Sunday, April 01, 2007

Focus on LA: Locanda Veneta

The Old Beverly Hills Standby Just Gets Better

If only every neighborhood had a Locanda Veneta.

On assignment in Los Angeles, I find myself a leisurely 4-minute walk from this Beverly Hills gem… and believe me, I couldn’t be happier.

It was only 4 years ago when I lived in Los Angeles, and was use to making the trek over Coldwater from the Valley to have a meal here on occasion… but living in the Valley then I didn’t have a chance to visit with any regularity. In the coming months, I have a feeling I’ll be in once a week.

Locanda is the quintessential neighborhood spot. A small, well appointed room… friendly, almost family-like staff… and terrific food.

The room itself is shockingly small, but quaint. The front door literally drops you into the dining and kitchen… as the talented kitchen can peek across a ledge into the bustling busy dining space. I’ve always been amazed at how a kitchen this compact can dish out a menu this robust… and they still amaze. It takes some serious skill to be able to pull this off this well night after night.

The details at Locanda Veneta are a given. Upon being seated, you’ll find a creamy bowl of pesto spread and a basket of fresh crusty bread… but it’s the wine and daily menu that have brought the crowds back for years.

On this night, I started with a bottle of Row 11 Pino, priced slightly higher than I anticipated… but happily consumed. Row 11 is a real find for those of you who search for Pino Noir values at retail… and I highly recommend this wine. Go find a bottle of the 2004… it should run you about $34.

For an appetizer I ordered a dish of mild, crisp polenta cakes topped with caramelized onions and sautéed shrimp. The dish was well prepared and nearly perfect. The balance of the corn powered polenta with the sweet onions and buttery shrimp make a great marriage on the same plate.

My main course fell from the evenings off the menu selections… parpadelle pasta with lamb ragu. This dish was simple and flavorful and just what I expected. Solid, filling and just right.

We also dined on delightful beef carpaccio as well as their nearly famous gnocchi, both of which were well received.

In the day and age of “let’s get to the newest joint in town”, it’s easy to overlook those who have been punching the clock seemingly forever. If you haven’t been to Locanda lately, make a trip over. It’s wearing well and still delivering great bang for your buck… wonderfully prepared Italian fare with the feeling you’re dining with friends.

Locanda Veneta

8638 W 3rd St, Los Angeles 90048
At S Willaman Dr

Reservations at