Parking: Valet & Street
Average dinner cost (1 drink): $40 Drinks: Wine, beer, soft drinks
Special dishes: Antipasti: Vitello tonnato, warm octopus salad. Entrees: Branzino, lemon-lime risotto with asparagus, oven-baked pork (porchetta), tagliatelle with rabbit, veal shanks, rack of lamb, Bombolotti alla amatriciana, cuttlefish with Swiss chard.
Service: Efficient but can be attitudinal.
Ambience and decor: Clinically white with small tables, the restaurant is somewhat jammed and energized by the activity of bringing food to expectant diners. But if you're a little closer to your neighbors than usual, consider the comradery in sharing the best fare in town. The tight quarters make it a must that you reserve a table for yourself and party well ahead of time. The tables spill out to a small outdoor (street) patio.
Table Notes: Los Angeles is not a city that's deprived of master chefs. Despite having our share of them, someone will occasionally, and for different reasons, go out of state or abroad to lure an extraordinary one to ply his or her spatulas and ladles in their kitchen. So it was then that Mauro Vincenti lured Gino Angelini from Rimini on the Adriatic to run the ovens and the staff at his Rex Il Ristorante. And, when that gourmet heaven closed following Vincenti's death, he was brought westward by his widow Maureen to Vincenti's in Brentwood.
Ultimately, Angelini decided to take his menus into his own hands and opened his own place, a bistro on Beverly that was "Solstice" and "Mexica" in previous incarnations. We who prize great dining should be thankful.
To get an idea of what I mean by that, just try the oven baked porchetta, a skillfully caramelized side of pork, a special favorite of mine usually offered on Sunday evenings. Words fail... tasteful, delicate, juicy, serene. Part of the experience is in watching as manager Gino Rindone brings the whole side of pork to your table and expertly carves it for your plate. If you see it on the menu, order it!
For seafood lovers, another exquisite plate that Rindone refers to with pride is the salt-encrusted striped sea bass, ("Branzino" on the menu). And, for more carving exploits, try the attention-getting veal shank. And, of course, there are those delectable daily specials that are nothing shy of memorable -- so long as you get there early enough for any to be left!
There is a certain modesty in calling this restaurant an "osteria" which translates into "tavern", implying simplicity and home cooking. While there may well be fortunate homes with cooking like this on both sides of the Atlantic, it's too expertly accomplished to be thought of as tavern fare. Gino Angelini simply wants to make you feel at home.
His is a place that gives you the immediate sense that there are no compromises with quality within his walls (spare though they may be). Here the staff takes noticeable pride in delivering indisputable gourmet food to their discriminating patrons. My initial reactions tell me that there are virtually no near misses on the menu, that the chef truly understands the potentials and possibilities of each dish. The task I set myself, therefore, is to try every one of Angelini's dishes.
There is a well-selected wine list with quality choices available by the glass featuring some of the best Italian vintages. Prices are reasonable, showing a not-excessive markup. And, as for the espresso, as a coffee bean roaster/grinder/espresso lover I can testify that Angelini's is nicely pulled from an excellent blend.
Total experience: Satisfaction in getting what I pay for.
Location: In a corridor of restaurants a few blocks west of La Brea, across from El Coyote, north side of street. Street parking is easy at lunchtime, possible on the side street at busy dinner hours. Most patrons will employ the valet service.
Jules Brenner has published a cross-indexed guide to dining in Los Angeles County and posts a "Restaurant of the Month" on his website. Check out the current one at http://variagate.com/restbook.htm
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