Tag Archives: Italian

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

Negroni

  • 1oz Gin
  • 1oz Italian Sweet Vermouth
  • 1oz Campari

Garnish: Orange peel

Shake and strain over ice.

Today is my boyfriend FutureGregs (FG) birthday, so it only seemed fitting that I put up one of his all time favorite drinks.  The Negroni cocktail is made of equal parts gin, vermouth (Italian, semi-sweet), and bitters, traditionally Campari. It is considered an apéritif and has a bitter sweet flavor profile.

I admit, this is not a personal favorite of mine, in fact it’s quite the contrary!  This is a very strong and particularly bitter drink, one that I feel you really have to become acustomed to.  FG loves the bitterness of any amaro (after dinner digestif) in a drink, so this is a great option for him. He often chooses to use Cynar (an Italian bitter apéritif liqueur made from herbs, plants and artichoke) instead of the traditional Campari, which I believe makes it taste even more bitter!

The Negroni has, like many cocktails, an often disputed history.  The most common belief is that it was created and named after Count Cammillo Negroni in 1919 when he ordered an Americano with gin at Cafe Casoni in Florence, Italy.  When discussing this with FG he did point out that there are other accounts that suggest this was already another drink, however Count Negroni was the one who made it famous and therefore has his name attached to it.

Whatever it’s origins, this is a good option before or after a meal as the bitters have medicinal qualities that will help settle your stomach.

PARTY PEOPLE

By the way, for those of you who know and love my boyfriend, we will be celebrating tonight (23rd August) at Bagatelle in Hollywood.  The theme is ‘Black and White’, so make sure you come in those colors and dress to impress!  There will be a punch bowl, a Dj, many beautiful women, lots of handsome men and a special priced drinks list for those prepared to celebrate with us.  Come on down at 9pm. We’ll be there til 2am…or until Greg passes out!

Ps. For those of you who don’t know my boyfriend, please note he is actually a very attractive and intelligent man…not the dumbfounded gormless creature I have portrayed him as on this invite. I simply chose this photo because it is so damn funny! Happy Birthday my darling! xxx

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Drink of the Week

Guavamiele

  • 2 oz Rum
  • 1 oz Guava juice
  • 3/4 oz Lemon juice
  • 3/4 oz Honey
  • Top with dash of Angostura bitters

I am pleased to report that today is officially ‘National Rum Day’, which just so happens to be my favorite genre of alcohol!  Who knew?!

The above recipe is a wonderfully refreshing and summery concoction created by Greg Bryson and currently available for your tasting pleasure on the summer menu at Hostaria Del Piccolo in Santa Monica.

If you don’t live within reach of Hostaria then I highly suggest buying the ingredients and making this drink at home.  I personally prefer Matusalem Rum in this drink, and that’s what they use at Hostaria. It is a tropical, sweet and really easy to make tiki style drink.

Have a Happy Rum Day Everyone!!!

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Bottega Louie

Bottega Louie
700 South Grand Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90017
213 802 1470
 

*****

I love this place and rank it as one of my favorite Restaurants in all of Los Angeles.  I am finally putting up a review after my fourth visit and yet again I left utterly satisfied.

There is an elegance and attention to detail in this restaurant that I adore, from the marble flooring and delicate ceiling designs to the beautiful pink salt crystals in the shakers on the tables. If you’re going to come here for dinner you should know that they do not take reservations and it is strictly first come, first served.  It is generally always busy at night so I recommend getting there at least half an hour before you plan to eat. We always start off by giving our name at the front desk (which they write down in a gigantic reservations book) then head over to the bar for a cocktail.

The bar is small but cute, has an attractive marble top and fairly decent drinks list.  This last visit I started with a ‘Japanese Sour’ and my boyfriend (FG) had ‘A Night in Oaxaca’.

My drink was delicious, basically a Whiskey Sour with the addition of Port, I found the port added a layer of complexity to the sweetness and overall taste of the drink.  

A Japanese Sour- Rye Whiskey, port, lemon, simple syrup & egg white $12

The ‘Night in Oaxaca’ was smoky from the mezcal but still balanced and flavorful with a lightly bitter after taste.  My boyfriend seemed to enjoy it, although it was little too bitter for me.

A Night in Oaxaca-Mezcal, Lemon, Punt e Mes, agave nectar & bitters   $12

The room has an open floor plan so you can see in to the kitchen and pizza ovens, something I personally love and think gives great character. The whole building has extremely high grand ceilings and is technically one giant room, but it’s sort of divided in to sections.  As you enter there is a small cafe style area with a bakery (where you can buy macaroons and pastries), there is the Bar section with the main kitchen adjacent, a large main dining room area and a pizza kitchen at the back of the room.I noticed that they don’t have background music at all at this restaurant.  It is somewhat noisy though, the high ceiling echoes the sounds from the Kitchen and the lack of material in the room allows the sounds of people talking to bounce directly off the marble flooring. I personally really like the hustle and bustle atmosphere this creates. The tables set out in such a large open space makes me think of a French court yard, especially on the ‘Cafe’ side. I almost feel like you should see little birds hopping from table to table as if you’re outdoors in Paris.Despite being busy (on a Monday night) we were seated fairly quickly and this time were placed in view of the pizza station.  I found myself staring at the cooks for ages as they made the pizzas for the restaurant.  It’s like a performance seeing them work and hard to look away. One Chef moulds and tosses the dough to make the base (and throws it pretty high) whilst the other adds toppings to order and places it in the large open fire oven behind him. After watching a few pizza bases go flying through the air, we decided on this visit we had to try a pizza.  I think it is well worth the $18 price tag when you can watch your dinner being prepared with the utmost care and baked to order in front of you.I would definitely recommend getting a pizza here, although I suggest you do it as a shared plate like we did.  The pizza was larger than I expected and we ended up taking a few slices boxed up with us.  Out of the many pizza choices we decided on the Blanco and I was impressed with how much flavor came through with no tomato base.   The crispness of the pizza crust was perfect and the addition of arugula was interesting.  The garlic came through just enough for it not to need anything else, it could be considered a little bland for some, but we enjoyed it as it came.

Blanco- Ricotta, Mozzarella, Grana Parmesan, Roasted Garlic, Wild Rocket Arugula $18

When going anywhere I always look on foursquare and yelp for reviews and recommendations. The dish that gets the most reviews at Bottega are the ‘The Portobello (mushroom) fries’.

Portobello Fries- $10

Now, if you have read the ‘about me’ section of my blog you will know that mushrooms are definitely up there with my least favorite items. I actually have no problem with their flavor, I will happily eat a cream of mushroom soup, but I find their texture to be reminiscent of what i imagine a slug would feel like to chew on. I am therefore not a fan of mushrooms raw or only partially cooked. We went ahead and ordered them on a previous visit anyway. FG really likes them, and although they’re not my favorite item, I certainly  don’t dislike them.  They are deep fried Portobello mushroom slices and come with a very rich creamy aioli.  Deep fried anything is always going to taste pretty delicious but a little too greasy for my liking.  They are an interesting appetizer though and worth trying as an alternative to fries.

Hangar Steak Verdura- Prime beef, farmers market vegetables & black truffle sauce $20

We ordered the Hangar steak (medium/rare) to share and this is what I usually get on my visits here.  The vegetables change based on what is in season or currently available,  this version had carrots, rainbow beans, mushrooms and asparagus on top.  All cooked perfectly in an ‘al dente’ style, (still slightly firm but not hard center). We ordered a side of broccolini too, which had soft ends and crunchy stalks. Delicious.  The steak was juicy and flavorful, the vegetables were tasty and fresh. The overall dish was very good.

Sautéed Broccolini $8

LasagnaTraditional Bolognese meat ragù, Béchamel, Buffalo mozzarella, Ricotta & Grana parmesan $16

On a previous visit we also tried the Lasagna.  This was ‘divine’ according to FG, and every time we return he questions whether he should get it again because he remembers it as being utterly delicious and bursting with flavor.  It has a creamy béchamel sauce and three kinds of cheese mixed in there.  For its price point you certainly can’t go wrong, so if you want a good pasta dish here then I highly recommend it.

Butterscotch Budino- Butterscotch custard with fluer de sel & Chantilly whipped cream $9

We decided to get a dessert to finish, and went for the Butterscotch Budino which was basically like a ‘Pot de Creme.’  It was outstanding.  It has a soft custard center with butterscotch flavors, and a salty creamy finish.  It was so good.  I occasionally got a little salt crystal on my tongue, but the sweetness followed quickly and made for an interesting play of flavors in my mouth.  I highly recommend this dessert,  but if you are more in to pastries stop at the cafe on the way out.  They have macaroons in a rainbow assortment of colors and extremely interesting flavors which include Rose, Chocolate Orange, Salted Caramel, Pistachio, Espresso, Earl Grey, and Tahitian Vanilla to name just a few.

Food gets 4 out of 5 Platters

For the quality of food being presented I feel the prices are more than reasonable here. There are plenty of options to choose from and all the dishes we have tried in the past have been excellent.  The atmosphere and the ambience of this place really makes for a wonderful night out.  It could be a little loud for those wanting a more intimate setting, but I think it’s still a great and fun location for a date night.

Drinks get 3.5 out of 5 Coupes

The drinks were good but not excellent, they were executed correctly and the bar staff were all friendly they just don’t ‘Wow’ me.  I feel like the drinks list could be more interesting, especially with so many great options in the kitchen. The ones we had were by no means bad, just not as exciting as they could be.

All in all, this is still one of the best restaurants to venture out to.  It is fun, young and trendy.  The food is great, the drinks are good and the ambience is exciting.  When we can’t think where to go on date night, we always know we have this as a great option.  Having a ‘FussyOne’ as a repeat customer means they must be doing something right! I recommend you go see for yourself.

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