Potato pizza? Sounds like a far-fetched idea in carb-phobic Santa Monica. I, too, was skeptical, but let me tell you, this creamy pizza with fontina cheese and rosemary is a decadent delight. It’s one of the highlights at chef Jason Travi’s new coastal Italian restaurant, Riva Santa Monica. (Travi also runs Fraiche in Culver City.)
We started our meal with the crudo, thin slices of raw fish similar to sashimi. A dorade with sea salt and olive oil melted in my mouth, followed by fluke with mint and blood orange. Very nice. Next we tried the tradizionale pizza with San Daniele proscuitto, tomato arugula, red onion and pecorino romano. I’m a huge proscuitto fan so I was shocked to discover that I enjoyed the potato pizza more. The proscuitto was sliced a bit thick for my taste, and there was something so rich and wonderful about the potato pizza. Pure comfort food.
Our group of four also shared three entrees, including the pork chop, which was moist and tender. Mine at home never are. I wish I knew the secret. (Writing that, I realize I sound like that cheesy Folgers commercial from the 70s. “Jim never has a second cup at home.”)
The shellfish diavolo (the last pic of the post) was a messy mixture of lobster, mussels, clams and squid in a hot tomato sauce. The dish also contained fregola sarda, which was a new one for me. It’s a toasted breadcrumb-like pasta that’s apparently better for your blood sugar levels than most starches. Not sure if it made up for the potato pizza, but nevertheless. The dish was just OK. Not as much kick as I had expected.
My favorite entree, by far, was the lamb spezzatino (pictured below), a rich, comforting dish with a wonderful smoky flavor from the mozzarella. Definitely a winner, and it worked well with the 2004 Barbaresco.
Desserts were a mixed bag. I wasn’t a huge fan of the strawberry semifredo, but the ricotta fritters were amazing. They were like tiny, warm doughnut holes. Quite addictive.
Overall, Riva has a nice, upscale vibe, far less touristy than most of the other places near the Third Street Promenade. It’s got a bar and a pizza bar, and the place was buzzing all night. With Mozza, Gjelina and Riva, I think LA’s reputation for having crappy pizza is finally an anachronism.
312 Wilshire Blvd, Santa Monica, (310) 451-7482
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