Tag Archives: Dinner

Eat Less and Taste More @ Hostaria Del Piccolo

Hostaria Del PiccoloHostaria Del Piccolo
512 Rose Avenue,
Venice Beach, CA
310.392.8822
 

I have been writing this post for a few weeks now, because I have a lot to say about this restaurant in particular.  I finally decided I need to put it up because all the other media seem to be beating me to it, and i’ve been coming here since opening day!!!  Reviews and press have just started to come out about this place (LA times did a feature and they have been mentioned on KTLA radio) and rightly so, it is a wonderful restaurant to get really well made Italian food. It is also a fun place to go with friends for a drink.

The space

The location I am discussing in this post is the brand new Hostaria Del Piccolo in Venice Beach, California. However please note that the same wonderful menu can be found at their original Santa Monica location on 6th and Broadway, I highly recommend checking out both as they have the same amazing food and drinks but totally different vibes.

Back of house

Hostaria Del Piccolo in Santa Monica has always been one of my favorite dinner spots, so I was excited when they opened this new location on Rose Ave (a really popular area for great restaurants right now.)

This location is much larger than the first and you really feel the openness when you first walk in. Their signature bright blue aprons can be seen on the staff dotted around the room and they’ve cleverly accented the bar with this color too which make it look young, fun and cool.

Blue lit bar

I actually really like the lighting in general at this place, there is a tunnel light that wraps across the ceiling giving it a modern vibe that works well against the wood communal tables.

Kitchen

The Kitchen is in open view to the customers so you can watch pasta being rolled and pizzas being made in front of you. This is an authentic Italian restaurant and the food is nothing short of fantastic.

Pamperdella   Verdura

The owner is Italian,  a lot of the staff are Italian and you feel its authenticity not only when you taste the food, but when you talk to the people there (many of whom are Italian). In particular I want to mention one of the managers Christian Bertolli, who is probably one of the most charismatic, friendly and delightful Italian men I have ever encountered.  All the staff are lovely here and the bar team are extremely knowledgeable on ‘real’ drinks and cocktails, due to their new Beverage director Greg Bryson who was hired to update the bar program at both locations a few months ago.

Greg Bryson at work

I have been to this new spot three times already and every time it is busier than the last. I am going to talk about some of my favorite dishes, however I am yet to find one I don’t actually like.  There are many more on the menu that are worth trying, but the ones below are my top choices.

The Food

GNOCCHI  ricotta-potato gnocchi, fresh tomatoes, basil, parmesan $15 ($6 on Happy Hour menu)

Gnocchi to me is best described as a potato dumpling. I imagine if pasta and potato had a baby, they would have a gnocchi! Most places I have tried gnocchi before I didn’t really like it too much.  I found it to be a stodgy and heavy dish, however this is not the case at Hostaria. Their Gnocchi (made fresh daily) is soft and fluffy, it is deliciously cheesy with a rich tomato sauce on top.

to go

It is also not a ridiculously huge ‘American’ portion. All the portions at Hostaria are just right, they take quality over quantity to a new level. In fact, their slogan is EAT LESS, TASTE MORE! In a country that is often over indulgent I really love this idea, I am always full when I leave and never have a doggy bag. The portion sizes are just right for a comfortable evening.

COSTICINE  roasted pork ribs, cannellini beans    $12

Ribs

When I am trying not to eat breads or cheese (so hard at an Italian place) this is my go-to dish of choice.  You get three delicious pork ribs that are perfectly seasoned and full of flavor but not covered in sauce, on top of cannellini beans which are filling without being over indulgent. A really yummy, simple appetizer.

GRIGLIATI  grilled fresh calamari, mild spicy Swiss-chard $12

Grilled Calamari

I am a big fan of fried calamari (which they also have on offer) however when you want something less greasy this is a nice appetizer option. The spicy chard gives an almost peppery spiciness to the dish. The texture is a little more rubbery than the fried version but really good nonetheless.

The Pizza

There are way too many pizzas on their menu for me to possibly discuss here, but I will name a few that particularly stand out. The main thing about their pizzas are the delicious thin crusts that taste freshly baked (because they are!)

There are white pizzas (without tomato sauce) as well as gluten free dough as an option, vegan and vegetarian choices. Some of the best i’ve tried so far are as follows…

FIGOS prosciutto, seasonal figs, mozzarella, mascarpone, vincotto $16

FORMAGGI mozzarella, smoked mozzarella, ricotta, goat cheese, gorgonzola $13

ASPARAGI asparagus, egg, mozzarella, parmesan shavings, truffle salt $15

I want to keep going on the menu (haven’t even begun to touch on their other delicious pasta options, not to mention they also have a phenomenal brunch menu that has items such as Ricotta Stuffed Pancakes, Espresso rubbed Pork and Eggs and a Salmon Eggs Benedict to name but a few) but I have to talk about their drinks too.

The Bar

Greg Bryson created some delicious drinks for the menu and will be rolling out his Spring creations soon i’m sure. They only makes drinks using fresh juices and local produce (as is the only way these days) and Greg has stocked the bar with a wide range of Amari (beverage bitters from Italy) which is great for those who love bitter sweet digestivo.

I have mentioned several of Greg’s drinks in past posts, because they are excellent.  Acero was one of my favorites during Fall and is still available at both locations.

CuccioloThe cocktails on the menu are all great, but if you ask Greg (when he’s tending bar) to make you something ‘bartenders choice’ he always comes up with something fantastic whether it’s a classic made correctly, or something he makes up on the spot, he always makes sure his customers are happy.

IMG_8420All the bar staff seem focused and friendly and I am yet to have a bad drink at this bar.  Here are two other popular drinks on the current menu…

CUCCIOLO Plymouth Gin, St.Germain, cucumber, lemon $12

BLACKWORK ORANGE 100% Agave tequila, fresh lime, tangerine juice, agave nectar, black sea salt rim $12

This place gets 5 out of 5 for food. It is hands down one of my favorite places to eat because I love Italian and this is done to the highest degree.

5full (1)

Drinks easily get 5 out of 5. I have only ever had drinks made by Greg himself so I may be biased, but from what I can tell all the bartenders have been trained to make the drinks correctly too and the options are a great range for all tastes.

5full

This is a great ‘first date’ restaurant because it is fun and friendly, with a romantic edge without being overly loved up. Definitely stop by and see for yourself when you are on the West side 🙂

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Drink of the Week

The Brown Turkey

  • 1oz Aged Rum
  • 1oz Fig and Brown sugar reduction
  • 3 dashes Orange Bitters

Shake in ice and strain in to a flute

  • Top with 2oz Sparkling Wine

Garnish: Orange Twist

Fig and Brown Sugar Reduction:

In a pan on medium heat, dissolve 1 cup of brown sugar in 1 cup of water. Add 1/2 Cup of chopped fresh figs (or substitute dried figs if no fresh available) and bring to a boil.  Cover and remove from heat, let steep for 25 minutes. Fine strain into a glass bottle and keep refrigerated for up to 2 weeks.

* * * * *

With Thanksgiving just around the corner, I thought this sounded like a fun and somewhat different kind of drink option for the holiday.  I found this recipe in this months ‘Special Holiday issue’ of Imbibe Magazine and think it sounds really quite yummy.

Imbibe Holiday issue Nov/Dec 2012

I have to say, this is the first time I am putting up a drink as ‘drink of the week’ that I have actually not yet tasted!

It’s an intriguing recipe that sounds like it would be quite tasty though. I love figs and find them to have such a delicious natural sweetness that I believe would pair beautifully with aged rum.

The drink itself was created by Justin L Chamberlin of ‘Sagra Trattoria and Bar’ in Austin, Texas and is described in the magazine as being;

‘A formula that combines subtle spices of aged rum with the sultry sweetness of figs and a pop of sparking wine’.

I’m curious to see if the addition of bitters comes through strongly or not though.

I do intend on having my boyfriend create it next week to go with our thanksgiving feast, and I will be sure to report back on how it turns out. For now here is the recipe for all my Fussy readers who may wish to attempt it themselves, feel free to get in touch if you do make it and let me know how it goes.

Enjoy!

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Spring into Sadie

Event: Spring Menu Release

Sadie
1638 N Las Palmas Ave,
Los Angeles, CA, 90028

*****

Last week I found myself with a handful of local writers and bloggers for a sit down dinner at Sadie in Hollywood.  Chef Mark Gold of Eva Restaurant has been shaking things up in the Kitchen at Sadie, and this event was to showcase their new Spring Menu.

Our table was in the courtyard area which I was excited about as I hadn’t yet experienced this area of the restaurant.  Despite the chilly evening we were kept toasty warm by the outside heaters and new overhead awning.  The place has a romantic setting, especially the spot lit water moat that surrounds the patio and creates movements of light on the stone walls.

Each food item on the menu was carefully paired with a drink, designed and created by the talented bar staff.  Giovanni Martinez in collaboration with a number of team members at the bar have made a truly wonderful and varied drinks list. I have mentioned the bar scene in previous posts so I won’t go in to too much detail again, however I will say that I am never disappointed with the drinks at Sadie.

Our feast began with a delightfully refreshing drink called Temperado, which had a fresh taste and a subtle cilantro flavor that cleansed the palette before eating.  It had some heat to it from the Jalepeno, but it wasn’t overly spicy.

Temperado- Cachaca, Avion Silver Tequila, Lime juice, Fresh Cilantro and Jalepeno

The first dish to come out was a mini salad called a ‘Little Gem’.  It had a lot of flavor for its small size. The crispy ham, crunchy lettuce leaf and creamy garlic sauce complimented each other beautifully.  Next came an organic egg, described in the menu as ‘representing Spring’, which had a beautifully runny yolk, a hollandaise style sauce with peas and pansies (the flower!) and a grilled spring onion.  It was another very tasty little bite size appetizer.

            

After these first dishes we tried a local Heffeweizen (by Golden Road) and the Piscoteca drink.  The cocktail was interesting with ginger and honey notes, it had a bright flavor from the Yuzu and Lime juice but the citric acidity didn’t mask the Pisco and the drink itself was nicely balanced.

Piscoteca- Italia Pisco, Homegrown mint, Ginger honey syrup, Fresh lime juice, Yuzu bitters

A selection of share plates appeared for the table and we were able to sample the Pork belly, Pei mussels, Lamb meatballs and Oysters.  All the starters were tasty, although my only complaints were that the meatballs seemed slightly over seasoned and the Yuzu Kosho salty spiciness on the pork belly was a little too overpowering for my tastes.

Lamb Meatballs- Whipped sheep milk yoghurt

These two dishes were by no means bad, they just didn’t appeal to me personally.

Pork Belly- Yuzu Kosho, Spring Onions

The mussels however were wonderful and there was a definite sweetness to the dish.  It was creamy, rich and the Chorizo pieces gave a nice texture.

Glazed Pei Mussels- Potato Mouselline, Chorizo, Smoked Almond

Our Entree choices included Chicken, Fish, Pasta and Steak.  Seeing as everyone at the table was a writer/food critic/blogger etc we were all more than willing to give each other tasters of our dishes, so I had a chance to try them all.

The Chicken was wonderful.  It was flavorful, juicy and had crispy shallots on top that gave a nice textural element. I didn’t really notice the mushrooms, but I only had a small section of this meal and it may have been more prominent if i’d eaten the entire dish.

Organic Rocky Chicken- Crispy mushroom, Chicken Jus, Shallot and Chive

The Halibut was fantastic, my favorite of all the dishes.  It was light and flaky, not at all fishy or dry and the grilled asparagus was an excellent accompaniment. Bacon pieces and an Onion relish gave a light sweetness that was a nice addition for the fish also.

Wild Alaskan Halibut- Grilled Asparagus, Bacon and Onion Relish

The pasta dish was a ‘Linguine with Clams’ which I found a little too citric for my tastes and had almost a white wine vinegar flavor going on, everyone else seemed to enjoy it but it wasn’t what I expected. The steak was good, the meat was tender and well cooked and the vegetables were tasty but the dish itself didn’t Wow me, it was just OK.

Prime Rib Eye “Cap”- Charred Onion, Borderlasise, Salsa Verde

Drinks paired with the meal were all great and bursting with interesting flavors.  My favorite was the drink that paired with the Halibut called ‘Friar Fresh’.  It was such a simple but easy to drink beverage and had just the right combination of sweet from the honey and citric from the grapefruit.  I highly recommend ordering that drink.

Friar Fresh- Plymouth Gin, Velvet Falernum, Lemon Juice, Honey, Grapefruit juice

At the end an array of desserts appeared, including Doughnuts (made in house).  The doughnuts were delicious, and reminded me of beignets but with crystalized sugar as apposed to powdered sugar.  They came with a creamy irish coffee cream dipping sauce that tasted like a thick version of Baileys. Yum!

The best dessert in my opinion however came in the form of ‘floats.’  I could (and probably will) write an entire post on these floats alone. The ice-cream mixed with bitters was just divine.  It was creamy, sweet with just the right amount of a bitter twist at the end of each sip.  The chip was also tasty, and the Mexican coke gave it a nice bubbly sweetness.  Both reminded me of ‘Ice Cream Sodas’ I used to drink in the summer in England, they were refreshing and will be a great drink to sip on in the sunshine.

Fernet and Chip Float- Fernet and Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream on Mexican Coke

Bitter Float- Peychauds bitter ice cream on Sanbitter Italian Soda

Overall the entire meal was a huge success in my opinion.  I have returned to Sadie on several occasions since it opened, with the intention of writing a review, however I never really had any dish that excited me enough to write about it.  This tasting evening, with the addition of Chef Mark gave me the kick to want to write about them.

The food is no longer good, it’s great and the drinks having always been nothing short of excellent, are now truly outstanding.  This place should be packed with customers and as soon as word really gets out, I believe it will be. From the gorgeous decor to the friendly staff, the romantic ambience and now the food that matches the fantastic drinks…this is nothing short of an excellent night out.

5 out of 5 Coupes

Drinks get my highest rating now, due to the addition of the truly imaginative and incredibly tasty floats.  All the bartenders know their drinks from Classic to Contemporary, everything i’ve tried has been balanced and interesting.

4.5 out of 5 Platters

All of the dishes and cocktails I described in this post are currently available for Spring time at Sadie.  If you haven’t been already, I suggest you make your way over there soon, if only to enjoy one of the delicious floats on the patio.

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