I was on a strict lunch hour Friday when a friend called and said to meet at Nook. Having already agreed to drop another friend off at Il Grano, I let him know that it might work if he ordered for me, something simple, a sandwich preferably. I arrived to a packed restaurant with my friend half way through his Nicoise the exposed portion of the tuna displaying a beautifully raw center. A few sips of lemonade, a pinch of very good fries, I bit down on my chicken club, nicely charred with crisp bacon between slices of foccacia. There were even a few of those boiled peanuts left on the table for me to down (I know. I know. A blight on the L.A. restaurant scene for some.)
I love how this place has settled in and become a neighborhood staple. As they were boxing half my sandwich to go, I overheard the ladies next to me passionately discussing the movie, "Good Night and Good Luck," reminding me how good many of the movies were this year a week after the Oscars. Didn't see the check or a menu but an email from my friend later proclaimed, "Boy, you're a cheap date!"
Half way through our dinner the next night at Orso's, I commented that four of the dining room staff present had been there at least for the fifteen or more years that we've been going there. No. They don't pour the wine after opening it and a simple, "Good to see you. How've you been?" may not be the most effusive greeting after this many years but somehow we find out who got the lastest national commercial and who else has segued into nursing school.
We started with the city's best garlic chili pizza bread and went on to two hot and hearty soups: chicken with greens and a white bean and pasta both for $7 that took the chill off a cold day which prevented them from opening that great patio. They always check to see if we want the La Break bakery bread after the pizza bread and we do. Entrees included my favorite fried sliced calves liver with onions and pancetta for $19, a ricotta and spinach stuffed chicken breast glazed in its own juices for $20 and a simple but delicious pasta of chopped tomato, garlic, basil and olive oil for $13. Some of the best desserts are served at Orso's and the chocolate tart with chocolate sauce was not diminished by being slightly over baked; nor the apricot and polenta tart by the extra whipped cream I requested. Comfort in every way.