It seems like all of the good things happen in the Fall: Halloween, Thanksgiving, Football, and food, and thats why it’s my favorite time of year. Something else I have looked forward to since moving to LA is the Taste of Italy, which benefits the IAMLA (Italian American Museum of LA). It’s much more than just a collection of eateries trying to vie for new customers; from food, (yes there is italian food other than pizza), to wine, libations, and a little bit of culture, it’s your one stop shop of everything italian. Set in historic little Italy, its italian overload. Just like St Patty’s Day in March, everyone is Italian in October. …
As the son of a Sicilian immigrant, I was excited to have a chance to go to the Taste of Italy event this year in downtown LA. Images of Italian flags, fare, and music flowed through my mind as I was getting ready to enter the Italian American Museum of LA. As I got to the entrance, the
line of people in a mix of casual, dressy, and the occasionally formal attire stretched before me. When I finally got up to the front of the line to pick up my tasting tickets, I knew that the slim ticket pack of six taste, (three premier tastes or “Q cards” and three regular tastes), and four drink cards would not be enough to satisfy my desires to the try the food of the many booths that lined the inside and outside of the museum….
If you are not paying attention to where you are going, you could miss the small red awning that graces the entrance to this historic italian restaurant. For its famous clients such as Frank Sinatra, who had his own booth, to icons that witnessed history happen before their eyes, like Nancy Reagan, to the scores of loyal regulars who call this home, La Dolce Vita delivers traditional italian food in a nice comfortable atmosphere.
And even when I was paying attention, I still missed the awning. It sits on the corner of S Santa Monica Blvd and Wilshire. So I had to turn around for another go. Once I did walk in, I was promptly greeted by its highly regarded Matre D’ Ruben with a straight eye line to the bar. This place is not large by any stretch, but it is intimate, casual, and classy at the same time. And I still felt a little underdressed. …
Before I went on a 2 week cleanse, I wanted get a little dressed up and have a nice meal. So a friend of min suggested a little place in Los Angeles called Terroni, just east of the Grove on Beverly Blvd. This is one of those places that you could miss if you were not paying attention. As you walk in, you notice the tight quarters of all of the two tops and larger tables along with the open kitchen and wine bar. You would think that this would be a louder place than it is. But the conversation that I had with my friend was was really easy. But I did notice that the couple next to us stopped many times to listen to what we had to say. The menu is a little confusing, all of the dishes are in italian and can be overwhelming, but there are explanations of each dish under the names. The wine list is rather limited in wine types, but the variety rather impressive from vintage to vineyard and region.
We started with the Piatto …
Sometimes, instead of going out for a good meal, it’s always nice to have a good meal come to you. This time, I decided to visit a little cafe just down the road from where I live, and bring the goodness home. Just for full disclosure, my mother is from Sicily, so I am a little biased when it comes to Italian food. But walking into this quiet, unassuming cafe in a strip center with no more an probably 15-20 tables, small kitchen, and owner greeting you with a thick Italian accent, you know there must be love in every dish!
Black Mussels Sambuca
There is something to be said about quality Italian seafood dishes, one way to know is the size of the mussels. Lately, when I have enjoyed them I have got a good portion, but they have been small and flavorless, which is not the case here. These giant mussels are cooked in a sauce of natural juices, Sambuca (I’m assuming from the name), a smidgen of oil, tomatoes, onion, pepper, and a touch of garlic from what I can tell, and the taste is amazing. The sauce that the mussels are cooked in have a great flavor that doesn’t have one overpowering taste, but compliments the meat tremendously with just a hint of salt water and a slow burn on the backside. Personally, a hint of sea water makes this dish for me. Instantly one of my favorites. Easily a nice dish to share with a great companion.
Just from first sight, this is made with quality ingredients. The cheese melted on top is uniform with no oil puddles, which you can see in lesser ingredients, and there is that little line of burn on the edge which is visually pleasing to me. I don’t typically think that pasta as tender, but a fork easily cuts though this like butter. The layers of pasta, cooked to perfection, are held together with a light ricotta cheese and meat, cooked in a light tomato sauce. It’s not a heavy dish, and even with the mussels, I don’t feel insanely full like I have with other pasta dishes.
For just under $40 I got an appetizer, entree, and dessert. It is a little more than I tend to spend on takeout, but I have been passing this place for a year now and I was ready to dive into it head first. Easily a place I would take a date or group for a great meal and not feel like I have to talk over anyone or feel rushed to get in and out. One good thing about these types of restaurants is that they don’t feel the need to turn and burn their customers in order to get the next table in, but are more interested in the quality of the food, experience of their clientele.
If you are on the east side of Tampa, driving down 301 south just past I75, be sure to stop at the little unassuming cafe in the strip mall, there will be no disappointment!