A decidedly diminutive space for the big talent and devoted following of chef Gino Angelini, this elegant study in blond wood and clean lines manages to nail the elusive vibe of being both accessible and select. Smartly attired regulars are greeted like family, others with genuine enthusiasm. The former chef of Rex il Ristorante and Vincenti restaurants shows respect for lunch with a serious selection of pizzas, pastas, and an oven-cooked half-chicken with potatoes. Antipasti lead the show at night: start with fresh anchovies with artichokes and beets, or maybe umido di trippa (tender tripe stewed with cuttlefish and tomatoes). Risotto with mushrooms and asparagus delivers properly cooked rice and vegetables just right in proportion and flavor---an altogether satisfying dish. Pastas are consistently strong, such as Nonna Elvira's green lasagna (possibly the best lasagna you'll ever taste) and pumpkin tortelli with asparagus and butter-sage sauce. Main courses include a whole branzino roasted in a sea salt crust ceremoniously filleted tableside, and bistecca alla Fiorentina. Among the weekly specials are splendid veal kidneys (not easy to find Stateside) with onions in white wine sauce, and a rustic wood-roasted leg of pork. An ending of Red Cow Parmigiano with pears and balsamic vinegar never seemed so right.
“Dazzling” dishes from chef-owner Gino Angelini – such as “salt-crusted branzino” “to die for” and lasagna that’s a “Proustian experience” – are accompanied by “exquisite wines” at this “tiny” Beverly Boulevard trattoria, which is again voted LA’s No. 1 Italian; surveyors say “solicitous service” and a “warm, inviting” vibe help to ensure such an “overall excellent dining experience” that no one much “cares” about the “sardine” seating or the fact that it can be a bit “pricey.”
Caveat: It is very noisy and crowded here.
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