Saturday, July 21, 2007

Mario's LA "Osteria Mozza"... It's All That

And You Think Babbo and Lupa are Good......

Hi There Foodies!

Well, I guess another apology is in order. It's been ages since I have updated this blog, and I am guessing that many of you have moved on. But for those of you who find themselves looking for straight talk, I've wrapped my globe trotting assignment, and I'm back and raring to go.

The bad news for you New Yorkers is that this installment of Fork NY is about a restaurant you may not be able to get to easily... Mario Batali and Nancy Silverton's new Osteria Mozza, on the corner of Highland and Melrose in sunny Los Angeles.

Let's talk about food.

For those of you who haven't heard about the Batali-Silverton partnership, it is one made in heaven. The duo opened Pizzeria Mozza nearly 6 months ago, to much fanfare. Expectedly, the joint quickly became a favorite.. and was crowned King of LA pizza.

But make no bones about it, it's the Osteria that foodies have been waiting for, and last Friday the doors to heaven opened.

Lucky for me, a swung a reservation this week, a feat that most have been unable to accomplish. With most reservations taking a month or more, I luckily landed what I now believe to be a cancellation, and boy am I happy I did.

When you enter the space, you can't help but notice that 1. It's a handsome space (even if it is facing a gas station and a Jiffy Lube), and 2. There is a mozzarella bar smack dab in the middle of the room.

The menu is basically divided into Antipasti, Mozzarella, Primi, Secondi and Contorni.

As a group of 4 we ordered 2 antipasti and 2 mozzarella dishes, and devoured all four plates in about 3 minutes. The Gnocco Fritto with affetati misti was wonderful... mixed sliced ham and salume with lightly fried square pillows of dough, but the grilled octopus stole the show. The marinated, smoky octopus was incredibly tender, and surprisingly addictive.

As for mozzarella, we couldn't help but order the burrata with asparagus, walnuts and brown butter... as well as the bufala with pesto. Both were winners.

As we moved towards primi selections, I reverted back to my Lupa ways. At Lupa, I often don't order a secondi... I order another primi (love the pasta). Since I firmly believe that Mario's strong suit is pasta, I get my fill... and this meal was no different. I guess this makes some sense, as 2 others at the table also ordered a second pasta.

Let's talk pasta.

There are no huge suprises here for the Batali crowd... you have the signature pork infused dishes here and there, but as usual, the simple dishes like the Linguine cacio e pepe (cheese and pepper) is out of this world. The orrechiette with sausage and swiss chard was hearty and fragrant, the Goat Cheese Ravioli near perfect... and the large fresh riccota and egg raviolo (one massive ravioli) with browned butter was nearly an out of body experience.

Wonder why we ordered more?

There was also tortellini, an agnolotti with butter, an amazing looking gnocchi, a classic spaghetti with clams and panceta... and a perfectly cooked garganelli with a light bolognese. This is pasta heaven, and Mario's hand is present in the perfectly cooked pasta, always on the al dente side of firmness.

The other dishes looked incredible.. a pink snapper, an orata filet, a grilled salmon, grilled quail, grilled lamb, grilled beef (so they like the grill I am guessing) as well as slower prepared Beef Brasato and a Guinea Fowl with liver panceta sauce the waiter nearly forced us to order (we opted for the pasta). One of the diners in our party did order a wonderful pork "arista" with fennel and onions... and took it home as we had warned... to much food.

Side dishes looked spectacular, and included roasted potatoes, long cooked broccoli, marinated peppers, yellow wax beans, cipolline, spinach and broccoli rabe.

Deserts also looked amazing, but feeling mighty full, we passed....

So yes, the place is fab, and yes the food is great... but don't worry Mario fans, he and Nancy are all about the details. Our drinks were carried from the bar, the cheese dishes were carefully crafted and the orrechiette topped with fresh, crispy bread crumbs for an added texture that made the dish. It's all there.

So make the rezo, or walk in early early. You'll have a killer meal. The days of those who love terrific regional italian food missing out are over. I love many LA italian spots, but mark my words.... the king has arrived.