I had the best brunch at Highland Park’s Maximiliano the other weekend with a gaggle of girlfriends. Our party of seven piled into the restaurant some time past noon and proceeded to order everything that sounded delicious on the “kinda old school Italian” menu. It was a gustatory extravaganza full of giggles, gossip, and most importantly, damn good grub.
Chef Andre Guerrero of Oinkster fame opened the restaurant last October and introduced brunch soon after. I’ve yet to dine here after dark, but if the brunch time fare is any indication, I am in for a treat when I do.
In addition to the fine food, the space at Maximiliano is really something. Modern yet comfortable and full of natural light, it had a casual vibe that I liked very much.
We nibbled on the the Baker’s Bread Box ($8) as we perused the menu and finalized our game plan. The array of fresh-from-the-oven goodies included a wedge of pineapple brown sugar coffee cake, slices of lemon-rosemary and banana bread, corn muffins, and a blueberry scone. House-made butter was on hand for swathing each bite in richness.
While we found some of the offerings a touch dry, namely the coffee cake and the lemon-rosemary bread, the majority were well balanced and a delight to dig into.
Continue reading ‘Maximiliano – Los Angeles (Highland Park)’
Restaurateur Paul Hibler and Chef Jason Neroni hosted a sneak peek of their forthcoming collaboration Superba Snack Bar at Pitfire Pizza in West Hollywood last week. The restaurant, which is expected to debut this summer in Venice, offers their “post modern” take on an Italian pastaria serving handmade pastas, charcuterie, and plenty of local produce.
Previously, Hibler was the owner and creator of the popular chainlet Pitfire Pizza, while Chef Neroni was the executive chef at Osteria La Buca. This is their first joint venture together.
The Astronomer and I attended the pop up event as guests of Superba. As soon as we grabbed a table, chilled glasses of “beer/sangria” were brought to the table. Made from a mixture of Belgian white beer, prosecco, chardonnay, and apricot juice, the beverage was wonderfully refreshing and went down dangerously easily. I had to limit myself to two glasses to keep from getting too rowdy this evening.
Our first bite of the night was the chicken liver mousse and lardo served with toasted Langers rye, pickled celery, and balsamic cherries. The bread had too much personality for the simple lardo, but paired just right with the velvety liver spread. The cherries made our lips pucker, cutting the spreads’ richness with its tanginess.
Continue reading ‘Superba Snack Bar – Los Angeles (Venice)’
Drago Centro has been my go-to destination for post-work cocktails, wine, and bar bites ever since I started working downtown last year. On my latest visit to the restaurant, I managed to pull myself away from their unbeatable all-night happy hour for a proper dinner in the main dining room.
Instead of my usual $5 white wine and piping hot flatbreads, I indulged in bubbly prosecco and plates of silky pasta. After experiencing the fancier side of Drago Centro, I have an even greater appreciation for this urban oasis of modern Italian dining.
Chef Celestino Drago, who also owns Enoteca Drago and Il Pastaio in Beverly Hills and the yet-to-debut Osteria Drago in West Hollywood, opened Drago Centro in 2008. Its location on the ground floor of the City National Plaza attracts a diverse crowd of suited gents, serious couples, and happy hour revelers.
On the evening of my visit, Chef de Cuisine Ian Gresik had the night off, so sous chef Michael Neflas took care of our party of three. In addition to warm rolls to start, we shared a serving of “Le Cozze” ($13). The steamed mussels were simply but effectively prepared with white wine, garlic, and chile flakes. Toasted crostini was on hand to soak up the broth.
There were also bowls of “La Zuppa” ($10), a roasted yellow corn soup with a sopressata corn ragout, served tableside (not pictured). The little squares of salami punctuated the sweet soup beautifully, making me wonder why bacon gets all the glory.
Continue reading ‘Drago Centro – Los Angeles (Downtown)’
It used to be that citrus fruits were my favorite wintertime bounty, but that was before I tasted my first white truffle. Only available October through December and priced in the neighborhood of $300 an ounce, this precious tuber is the ultimate indulgence during the cooler months of the year.
I was recently invited to an incredible dinner at Valentino Ristorante featuring an abundance of white truffles. In celebration of Piero Selvaggio‘s 40 years of successful restauranteering in Los Angeles, the finest Italian white truffles were flown in for the event, as well as wines from Beni di Batasiolo, the world’s leading producer of Barolo. Needless to say, it was an enchanting evening of food and wine.
I was greeted by an army of glasses as I sat down at the table. Stefano Poggi, the export manager at Beni di Batasiolo, was on hand this evening to pair each of chefs Luicano Pellegrini and Nico Chessa’s creations with a handsome wine. The carefully marked placemats upon which the wines rested kept diners properly organized throughout the meal.
Continue reading ‘White Truffle Dinner at Valentino Ristorante – Los Angeles (Santa Monica)’
Promises of handmade pasta and creamy risotto motivated me to make the drive to Drago Ristorante in Santa Monica for a weeknight dinner. Well that, and my friend Diana. She’s the restaurant’s PR guru, and she assured me that I’d adore this restaurant with all of my carb-loving heart.
Opened in 1991, Drago Ristorante is the oldest of Chef Celestino Drago’s Italian restaurants that are currently open in Los Angeles. His other restaurants include Enoteca Drago and Il Pastaio in Beverly Hills and Drago Centro downtown.
Diana reserved a secluded table adjacent to the main dining room for our small group. We were joined this evening by Darin of Darin Dines and Christina of Where Los Angeles.
Chef de Cucina Evan Gotanda, a graduate of the California School of the Culinary Arts, as well as the kitchens of Bastide and Patina, treated us to a custom tasting this evening. Most of the dishes that we sampled can be found on the regular cena menu.
Dinner began with bread from Chef Drago’s Dolce Forno Bakery in Culver City. The bakery provides all of his restaurants with freshly baked breads, pastries, and desserts daily. I played it safe with just a small nibble of the olive bread because I wasn’t sure what Chef Gotanda had in the works.
Continue reading ‘Drago Ristorante – Los Angeles (Santa Monica)’