Osteria Mozza, Of Course
Night 5. Table for 4. 8:45pm.
I don't suggest it, but I tried to incorporate Osteria Mozza into a food marathon last night. I was with one of the original food marathoners in Studio City before dinner. Keep in mind this is about an hour and a half before our reservation. We were near Henry's tacos so we each had a taco. They're small. It wasn't a big deal.
We arrived at around 8pm because we wanted to grab a pizza first. Now I've been to Pizzeria Mozza enough to know how difficult it is to get in. I realize that people reserve a month in advance and wait up to an hour for the bar. I'll have to save the rest of the story for another post because I want to talk about the Osteria. Suffice it to say we didn't get our pizza.
We were happily seated twenty minutes before our reserved time at the Osteria. Our table along the wine-lined western wall was one of the best in the restaurant.
A wine list comprised solely of Italian wine lead our wine chooser to an amazing blend of three types of red grapes from Piedmonte.
We expected a few things from our long awaited meal; stellar service, some kind of first-week-related error and most importantly, brilliant food. We got all three.
We were offered a choice of white, wheat or whole grain bread to start. An amuse bouche of pulled mozzarella rolled with sundried tomatoes and pesto was sent out compliments of the chef- always a nice move during week one. It was good- clean flavors, simple and a perfect start. The menu, which we studied beforehand, came with a few recommendations from the waitress. We chose to start with the Gnocco Fritto with Affetati misti and followed her suggestion of the Grilled Octopus. Gnocco fritto are small squares of fried dough, which in combination with salami, prosciutto and of course lardo, make for a perfect mini-sandwich. The heavy meat compliments the light dough perfectly- the salt and oil blending with the sweet absorbent bread.
The octopus had a slight chewiness, terrific flavor and disappeared quickly off of its plate. The vegetable accoutrements were good, namely the small, soft fingerling potatoes.
My favorite dish of the night was the Scarmorza Panino. The fundamental elements of Mozza, bread, cheese and meat with an added pickled cherry pepper kick combine for a glimpse into the future: Panineria Mozza (hopefully opening at the end of 2008).In comparison to the aforementioned starters, the burrata (fresh mozzarella) and bacon crostini seemed simple and almost pedestrian. Of course the cheese was flawless, but I wasn't wowed overall.The Orchiette with sausage and swiss chard was one of the richest plates of the night,
The Fresh Ricotta and Egg Raviolo, was rich as well. When cut open the egg yolk runs, making for a nice presentation and powerful flavor.
All the pasta is made to order, which is most notable in the Spaghetti with clams, pancetta and Frenso chile pesto. The thick al dente pasta was cooked to perfection, in one of the lightest sauces of the night (which allowed it to stand out in its simplicity).
The entree that caught my eye was the Guinea Fowl en Crostone. The meat, similar to turkey, was served atop crusty slices of bread, with a liver and pancetta sauce. The taste could only be compared to the richest, most decadent Thanksgiving dinner ever.
The Grilled Lamb Scottadita over sweet corn and yogurt was phenomenal. It's the simple things like the corn and yogurt that make this dish, although the perfectly cooked and marbled meat doesn't hurt either.
The side dish of charred brocoli rabe, chili peppers and vinegar was overwhelmingly pungent. The vinegar won the battle of flavor, unfortunately.
The sauteed yellow wax beans with breadcrump salsa was much better.
For dessert we ordered an olive oil gelato with rosemary cakes. Although the savory dessert idea hasn't quite made it to the mainstream, the dish was excellent.
Our other dessert was an almond croissant doused in orange blossom water, deep fried and served with Greek yogurt flavored gelato and a plum compote.The bussers, sommelier, managers, etc. all move through the room expertly, presenting plates, clearing dishes, offering suggestions and filling waters with frequency.They didn't seat every table at any one given time, allowing for some flexibility with timing in the kitchen. There was a longer than necessary wait before our pasta dish, but it was expected.
The room is much quieter than its pizzeria neighbor. Like all of Batali's restaurants, The Ramones and other similar bands were piped in overhead.
I'm sure the food bloggers will be posting often and extensively in the coming weeks.