrush, scissors, hair clips, sunglasses, medicine bottles and a champagne glass hanging upside down.

“The designer found many of the items and asked his friends to contribute to this work of art,” he said.

The artist, Stuart Haygarth, is a Berlin based artist and lighting designer who works with everyday objects to create beautiful art pieces.IMG_5504

Chaya is an elegant restaurant filled with many surprises. Hints of Asian décor fill the smaller 12-seat sushi bar with two sushi chefs working in full view. There are a few Japanese themed art pieces, yet the bar area offers an art-deco flair with its elegant etched mirrors. The polished concrete floor and white linen tables give the room an elegant European feel.

Chaya is one of the few Japanese restaurants I know of that serves crusty French bread with butter and a dish of olive oil. We nibbled on the bread as we ordered an Acai mojito and a nice glass of white Argentina wine.

Executive Chefs Atsushi Kenjo and Shigfumi Tachibe have created a menu highlighting fresh farmers market ingredients with persimmons enhancing many dishes for the Fall and winter months.

We ordered the six-item bento box served in a traditional red and black lacquered case. The first area had a salad of roasted organic beets with persimmon, hoshi-gaki goat cheese and aged sherry vinaigrette. Next to the salad was a Korean style surf n’ turf tartare. Maine lobster and Wagyu tri tip were blended with a spicy Yukhoe bean paste, scallions, julienne apple, cucumber, and a quail egg. Chopped finely, it was served with crispy wonton crisps.

IMG_5515There were three pieces of sushi and a sashimi piece along with a serving of pan roasted wild Canadian King salmon with Belgian lentils, sweet chestnuts, chanterelle mushrooms, leeks, wilted kale with bacon. We opted for a second serving of salmon, rather than the lamb chops that come in the box.

My daughter ordered a  sushi platter with a variety of rolls consisting of a spicy tuna with eel and avocado and two sushi pieces each of tuna, salmon, shrimp, albacore and yellowtail. The dish thoroughly satisfied her craving.

I had a taste of both the box and platter before settling into my caramelized onion and mushroom soup with crispy croutons.

On Sundays they serve a four-course tasting dinner for $27 and 50 percent off wine bottles.

During the afternoon they offer a mid-afternoon sushi special from 2:30 to 4:30 p.m. where many of their rolls are under $10. Before 6:30 p.m. the restaurant is filled with patrons enjoying a four-item pre-theatre bento box for $29. It’s only available on Tuesdays through Saturdays from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. If you arrive after 6:30 p.m. you can still take advantage of the all night long six-item Bento redux box for $39. This is offered from Monday through Saturday.

Valet and self-parking available at the City National Bank Plaza underground parking garage- LEVEL A.

Complimentary shuttle service is available to the Staples Center, Nokia Theater, and Music Center. $$-$$$ 525 S Flower St, (213)236-9577.

This article was published in the Beverly Press on 11/28/13


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