Tag Archives: venice beach

Drink of the Week and 100th Post!

Gaelic SourGaelic Sour

  • 2oz Jameson Irish Whiskey
  • 3/4oz Lemon Juice
  • 3/4oz Orgeat
  • 2 dash Angostura Bitters

Garnish: Lemon Wheel

It’s that time of year again… ST.PATRICKS DAY! Also known as ‘An excuse to get drunk on Irish Whiskey and beer day!’. Every year I have been in America I have ended up more and more intoxicated on this day, moreso I think than I ever was in the UK.  The Americans (well Californians for sure) love this holiday and celebrate with Irish themed drinks, Green colored beer and clover designs all over the city.

Today FutureGreg and I are dressed in green and heading down to Townhouse in Venice Beach for their Irish themed events.  They have Irish bands playing, an Irish stew, Punch bowls and the above drink on sale all day. If you are in the neighborhood I suggest you join us.

The above recipe is a delicious Whiskey Sour with a subtle twist using the orgeat. It is sweet, flavorful and simply delicious. If ‘Irish Car Bombs’ aren’t your thing this drinking day, this is a great option instead.

On a completely different note, this is my 100th post on The Fussy One!!! Seems only fitting that a blog about alcohol would have it’s 100 post on a national drinking day 🙂

Everyone have a great time today and be safe!

Remember: DO NOT drink and drive!!!!

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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 Fussy One Cocktail

The Fussy One

  • 2oz Rum Blanco
  • 3/4oz Lime Juice
  • 3/4oz Vanilla syrup
  • 3/4oz Fresh Beet juice

Garnish: Lime wheel

Next week sees some big achievements for me. On Monday 28th January I will have been living in the States for 5 years…then on 30th January I will be celebrating my 1st ‘Bloggerversary’.  Yep, this little blog will be one year old on Wednesday!

The above drink recipe was created lovingly by my Beverage consultant boyfriend Greg Bryson, as a nod to me…and my fussiness! This drink is nothing short of delicious, and perfectly fits my personality.  The use of beet juice gives it an almost healthy taste and vegetive flavors, for some reason the beet reminds me of carrots at times too.  When Greg first met me (read about me) I would never have eaten a vegetable by choice, so incorporating it in a drink with my namesake is pretty smart and somewhat amusing.

This drink has everything I love combined. It has Rum as the base (my favorite), it’s Sweet, Strong, Pink, Fruity and Girly. (Add a dash of crazy and it would be describing my personality!)

In essence this drink could be described as a Vanilla Beet Daiquiri, but I prefer to call it by it’s new name… “The Fussy One” 🙂

Head on down to Greg’s new Venice location of Hostaria Del Piccolo on Wednesday for a drink to celebrate. Greg will be making this recipe as well as loads of his other creations, it’s going to be a fun night.

A big thanks to all my readers, keep following and commenting. I love your suggestions and feedback!

Here’s to many more years of eating, drinking and blogging…

The Fussy One xx

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Piccolo Ristorante

Piccolo Ristorante

5 Dudley Ave

Venice Beach, CA 90291

(310) 314-3222

My boyfriend (FG) took me here on Valentines Eve this year and having never been before I was excited to be trying somewhere new, especially an Italian restaurant.

Italian is officially my favorite cuisine. I am not a huge fan of Venice beach and honestly find it particularly scary at night, especially down some of the graffiti ridden dark alley ways.  Sadly this restaurant is in a slightly less than desirable area, and less than a block from the building I was convinced I was watching a hardcore drug deal go down!

However I was utterly shocked and excited by the restaurant that emerged once I turned the corner.  The restaurant Piccolo is beautiful, aesthetically it is a really lovely looking space. Great attention to detail has been made from the elegant glassware down to the tasteful green glass candle holders on every table which are decorative and beautiful.
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The decor is Venetian inspired (as in Venice, Italy not Venice Beach) decorative masks and tasteful black and white shots of the canals adorn the walls. There is a roaring fire on the side and a wall of wine at the back. As soon as we entered we were greeted by a friendly host who took us straight to the table. There is no host stand or bar area, which makes me wonder where you would stand/sit to wait if you arrived sooner than your reservation. Fortunately for us our table was ready straight away and we sat straight down. The owner Vittorio Viotti came over and said hello (he has worked with FG in the past and is a lovely Italian man from Rome).  The menu allows you to do a set meal called ‘In bobo we trust’ this is a great option if you’ve never been as the Executive Chef Roberto Ivan (Bobo) will choose a ‘Six-course tasting for $80’ or ‘Ten-course tasting for $100’ Two people minimum and entire table only.  Seeing as we didn’t want quite so many courses we decided to just pick ourselves, with the occasional recommendation from Vittorio and our server.

As cocktail drinkers I was sad to discover they don’t have a mixed drink list here, however the wine choice is beyond impressive. There is an extensive wine list in a leather bound book with huge range of Italian wines organized by area (a little map of Italy colored in to represent regions).  Almost all the wines are by the bottle, but Greg went for one of the reds by the glass and I had a prosecco.  The red was smoky and rich with a tobacco finish, perfect for FG and my prosecco was light with a hint of sweetness. Great start to a romantic fine dining experience.

A bread basket came out with bread sticks, olive ciabatta and baguette inside. Anyone who knows me knows how much I adore good bread.  This bread was warm with a freshly baked crisp crust and fluffy inside, just how I like it.  Came with olive oil for dipping but I told myself not to fill up on bread so I mainly munched on the sticks which were a not so filling alternative. Great idea.

Antipasti Freddi

The first dishes we chose from the ‘Antipasti’ section of the menu were the Prosciutto and Carpaccio (see item descriptions below).

The presentation for all our dishes was nothing short of pure elegance,  I really like duck but it was actually a little rich for my taste.  It had a herbaceous celery/watercress dressing on top though which was light and creamy and helped dilute the richness of the meat slightly.

Prosciutto d’anatra– Homemade duck proscuitto, fresh watercress drizzle $17

The Carpaccio FG ordered was delicious. I should mention that I hadn’t eaten lamb since I was around 11 years old and saved a lamb from drowning in a river in Wales, strange reason I know, but I just never found myself wanting to order it since then.  I did however try some of the carpaccio this evening. I was so surprised by how much I enjoyed it, it wasn’t gamey but complimented wonderfully by the truffle and celery shavings.

Carpaccio di agnello– Seared lamb, thinly sliced,  celery, piave shavings, truffle shaving $17

Antipasti Caldi

The next dish we ordered were the Scallops.  Now, if you haven’t read the ‘about me’ section, I suggest you do it now, because it will astound you that someone as fussy about food like myself would ever like sea food let alone Scallops.  The scallops were nothing short of divine.  To go from not trying a salad to devouring scallops is quite a dramatic change, but my goodness did I enjoy these.

Delicious on every front. Texture, sauce, cooked to perfection. The cheese sauce was very light but the little addition of truffles was all the richness it needed. Ironically I don’t like parmesan or truffles for that matter but adored this.  My only complaint was portion size, but this restaurant is more tapas (small plate) style. I could have easily gone for at least 8 of those beauties! This dish came with 2 scallops and they were nice enough they split our dishes without us even asking, we just told them we’d be sharing everything.

Capesante scottate– Seared sea scallops, parmesan-truffle fondue, truffle shaving $17

Primi

The second section of the menu had dishes that were created using their own hand-crafted fresh pasta prepared with organic eggs.  FG had the Tagliatelle which was certainly interesting, but tasted a little like christmas in my opinion. The use of cloves/all spice in the aromatic spices I believe is what gave this affect, the venison was a little overpowered by the spices but was well cooked.

I went for the black kale and beef tenderloin filled ravioli.  It was rich but very tasty.  I couldn’t taste the kale itself, but the dish altogether was flavorful and very good.

Agnolotti al cavolo nero– Tuscan black kale-beef tenderloin filled ravioli roasted garlic, rosemary, parmesan $24

Ragu di capriolo– Tagliatelle, slow braised venison ragu, aromatic spices, red wine $24

Secondi

The Duck from the final section of the menu was delicious and my favorite ‘main’ course.  The honey truffle sauce was light but had the perfect level of sweetness.  The meat was cooked to perfection, and they don’t ask for a temperature because they know how it should be cooked (seemed about medium/rare).  I had no complaints, juicy and perfectly tender duck slices.

Germano reale al miele tartufato– Breast of mallard (wild duck) pan-seared, truffle-honey sauce $34

Please note the photos of the duck and scallops are ‘half’ the regular portion size as the plates were split for our convenience.

Dessert

I don’t know how but we managed to squeeze in a little dessert at the end.  Bobo chose the Bignole and the Tortino. The tortino was soft and light with a slightly unusual lightly orange taste (reminded me of a children’s medicine in Uk called Calpol actually).  I preferred the little pastry chocolate puff balls. They had a crisp pastry surrounding a sweet, soft chocolate truffle center. Very delicious and a great end to the meal.

    

Tortino- Ricotta and mascarpone torte. Saffron coulis

Bignole- Puffs filled with belgian gianduja chocolate

I’m giving Piccolo 4.5 out of 5 Platters

All in all this restaurant was truly excellent. The service was friendly and fast, but not rushed. The food was beautifully presented and tasted great.  The only down side of this place is it’s location, although the interior strongly makes up for it. The pasta dishes were my least favorite, but I will happily return to try other dishes on the extensive menu.  I felt the food was pretty reasonably priced although I know it may seem a little pricey for some, especially when the dishes aren’t huge portions. It is fine-dining however and for a romantic night out is well worth the cost when the quality is there. Definitely worth a visit!

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Del Monte Speakeasy @ The Townhouse


Del Monte Speakeasy @ The Townhouse

52 Windward Avenue, Venice, CA

(310) 392-4040 ‎ · townhousevenice.com
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This little underground gem is literally the only reason I would ever head to Venice at night. I have been at least 5 times now and it rarely disappoints. I actually held my birthday party here this year and had an amazing rum punch bowl created…SO much better than LA club table service with ridiculously overpriced bottles of flavorless liqour.

I first came here around 2years ago completely by accident.  I went in during the day and was greeted by George Czarnecki, an older bartender who turned out to be a bar historian with so many stories about the location, it blew my mind.  This week end, I was lucky enough to get another history talk and tour from the current manager and drinks program director Brandon Reynolds-Ristaino.

A Little History.

The history of this venue makes it even more enticing to come visit, it is one of the few genuine speakeasys that has been family run for over 30years and there has been a bar on this premises continuously since 1915, despite prohibition.

Three families have been involved in the continued operation of The Townhouse. It was first run by the Menotti family as a Buffet which opened in 1915 and the name is still visible on the original tile floor at the front of the bar today.  When prohibition was implemented in 1920 the Menotti’s had grocery’s on display upstairs and moved the bar down to the basement (now The Del Monte Speakeasy).  At the end of the street used to be Abbot Kinney pier (that was destroyed by fire also in 1920) In those days the territorial waters of the USA only extended 3 miles out, so Menotti had ships of alcohol come from Canada, stay at the 3mile limit then smaller boats would greet the liquor ships underneath the pier and bring the alcohol through underground tunnels to stock the speakeasy.  The police somehow turned a blind eye to Menotti’s organization, which means despite prohibition this location has been serving alcohol the entire time! Pretty impressive!

Sometime in the 1950’s the old bar’s name was changed to Grady’s Town House and in 1972 the Bennett family purchased the bar and shortened it to ‘The Townhouse.’The Ryans took it over in  2007 and rennovated the whole place, especially the downstairs ‘Del Monte Speakeasy’.  I never saw the building before rennovations but I am told the Ryan’s have brought it a new lease of life and restored its legacy.

On my tour of the building with Brandon he showed me where the underground tunnels used to lead to and informed me there are still caves all over the city and they recently discovered there is a tunnel that leads all the way to the ‘King Eddy’ in downtown.  These caves were only filled in in areas so there are undoubtedly STILL several open caves damaged only by earthquake activity.The staircase in the photo on the left is hidden in the back of the basement, (now a storage room) but used to be the staircase that was at the end of the alley to the bar and lead inside.

The Del Monte Speakeasy

When going downstairs (and they’re steep stairs so be careful!) you get a sense of excitement, especially knowing the history. You feel like you are entering a secret society in an underground hideaway, there is an elegance and sophistication in this location. It isn’t a dive bar, it is a reflection of the good parts prohibition brought about like the underground cocktail culture. It is a unique experience. Music ranges in style but there is live music 3 times a week (Sundays, Thursdays and Saturdays) and they have some of the countries best muscians/bands and when the live music stops there is often a great DJ. They don’t play cheesy pop music down here though, in general it is heavy edge artists not mainstream, cultural music, and sometimes jazz. It has such a unique vibe and every guest i’ve ever brought has commented on how much they like the ambience.

Brandon Reynolds-Ristaino (worked for 1933 group) came here 6 months ago and created the current drink program.  Since he’s been around he’s really brought it back to its element.  On my last visit one of the girls I was with asked for a drink with berries, I was suitably impressed when he responded “i’m afraid we don’t have berries right now, I won’t stock my bar with anything not currently in season”. He won’t break his integrity and that is always admirable! The drinks I tried were really good. The winter cocktail list is currently available and I first chose a Winter Sour and my friend had a El Volcan.

WINTER SOUR– Black Pepper infused Gin, Kumquat, Honey, Elderflower and Citrus. Shaken and served up.

MORRICONE-Brandy, Amaro Averna, Carpona Antica, Walnut, Miracle mile chocolate chili bitters

EL VOLCAN- Strawberry infused mescal, Cynar, Yellow Chartreause, Agave and fresh squeezed lime juice. Shaken with that holiday feeling. (I love this method description they added to the cocktail menu)

I have to admit, I broke my own rule and modified my Winter Sour choosing Plymouth as apposed to the pepper infused gin option…I regretted this later when my friend ordered it the correct way and it was SO much better. Trust the professionals! The honey was overpowering in my version and tasted like a cold toddy, I could imagine it helping me feel much better if I got sick. The pepper gin (which I did taste and although it had a kick to it was not too spicy as i’d feared) made the drink well balanced and really interesting. The El Volcan was also well balanced and tasty, I was astounded I liked that at all because it was really smoky (Mescal) and had a bitter after taste but there was a definite sweetness to it and overall was a pleasant drink.  It’s a VERY GOOD sign when I don’t like most of the ingredients but can appreciate the mix of flavors in the end result! That’s how I felt when tasting this drink.  I really wouldn’t want to taste any of those liquors usually, but they complemented each other beautifully in this drink and I found myself enjoying it.  I have also had the Morricone here, which again was balanced and delicious. The chocolate chili bitters were subtle, but added an aromatic element to the drink which I enjoyed thoroughly.

I think Brandon has done a great job creating a list that appeals to all, there is a great range of his own creations but still a list of classics that are all executed correctly, like the orignial Sazerac.  All in all, you won’t be disappointed with a trip to this bar. The culture and history of the place will make you want to dress up in 1920s attire (and i’ve seen many visitors do this with themed parties) and the drinks are tasty and well thought out. Check out their website here for current events, I am told they have an ‘artists night’ when artists paint large canvas’ during the course of an evening, and ‘burlesque nights’ although I have never been to either i’m sure they are great!

It gets my rate of 4 out of 5 Clover Clubs. (See rating break down here and read below)

The drinks I tried were all well balanced and prepared correctly, the bartenders are always ready and willing to create you something great off menu if you need and the ambience is like nowhere else on the west side of the city. Brandon is a pleasure to talk to and really knows his stuff. This place looses a point purely for the mechanics of the place and by no means for the cocktails themselves. The music on a few visits has been too loud through the speakers, the place gets crazy packed on some nights making it hard to dance and sadly the “attitude” of our particular cocktail server that evening really did it. I really believe (having been a cocktail server myself) that it isn’t JUST about taking orders especially  in a place like this, it is about selling people on the list of drinks available. The owners chose to hire a bar consultant, then Brandon came in and created a wonderful cocktail list, but the server I talked to didn’t try/know how to sell me on any of them! When I asked “Is the Sazerac here good?” she responded “I don’t know” without a smile, when I said “oh ok…have you had this?” pointing to the ‘El Volcan’ she replied “I haven’t had it… I don’t like Mescal”. Obviously, this was one server, maybe having a bad day and i’ve never had an issue with the others there or the bartenders but the ‘old me’ (read the About me section to understand) would have just reverted to ‘i’ll have a vodka cranberry’ because it’s easier than trying something new and that totally defeats the object of a place like this.

All in all this place is excellent and is a location worthy of a visit. I will be back again for sure…

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