After a heartbreaking missed reservation back in December, The Astronomer and I finally sat down for a meal at Bastianich, Batali and Silverton’s gem Osteria Mozza. This time around we made doubly sure to take the proper route and even showed up fifteen minutes early (just in case).
We were seated promptly at a two-top on the left side of the packed, dimly lit dining room. The vibe here isn’t very different from the pizzeria next door—both are laid back with a strong emphasis on good service and great food.
As we perused the menu, which is frustratingly written mostly in Italian, we were offered a selection of breads with butter. I went for a slice each of multi-grain and white. With a baking expert like Silverton at the helm, it was no surprise that both breads were excellent, with hearty crusts and moist, complex innards.
In between placing our order and the arrival of course number one, amuse bouches landed at the table—two slices of thinly toasted crostini generously smeared with fresh ricotta and topped with olive tapenade, basil and Tuscan olive oil. The crisp bread made for a clean and crunchy bite, while the mild and creamy ricotta shined brightly paired with the salty tapenade and fruity oil.
The best dish of the evening was our first starter—burricotti with braised artichokes, pine nuts, currants and mint pesto ($15). Osteria Mozza’s most unique feature is the in-house mozzarella bar, which is manned by Silverton herself on most nights, including the Saturday that we dined. According to S. Irene Virbila of the Los Angeles Times, “the mozzarella bar is Silverton’s novel take on antipasti: Everything is based on Italian fresh cheeses.”
It’s a good thing that I have a larger-than-average mouth, because this starter was a messy mouthful. The perfect bite included a bit of everything—delightfully gooey cheese, refreshing pesto, tart and tender artichokes, sweet currants and grainy pine nuts. On our next trip to Osteria Mozza, I’d like to have a meal solely comprised of items from the mozzarella bar.
For our second starter, I chose the tripe alla Parmigiana with ceci ($10). The tripe was delicately stewed with tomatoes, chickpeas and star anise, and topped with Parmigiana and two sturdy pieces of toasted bread. The texture of the tripe was fantastic, but the star anise overpowered all of the other flavors. Overall, the dish was strong, but had too many anise notes and not enough tomato.
We followed up our two starters with a series of three pasta dishes. First up was a fresh ricotta and egg raviolo with browned butter ($18). We encountered a little difficulty polishing off the lone raviolo due to the triple punch of richness brought about by the cheese, runny egg yolk and browned butter. Although The Astronomer liked this dish very much, I found it overwhelming and just too, too much.
The ricotta gnudi with cotechino and carrots ($19) was much more my style. The rustic carrot stew was perfectly seasonal fare and worked nicely with the plump, melt-in-your-mouth gnudi. This dish was simple, yet very pleasurable.
Midway through our pastas, we decided to cancel our upcoming meat course due to limited stomach space and imminent palate fatigue. These small portions are deceiving because they really do pack in a lot of punch.
Our final pasta course, gnocchi with wild boar ragu ($19), was very similar in composition and flavor to the gnudi that preceded it. What really impressed us about this dish were the gnocchi—The Astronomer and I couldn’t get over how awesomely pillowy the the texture was. The wild boar ragu was tasty, but not as memorable as the little balls of joy it was served with.
After such a carbohydrate- and cheese-intensive meal, we finished off with the wonderfully refreshing Tre Agrumi Ghiacciati, which was comprised of a key lime cannoli, meyer lemon gelato and grapefruit sorbetto (left to right – $13). Each of the citrus specimens was topped with bits of candied zest, which added an element of sweetness to the mostly tart desserts. My favorite (by a hair) was the meyer lemon gelato, which was scooped onto a graham cracker crust (if my memory serves me right) with a spurt of lemon curd underneath. The cannoli and sorbet were excellent as well.
We enjoyed our feast at Osteria Mozza so much that we’re already planning to return for The Astronomer’s birthday.
6602 Melrose Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90038