>11712 san vincente blvd.
brentwood, ca 90049
Although chef paolo pasio had emailed and said i should let him know when i go back to his place, osteria latini, i decided to go anonymously again last night, for a few reasons. one, i’m sort of shy about that stuff; two, like djs, chefs make me wilt, so i didn’t want to get all tongue-tied at dinner; and three, i didn’t want there to be anything “special.” i wanted to see if the first night i had gone, the ridiculously slow service really was just an anomaly.
redeemed! we were a few minutes late for our reservation, so had to wait a bit, but that gave me a few minutes to flip through the shelf of cookbooks up front. i realized that the restaurant feels like someone’s home. the very warm and welcoming hostess took us to a table all the way in the back, which though it was a bit chilly back there, it was perfect for sneaking photos of the food. i was however, devastated (and that is quite the right term) when i realized my camera was dead. damn those short-lived camera batteries!
our server, billy, popped up right away, offering water and wine, and just behind him, there was paolo. he jokes, and throughout the night, he and all the staff is like a playful family hosting a dinner party. billy impressed us with his smooth dictation of 20 or so specials of the night – almost an entire menu in and of itself.
i was being totally honest when i said i was devastated about my camera because everything that came to the table looked so good. and yes, i believe that food is an orgy of all five senses, including the way it appeals to the eyes. chef paolo brings tortelloni to every table himself and they were so cute – petite, plump with veal and mortadella, and lounging in sage butter. we ordered a couple of starters. i didn’t like that the paper thin slices of pear in the bella salad still had the core, but other than that, it was a good salad though not remarkable (when is a salad ever amazing?). however, the melanzane alla parmiggiana was remarkable. eggplant is one of my a.t.f. (all time favorite) vegetables, but sometimes the thick skin is tough, so on large slices, i end up pulling out an entire piece because it doesn’t cut apart. on this dish, however, i didn’t have to work my fork at all to take up bites. i don’t remeber if the skin had been removed; perhaps it was all just cooked down because even the eggplant, like the cheese, melted together. delicious.
there were two other things from the regular menu. the chicken piccata was ordered last time, so i didn’t need to taste. the crespelle scampi were crepes covered with pesto and shrimp, which initially i wasn’t going to try, because i'm not particularly fond of pesto. however, i dipped a corner of bread in the sauce and it was, for pesto, not bad, mostly because it was very very creamy.
we had tested our server, and without skipping a beat he was able to answer questions about the specials. the rollata of prosciutto, tomatoes, and cheese (burrata or mozzarella – can’t remember now). were beautifully presented on the plate, but they were somewhat bland. perhaps it was the mistake of tasting something rather mild after the very strong, rich and creamy pesto. i got excited when i heard billy mention “anchovies,” something you don’t get everyday. i love fishy fish, but these white anchovies must have been marinated too long, as they were a little too acidic. half of them were still on the plate when everything was cleared away, and that was probably the only thing that let my tastebuds down the whole evening.
the highlight of the night was the sweet finale. chef paolo delivered a sampler platter, and with another server, camilo, did a little comedy routine, rattling off each of the desserts. italian cheesecake, chocolate mousse, panna cotta, profiteroles (“with choc-o-lat-a sauce-a”), mango sorbet, and tiramisu. i’m not sure what made the cheesecake italian, but it was neither as dense nor as sweet as others. i tasted the tower of mousse, the perfect little vanilla panna cotta, and profiteroles, which were good, though i normally wouldn’t order those desserts myself. the tiramisu, not the standard interpretation, was drowning in a delicious sauce that if i would have licked off the plate. smack in the middle of all the chocolatey-creamy was mango sorbet, a refreshing taste break.
we also had, of course, what i call the “house smoothie,” a frothy blend of champagne and lemon sorbet. i normally don’t like very sweet drinks (except a margarita), but for some reason, i love this one, so much so that i drank a little too much.
i’m so glad that i didn’t hastily swear off osteria latini simply for slow service last time. this time, the food was good and the service was good, the company was great, and aren’t those all together what should make for an absolutely delicious dinner? absolutely. hooray for second chances!