Dominick’s

8715 Beverly Blvd. West Hollywood, CA 90048(310) 652-2335 dominicksrestaurant.com

dominicks-crawfish-boil-los-angeles

I’ve been to Dominick’s twice now, with about 10 years in between those two visits and not much has changed. It’s still just very mediocre Italian food and a waste of your money and time. Especially when there are so many better Italian options in the city (Capo, Via Veneto, Piccolo, Valentino…). But since most of the great Italian is on the West side, I suppose Dominick’s has its place in a pinch. Granted I’d still take Villa Blanca in Beverly Hills over Dominick’s any day, but enough of the woulda, coulda, shoulda- If you go, be sure to get a table in the garden at the back, it’s much nicer than the inside. No need to add insult to paccheri.

Of my two-time sampling, the soft polenta with black truffles proved far and way to be the best thing on the menu and the only thing I would ever dare use a word more effusive than “good.”  The spaghetti and meatballs was a very distant second clocking in at one notch past average. Everything else from arancini to artichokes, was a big ole C average.

There was, however, one other exception on the dessert menu, the pear fritter/begniets were pretty solid. But other than that, the rest of the desserts were back to blahsville. Oh, and as for that pic above, that’s their crawfish boil, and I must admit, it does looks pretty damn tasty. Not sure how Italian it is, but people seem to swear by it, so perhaps I’ve just been ordering wrong? guess I’ll have to find out when I return to Dominick in another 10 years.

2 teeth

Via Veneto

3009 Main St. Santa Monica, CA 90405 • (310) 399-1843 • viaveneto.us
 via-veneto-best-italian-in-los-angeles-fresh-bufala-mozzarella_54_990x660_201404220110

Caught between Capo and Piccolo, Via Veneto is yet another extremely strong, authentic Italian right on Main Street in Santa Monica. They have a great wine list, very good service and a simple, but nice décor.

For eats, I highly recommend doing a split ravioli order as they have some of the best I’ve ever had. Try the lobster and the asparagus as a dynamic duo. Or if you’re into three-ways, add the sweet potato as well- they’re all good. But believe it or not, the asparagus reigns supreme.

They do many other things well too. From carni to antipasti to salads like the caprese. But none of them can even touch the ravioli. So if you don’t think you’re in the mood for ravioli, don’t go. It’d be like going to Disneyland when you’re not in the mood to be around kids.

4 teeth

Valentino

3115 Pico Blvd. Santa Monica, CA 90405(310) 829-4313valentinosantamonica.com

16x9

When you compare to the likes of Capo, Via Veneto or Piccolo its definitely on the stuffier side. And the decor is bit on the dated side, as are many of its patrons, but I have to hand it to Valentino when it comes to the food. Quite impressive. Easily lives up to the hype in culinary arena.

The prosciutto with melon was among the best I’ve ever had. Top notch San Daniele delivering heavenly slices of buttery pork with razor-thin pops of saltiness, paired with the most spot on, perfectly ripe melon. Landing stuck like Mary Lou Retton with pine tar on her feet.

The other dish I will never forget was the risotto with white truffle shavings.  Now I know you could practically put white truffles on balsa wood and it would taste amazing, but I’ve had truffles before and since, and for some reason no other experience has matched this one.

But as good as the food was, sadly I’m not sure I would ever return, partly because some of the other dishes weren’t as special as the two I mentioned and partly due to the overall experience/setting, which wasn’t my bag. That said, if you are 60 or older- or simply feel 60 or older, this place should be perfect for you. And I don’t mean that in condescending ass-y way. I’m being sincere. The second I turn 60 I am heading back there for sure, assuming it’s still open.

3 teeth

Angelini Osteria

7313 Beverly Blvd. Los Angeles, CA 90036 • (323) 297-0070 • angeliniosteria.com
thumb_600

The best part of the meal, far and away was the fact that we sat next to Ed Norton and Flea.

The second best part was the service. Love the fact that these are real, authentic Italians. Every one of them. All shouting around the noisy cramped dining room. It’s chaos, but it’s a cozy chaos.

The food, unfortunately, was a major disappointment. I don’t know what the hell Giada was thinking when she named this the “best lasagna she ever ate.” My wife makes better lasagna and she’s Turkish!

As for the buratta caprese, the tomatoes were a bit on the mealy side. Capo’s is MUCH better.

And the dessert was just eh. Didn’t even bother to finish, and don’t even recall what it was, which is telling in and of itself.

There are SO many better Italian restaurants in LA from Capo and Piccolo to Valentino’s, Villa Blanca and Via Veneto. I’m not even sure why this place is still in business.

2 teeth

 

Gordon Ramsay

The London West Hollywood • 1020 N San Vicente Blvd. West Hollywood, CA 90069(310) 358-7788 • thelondonwesthollywood.com/dining-en.html
 1989_3709

Let’s just say Gordon should spend a little time yelling at himself after this performance.

We had a tasting menu and about the only thing I can say was excellent was the amuse bouche: An espresso cup filled with chestnut soup and milk froth. After that, it was a complete nosedive.

The first course was the most tasteless salad I have ever had in my life. Seriously. This is not an overstatement. I’ve had airplane salads with more flavor than that. Absolutely pathetic. Everyone at the table was dumbfounded that they could actually serve something so bland and uncreative at that price.

Then came the oxtail jam ravioli, which sounded promising, but the sum of the parts didn’t equal much. Capo and Via Veneto both destroy this meek attempt at an Italian staple.

After that I split mains with a friend. I had the salmon, again, just eh. He had the filet mignon and it was good, but not great.

And last but not least was the hazelnut dessert- which was also good, but not jaw-dropping. In fact, the only thing, apart from the soup that was a standout was the wine. So kudos to sommelier and shame on Gordon.

So why not one knife you ask? Well, for dinner it most certainly deserves the snub, but if you happen to be doing breakfast, it’s actually pretty damn good. In fact, the eggs benny with proscuitto is quite stellar. As is the raisin walnut bread. Perhaps the best bread I’ve ever had. Bought an entire loaf on the spot to take back with me to New York. That said, Gordon doesn’t bake it. He buys it. And his waffles suck hard.

Additionally, for lunch, his fish tacos are also excellent. But his sweet tomato salad is just sad. So it would appear that Gordon  can’t seem to make a salad to save his soul.

2 teeth

 

Villa Blanca

9601 Brighton Way Beverly Hills, CA 90210(310) 859-7600villablancarestaurant.com

8

I had dinner and drinks here with a friend and I have to say I was pretty impressed. First of all, the location is awesome if you’re doing a little high end shopping on Rodeo Drive.

The decor is very cool. clean, white, silver and mirrors. And the wait staff ain’t too shabby either. Both the men and women are either aspiring models or should be. But not snooty about it, which was refreshing.

And as for the food, a pleasant surprise once again. From the fresh baked bread and tapenade to the awesome burrata caprese salad that might just rival Capo’s, which is high praise coming from such a Capo lover as myself. My entree was just okay. But that’s probably my own fault for ordering such a basic dish as Fra Diablo. And last but not least, the peach berry cobbler for dessert was awesome, both in size and in taste. Easily enough to feed 4 people. Or 8 if they are being self conscious because the staff is so intimidatingly thin and beautiful.

4 teeth

Giorgio Baldi

114 W Channel Rd. Santa Monica, CA 90402(310) 573-1660giorgiobaldi.us

 Picture-61

I know it’s probably blasphemous to say this, but I honestly find LA to have better high end Italian restaurants than NYC. Now with that said, Giorgio Baldi is not among them.

Terrible service. Rude and affected. Which would’ve been semi-tolerable had the food at least been worth the abuse, but in all fairness there are so many other great Italian options in Santa Monica alone, that I’m not sure why anyone would ever bother with a blowhard like Giorgio’s? I assume the prima donna’s there are doing it because Hollywood royalty eats there. Whatevs. It’s LA baby. Hollywood royalty eats everywhere. So lose the tude pisan!

Not one dish we had was memorable. Whereas places like Capo, Via Veneto, Piccolo and even Valentino’s all managed to wow far moreso than Blah-di’s.

2 teeth

The Ultimate Caprese Salad

caprese-420x280

Jeans Georges – New York, NY

I know a lot of people find this place very hit and miss, but for us it was more of a grand slam. So many great dishes. And among those was one very simple classic, done with such an inventive culinary twist it left an enduring impression. Obviously in such a basic dish ingredients are key, so let’s just assume they were impeccable. But what one shouldn’t assume is that it was just tomato, basil and mozz, because you’d only be 33% right. It starts with a gigantic beefsteak tomato. Gigantic in both size and flavor. But then, it is topped with a layer of finely crumbled feta. And on top of that, raspberries? Now, of course there was also a wonderful oil and balsamic. And, there might’ve even been finely chopped basil to brighten the berries. But whatever it was, the one thing it wasn’t was forgettable.

Piccolo – Venice, CA

On a presentation level alone I have to tip my hat to Piccolo, because they break the mold and throw out the plate when it comes to their caprese. Served upright as a parfait, this tower of Summer bliss leaves nothing to be desired. And what may at first seem like a gimmick quickly translates to sheer oral pandemonium as its flavors ping pong around your mouth like the gold medal round of Olympic table tennis.

Capo – Santa Monica, CA

This is the most traditional of the lot, but even Capo takes a slight detour from the norm, opting for a ridiculously creamy burrata in lieu of your standard mozz. The tomatoes are also something special. A medley of heirloom in a host of flavors, shapes and colors ranging from sweet to meaty to “no, I’m not sharing.”

Capo

1810 Ocean Ave. Santa Monica, CA90401(310) 394-5550caporestaurant.com

Capo-restaurant

My wife and I just love this place. One of the best Italian restaurants in the country.

Our favs: Start off with the burrata caprese. Then, for your entree, just about any pasta will do, but my personal preference is doing a split plate of lobster risotto and their quattro fromaggi ravioli. The ravioli is like love wrapped in pasta. My mouth is literally salivating as I think about it. In fact, to truly understand the depths of this love let me tell you a true story. During one of my trips out to LA when my wife couldn’t make it, I had the chef vacuum seal a serving of it so that I could fly it home and make it for her in New York. Now that’s love… of pasta.

Another wonderful ravioli dish worth keeping an eye out for is their special, sweet corn and white truffles. It’s even better than the lobster risotto, but just not as easy to come by. So if you see it, pounce!

And as for dessert, the Grand Marnier Soufflé. No questions asked. It will complete you. And it will complete a flawless meal. Coupled with no-pretense service and an intimate but charming decor, and you’ve got yourself one hell of a restaurant. Oh, and the best part, it’s not impossible to get in.

5 teeth

The Ultimate Pasta Dish

June+Dinner+at+Rossellini's+in+Ravello

Piccolo – Venice, CA

Unlike the other pastas on this list, Piccolo’s Venison, Clove and Cinnamon Pasta is a bit on the wintery side. And after the insanely brutal winter we just endured I’m sure about half of you just skipped to the next one. Well, your loss. This pasta is truly something special. And unique. I haven’t had anything like it anywhere. Nor have I ever even seen it on a menu since. But I can tell you this, shitty winter or not, next time I’m at Piccolo, I’m getting it again.

Capo – Santa Monica, CA

The Quattro Fromaggi is like a pillowcase stuffed with dreams. Only the case is made of pasta and the dreams are made from four of the creamiest cheeses to ever explode in your mouth. It’s literally as if fireworks made of cheese are putting on a show for your taste buds. And it’s about a dozen other metaphors I could think of as well, but some of them are sexual and gross, so perhaps the single most compelling thing I can say is this: One time my wife couldn’t make the trip to LA with me, so I begged the chef to vacuum seal an order of the pasta, so I could fly back with it and she could have it at home. Yes, it’s THAT good. And yes, I remind her of that every time I do something stupid… So about once a day.

NoMad – New York, NY

The crab pasta is so deceptively simple that you’ll likely overlook it on the menu. Well, that is, unless you heed my advice. So what makes this pasta all that? Balance. Proportions. It is a clinic on the alchemy of cooking, made effortless by the way its impeccable ingredients come together. The spicy hit from the black pepper. The acidity from the lemon. The tender, meaty, saltiness of the crabmeat. And the starchy, crunchy bed of al dente pasta. It’s simply divine.

Osteria – Philadelphia, PA

You won’t find it on the menu, which only makes it that much more fun to order, because you’ll impress anyone else at the table who’s not in the know. And impress them you will, because it’s easily the best thing they make. Now, for some of you, here’s the rub. It’s chicken liver pasta. But wait, wait, wait! It’s friggin’ awesome chicken liver pasta. So rich and savory. I mean if there was ever a time to give chicken livers their day in court, this is it.

Manzo – New York, NY

It’s not often that you come across a pasta that can hold its own in the company of steak and pork belly. But the anglionotti at Manzo does so quite handily. As if the juices from a perfectly cooked rib eye were somehow magically injected into the dumplings, so when you bite into them, it’s that exact same sensation you get when you bite into a wonderful, medium rare cut. Bellissimo!