Last week we had a wonderful gastronomic adventure at Osteria Mozza in Los Angeles on Melrose Avenue (West Hollywood). We selected this restaurant on a friend’s recommendation (see Mia’s food blog, “Dubu Diaries”) and we definitely were not disappointed. We would place this restaurant in the top 20 we have been to around the world!
We started with three antipasti, after receiving a complementary amuse bouche (what is the equivalent in Italian?): delicious little spirals of mozzarella packed with basil leaves, sundried tomato and olives drizzled with sharp, green virgin olive oil. What’s not to like about beginning a meal like that?!
Then we moved on to a grilled baby octopus salad on a bed of greens with potatoes, celery & lemon. I must confess that I am an octopus obsessive and order it whenever it is on the menu.
Our other two appetizers were Ribollita Delfina, a hearty Tuscan soup made with beef, bread and assorted vegetables. Our young friend who had been to Italy explained what the dish was–we were all ribollita virgins eager to try. Literally meaning “reboiled”, the ribollita arrived in a soup bowl, looking more like a juicy frittata than a soup, with a clear broth surrounding it. Absolutely wonderful! Apparently, ribollita dates back to the Middle Ages when servants would gather leftovers from the aristocrats and make soup for their own dinners.
What Osteria Mozza is renowned for, however, is their burrata bar, a wide selection of burratas and mozzarellas, served with or without vegetables. We had the special fresh burrata flown in from its place of origin –Puglia, Italy (only on Fridays and Saturdays). A memorable palate pleaser of soft, fluffy clouds of cheese perfection.
Our entrees included a flat fettucini-like pasta–Maltagliati served with a succulent wild boar ragú; exceptional grilled quail (two of them!) swaddled in pancetta and braised, honeyed radicchio; braised beef short ribs in a porcini reduction on a bed of delectable creamy polenta. But the most adventurous and surprising combination: a squid ink pasta (chitarra freddi) tossed with dungeness crab, spiced with jalapeno and topped with a delicate sea urchin. What a tongue thriller! To accompany this food coma we toasted with two bottles of Ferrari, Trento Brut Rosé –a fine dry wine similar to a Spanish rosé cava or a pink prosecco.
If someone had told us that this restaurant was owned by partners Mario Batali and Joe Bastianich, restaurateurs with far-reaching empires including wineries, we probably would have passed, discounting the hype these two always receive with rave reviews that only served to disappoint at two previous encounters at restaurants they own in New York City and Kansas City. However, Osteria Mozza, which opened in July 2007, and was nominated as Best New Restaurant by the James Beard Foundation that year and recipient of one Michelin star, does not disappoint! You probably will not find an osteria this side of Italy that is more fun, high-spirited, and serious about serving only the very best gourmet creations. Next door is the smaller, more casual Pizzeria Mozza, which we hope to try the next time we are in town. Perhaps it is because Nancy Silverton has entered into a partnership with the more famous Batali and Bastianich that this is the best riff on Italian cuisine we have enjoyed in a very long time.