11712 San Vicente Boulevard
Brentwood, CA 90049
A few months ago, the editor of a major big-time publication stumbled across The Delicious Life and was so completely amazed by the incredibly informative, in-depth write-ups on local Los Angeles restaurants that are wonderfully well-written with such a smart, sassy and witty style, that he asked me if they could fly me all over the globe to do restaurant reviews for them!
*little gleeful shriek*
Okay, that is soooo not true, but I wish it were. My god, that would be like the most amazing thing to ever happen to me! Most amazing, that is, after Tyler Florence shows up on my doorstep with a bouquet garni, a bottle of 100-year-old balsamic vinegar, and an engagement ring. *swoon*
It’s not entirely untrue though. A paper did ask me to write for them, not the New York Times, not Vogue magazine, but a little, local, free publication, so they basically needed someone who would be willing to whore herself out in exchange for...food. And my first article is publishing this month! It’s small, and like, what’s the big deal, right? *chuckle* It’s just a big deal for little me. If five people read it (excluding my family, who probably won't read it anyway), that’s good enough for me!
Osteria Latini was my target, er, I mean, subject – LOL! The restaurant is still relatively new, and the Little Italy-ization of San Vicente Boulevard in which it serves up it’s fresh fare is often a hot topic of dining conversation. I’ve been there a few times now, so it wasn’t an ignorant first impression. At least it wasn’t totally ignorant.
My first happened-by-chance experience at Osteria Latini was horrible. Okay, horrible is a bit of an exaggeration, but it’s not as fun to say that it was just disappointing. The food was *eh* but that could have been excused. The *eh*-ness of the food was completely overshadowed by the absolutely miserably molasses service - slooooow. One notch below novice.
But I gave it a second chance after Chef Pasio sent me an email (wow! didn’t know they did that kind of thing!) to apologize. Back with some girlfriends and Chef Paolo and the Osteria Latini staff totally redeemed themselves. But then again, maybe I was just smitten with the servers. *meow*
And we have gone back yet again, for a glittery birthday (not mine – but it just so happens that many a gorgeous girl has a June birthday). And finally! This time, not only did I have my camera, but the battery was charged! :) But what good is a charged battery when the lighting in the restaurant is set to “mood?” Oh, well.
We sat down in a cozy corner between a warm yellow and giant wine walls. Our server was Chenoa, who I’ve already described as a svelte-er, softer, smarter version of Kelly Osbourne. She left us with the permanently laminated menus, tomato-topped focaccia bread served with a small bowls of olivade (that’s right, foodies, olivade, because I know what the difference is) and chopped tomatoes and basil, and our rock & roll pinot grigio from Villa Russiz.
The kitchen sent us an amuse bouche – same as last time – a bowl of tiny, plump tortellini in a creamy sauce to share around the table. I tried one, but the filling was sort of dry and the sauce was a little bland. A nice, thoughtful, diversion, but I wanted to focus on the main attraction.
Osteria Latini has a permanent menu with standard, un-seasonal items like Caesar salad, spaghetti alla carbonara, steak and chicken parmiggiana. But the real action is the list that is at least 20 items long that the servers recite tableside. The first two times, their memories astonished me. Even this last time, I remember being impressed. But now that I think about it, it’s just the tiniest bit annoying. It takes a lot of time for the server to go through the entire list, and it takes a lot of my brain space to try and remember everything she said. It didn’t seem like these “specials” changed all that much from the previous month, so it’s not that expensive to print them out. Are you reading this, Chef Paolo? Invest a cheap, $200 desktop printer!
We started with a few things. There isn’t anything exciting to say about the antipasto other than it was varied, generous, and well-done. I *shloop*ed down most of the roasted yellow peppers :) One of the salads was a Caesar off the regular menu, and the other was from the list of specials: hearts of palm and shaved fresh artichokes. I love hearts of palm, and I’ve only just recently learned to appreciate fresh, raw artichokes (thanks to the my spring fling with the farmers markets), but not quite sure how well raw artichokes went over with everyone else.
On the last visit, the melanzane alla parmiggiana stole the show, so there were two orders this time, and it was eggplant at its most excellent. Soft and buttery, melted together with the cheese, but still distinguishable as eggplant.
Ravioli di arogosta
, lobster ravioli, came in a rosy pink sauce – my favorite color, so it got points with me already. How incredibly LA-superficial of me! I didn’t get to try it because it was too far away (all the way across the table!) and okay, I’ll admit it now – I am not fond of lobster. I don’t have to like everything!! But I am can only surmise that the ravioli wasn’t too shabby – nothing leftover.
During Chenoa’s recital of specials, I am almost certain that there was one point where my face lit up and eyes widened. She said white anchovies. After that, I didn’t hear anything else. But I must have forgotten that I had ordered the white anchovies last time and had been disappointed. Again, they had taken too long a swim in an overly briny, very vinegary sea.
The only two things that were slightly disappointing were those anchovies, and the glittery birthday girl’s chicken milanese. Unfortunately, she ended up taking most of it home to her freak. I felt bad because she ordered on my recommendation, but I had enjoyed it immensely the first time I had it. *sigh* I guess you can’t be right all the time, but then again, my taste is less discriminating than hers.
Of course, the highlight of the evening is always dessert at the end, and since it was a birthday dinner, there was a candle flickering in the middle of the dessert sampler, which let us try a little bit of everything. But nothing on the huge plate was as good as the deep-fried banana dumplings atop three different gelatos that we ordered separately. Incredible, especially washed down with the lemon sorbet champagne shake. Others say it’s horrible. I say, don’t look a gift horse in the alcohol!
As the subject of a review for a westside paper, Osteria Latini is good because it’s a neighborhood type of place. If it were in the Valley or Silverlake, I probably wouldn’t drive all the way out there. But it’s local to Brentwood, so heck, it works for me. Or at least until I get through all the other Italian restaurants along San Vicente and find something better. Or at least until I get an all expenses paid around the world restaurant reviewing gig for Vogue.