Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Angelini Osteria (Los Angeles, CA)

Angelini Osteria
7313 Beverly Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90036
Wed 07/15/2009, 08:10p-10:45p

Of all the Italian eateries in this City, perhaps none have been celebrated more than Angelini Osteria, the eponymous brainchild of chef/owner Gino Angelini. Angelini (born 1953 in Rimini, Emilia-Romagna, Italy) began his life of cookery at age 14, and by age 23, was helming the kitchens at the luxurious l'Hotel Ambasciatori. Angelini's fame spread quickly throughout Italy, and he soon played host to dozens of luminaries and influentials. In 1995, Angelini moved to Los Angeles, where he worked at the late Mauro Vincenti's Rex Il Ristorante (in the space currently occupied by Cicada). Following, in late 1997, Angelini opened Vincenti Ristorante in Brentwood with Maureen Vincenti (Mauro's widow); the restaurant still stands today, under the watch of chef Nicola Mastronardi, who was mentored by Angelini.

In October 2001, Angelini opened his own restaurant, focused on deftly-executed northern Italian cuisine, and even eight years later, the place continues to garner consistent fame and acclaim. Following the success of the Osteria, Angelini opened La Terza with Gianluca Sarti in 2004. Unfortunately, the restaurant didn't match the smashing success of Angelini Osteria, and in early 2009, La Terza was replaced by Minestraio, a more downmarket trattoria focused on pastas and other traditional fare. Given everything that's surrounded Angelini, I was eager to try the Osteria out; a dinner organized by reader Selina (whom I met at Wurstküche) was thus a perfect opportunity to give it a shot.

Angelini Osteria Exterior
The sleek, contemporary exterior of the restaurant was not what I was expecting. If you can't make it inside, seating is available on the patio, though I hear that service can bit a be slow out there. Street parking is tricky, so I'd recommend valet. You can use the stand up in front of the restaurant (the official valet), or use the one 'round back (turn right at Poinsettia).

Angelini Osteria Interior
The restaurant's interior is similarly sleek, adorned in light wood and simple lines, belying Angelini's classic fare. The diminutive space required some fancy moves on the part of our waiters, who had to partake in some skillful maneuvering just to reach the opposite ends of our (admittedly large) table.

Angelini Osteria Menu Angelini Osteria Menu Angelini Osteria Specials Menu
The menu consists of the "standard" carte (first two photos), and a list of Specials (which, apparently, don't change all that often); click for larger versions. All this makes deciding what to have a bit daunting. Fortunately, despite being overly-enthusiastic and overly-accented, our very Italian waiter was helpful in goading us toward the right dishes to have (hint: choose mostly from the Specials).

Bread Basket
A bread basket was summarily brought out, brimming with four types of bread, including grissini, a thin, crisp flatbread (pane carasau? Piadina Romagnola?), Pane di Altamura, and what I believe was ciabatta. Olive oil (from Puglia possibly) was provided in a bottle on the table.

Polipo Warm Octopus with Arugula and Cherry Tomatoes
Polipo Warm Octopus with Arugula and Cherry Tomatoes [$16.00]
The meal started off strong with a lovely presentation of octopus. The cephalopod was cooked to a nice char (giving it a slight crunch), and to a flavor and was simultaneously savory, yet let the natural briny sweetness of octopus shine through. As good as the polipo was on its own, the sweet-bitter-salty interplay between the it, the juicy tomato, and pungent arugula was key. A favorite of the table, and one of the best preparations of octopus I've had.

Grilled Quail with Guanciale, Mixed Baby Greens and Saba Sauce
Grilled Quail with Guanciale, Mixed Baby Greens and Saba Sauce [$17.00]
Though the quail didn't reach the heights of the octopus, it was still quite tasty, with a strong flavor that was enhanced the saltiness of the guanciale (unsmoked pig's cheek bacon), while being tempered by bittersweet flavor of the veggies (which also provided a great crisp texture element) and saba (grape must reduction with a touch of balsamic).

Grilled Sweet Italian Sausage with Cannellini Beans
Grilled Sweet Italian Sausage with Cannellini Beans [$11.00]
I've never met a sausage I didn't like, so this sweet Italian varietal (done in the style of salsicce lucane, according to a reader) was a must try for me. The meat itself was a delicious amalgam of sweet and savory, with a delectable snappy casing to boot. Its weight was balanced by the tangy pickled vegetables, while the cannellinis (white kidney beans) added a moderating touch to ground the dish.

Risotto with Mixed Seafood Ragú
Risotto with Mixed Seafood Ragú [$20.00]
I've also never met a risotto I didn't like, so this version, a Veneto-style preparation as determined by a comment below, replete with cuttlefish, shrimp, and mussels, was another must try for me. The focus here wasn't on the rice, but rather the interaction between the briny seafood and the tart tomato sauce, which resulted in a brackish attack, a tangy tomato midpalate, and a lingering finish imbued with the essence of the ocean. Overall, a bit blunt, but effective. Perhaps some lemon would've added some subtlety here?

Lasagna Verde 'Omaggio Nonna Elvira' with Beef and Veal Ragú
Lasagna Verde "Omaggio Nonna Elvira" with Beef and Veal Ragú [$14.00]
One of my dining companions ordered what is arguably Angelini Osteria's most famous dish, the green lasagna (with spinach added), an "homage to grandma Elvira" and a specialty of Bologna. A brick of a nearly a dozen layers of pasta, meat, and cheese, topped with fried spinach, it was a heavy dish, but perhaps lighter than most, with a slightly vegetal finish. It was probably the most conventional item I had.

Angelini Osteria Dessert Menu
And with that, we were done with the savories. For dessert, we had the selection shown here (click for a larger version), but also could chose from a handful of items on the Specials menu above.

Bonet Piemontese
Bonet Piemontese [$9.00]
I asked our aforementioned overly-zealous waiter what his favorite dessert was, and he quickly came back with the bonnet, a Piedmontese pudding/custard cake of chocolate, coffee, and amaretti. He was right. Everybody loved its decadent sweetness, balanced with a superb nuttiness and subtle bitterness. Excellent, especially when eaten with the included blueberries. Thanks to my dining companions, I was also able to try the Crostata di Cioccolato [$9], which was comparatively pedestrian, and the superb Creme di Mascarpone [$9].

I came into Angelini Osteria expecting to be let down, but the place is actually quite good. Food was mostly on point, a bit of a departure from the norm, and the vibe was fun, festive. Angelini didn't "wow" me per se, but I can see why everyone loves it.


Blogger Marta said...

Oh wow, you did an amazing job taking photos of your meal. Restaurant photos always turn out crummy, at least for me!
Thanks for this review!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009 7:39:00 AM  
Blogger weezermonkey said...

I enjoyed lunch at La Terza long ago, but I've still not made it to the true gem, Angelini.

I think it's my general meh opinion of Italian food that's holding me back, but your pics may have convinced me.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009 8:14:00 AM  
Blogger dhkm said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009 8:37:00 AM  
Blogger dhkm said...

Nice post, I might need to add this place to my list, since most of the dishes show case the chef's family root.
Frist on the list bread, you might be right it could be "pane carasau", but it could also be a flatbread - La Piadina Romagnola, a major snack food from Emilia-Romagna region.
The bread sit next to grissini are Pane di Altamura. And you are right the last kind does look like ciabatta.
Without seeing the picture, I will guess the olive oil most likely are from region of Puglia - Apulian olive oil, one of the finest in the world.
The sausage cooking style seem to be same as "salsicce lucane" from region of Basilicata.
The seafood risotto came from Veneto region, since is famous fror its Aisi, seafood. The risotto you have sound this base on the cooking method of "Risotto primavera" instead of braise with peas and asparaguse, your are with seafood, cook until all product are "united"
Lasagna Verde - back to his home again - a dish well known from the city of Bologna.
Once again, thanks foe the post, looking forword meeting you in August.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009 8:39:00 AM  
Anonymous Gastronomer said...

Being a food blogger is a funny thing... Even though every course was more or less on point, you still left feeling un-wowed.

We're a spoiled bunch, huh?

Tuesday, July 21, 2009 10:10:00 AM  
Blogger MyLastBite said...

I haven't been yet! It opened when I was living a NO CARB (boring & tasteless) lifestyle. Must get there soon!

Beautiful photos. Do they keep getting better or am I just hungry?

Tuesday, July 21, 2009 10:19:00 AM  
Blogger yutjangsah said...

i haven't been in years but i may have to return. i've also never met a snausage i didn't like. no such snausage exists! even pig's blood snausage is all good. this just looks divine.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009 10:57:00 AM  
Blogger FoodDigger said...

I haven't been back to Angelini in over a year. It is definitely one of my favorite Italian places in LA. It's too bad you weren't wowed.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009 12:16:00 PM  
Anonymous Hillary said...

Thanks for posting this! I love living vicariously through others' restaurant meals. The dessert looks especially fabulous!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009 1:01:00 PM  
Blogger Charlie Fu said...

Thanks for the review, always interested in reading about the Italian joints in LA

Like Weezermonkey i also have a very "meh" opinion of Italian food. I'm a fan of light sauces, innovative ingredients, fresh flavorful pasta that I just don't find at that many places.

That being said, heading up to Napa in two weeks and am gonna visit Bottega, see how that'll stack up with the LA hot spots.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009 1:18:00 PM  
Blogger kevinEats said...

Marta: Thanks! It was the lighting that I must credit for the photos. Consistent, uniform light is key, even if it is a bit dim.

Weezermonkey: I think that's what held me back too. It's worth a try, if nothing else to see what all the buzz is about.

Dason: You are a wealth of information! I will try to incorporate your additional info into the body of the post later tonight.

Cathy: I don't if it's spoiled or jaded. My "wow" moments seem to be coming more and more infrequently the more and more I eat.

Jo: I'm shocked that you've not been! I expected to see a post from you by the end of August. As for the photos, you're probably hungry. ;) Even light of a consistent color was the ticket here.

Sook: There's something about ground up, cased meat that I do find appealing...have not had a pig's blood version before though.

Will: I saw your review on FoodDigger. That must've been some meal to bring you to tears; I think it's time for you to revisit and see if it still has the same effect. Also, I just noted that Angelini has an id=1; was it the first restuarant added to the database?

Hillary: You're quite welcome. The dessert was indeed one of the highlights. :)

Charlie: I just checked out Bottega's dinner menu, and it looks very appealing. Do let us know how it turns out.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009 4:35:00 PM  
Blogger yutjangsah said...

you can get boudin noir at tasca but i don't recall it being very delicious. the best is the korean version (soondae) which is stuffed with glutinous rice. maybe we schmorganize a foray to eat some soondae. good shit fo' sho'.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009 6:28:00 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

I cant believe that you did not have the Dover sole encrusted in salt. I think that is their signature dish. I also would have loved if you had tried their spaghetti pomodoro. It is the most simple dish but I think they may do it better than any other in LA.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009 8:28:00 PM  
Blogger dhkm said...

I love sausage too. As for Boudin noir, I perfer the chinese version more than others.

But if I have to pick (blood as the main ingredients) as food.
Taiwanese version - 豬血糕(pig blood cage) and Shanghainess verion - JiYa XueTang / Zu XueTang (Chicken and duck / pig Blood Soup) are the top two on my list. At time point, I'm not brave enought to try the Tiet Canh(Blood soup)from Vietnam, which is made with raw blood of ducks, pigs or geese.
As for dessert, Blodplattar (Blood pancake from Scandinavia) will top my list. Restaurant Aquavit will made it upon request.


JiYa XueTang-

Zu XueTang-

Tiet Canh-

- (product)
- (blood)

Tuesday, July 21, 2009 8:34:00 PM  
Blogger kevinEats said...

Sook: Not a bad idea; I've been curious about soondae for a while...

Evan: Ah, one of my dining companions was thinking about getting the sole but ended up with halibut instead. If only I'd known, I'd have prodded her in that direction.

Dason: I had tiet canh recently at Binh Dan; wasn't particularly fond of it.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009 12:47:00 AM  
Blogger Daniela said...

Ciao ho scoperto oggi il vostro blog, complimenti per le belle ricette e per il vostro blog ricco di contenuti.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009 9:40:00 AM  
Blogger kevinEats said...

Translation from Dason: "Hello I discovered your blog today, thanks your for rich blog, picture, and description of recipes in your content."

Grazie Daniela!

Thursday, July 23, 2009 6:56:00 PM  
Anonymous Angela said...

I've been dying to find out how to make this Lasagna Verde ever since I saw it on Food Networks- "The Best Thing I Ever Ate" Do you know where I can get the recipe?

Tuesday, February 16, 2010 1:25:00 PM  
Blogger kevinEats said...

Angela, try here:

Wednesday, February 17, 2010 10:10:00 PM  

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