I've been keeping the Santa Monica Bistro a secret because I like to be able to walk in at any time and get a table, but I really don't want them to go out of business so I decided to share.
This is one of the best reasonably priced traditional Italian restaurants in the city--or in any city, for that matter. However, it is in a very unfortunate location in Santa Monica--on the corner of 23rd and Santa Monica Blvd., hiding in the shadows of St. John's hospital.
To start, you must try the tortelloni soup--homemade, tastes like the soup my grandmother spent all afternoon making.
For dinner, they have an insanely large selection of fresh fish, however, I go there for two dishes specifically--the balsamic chicken (with yummy little roasted potatos) or the chicken ravioli.
And then to top it all of, the most absolutely wonderful chocolate souffle for dessert. (ask for it when ordering your entree--it takes 40 minutes to make). Perfectly crisp on the outside, and lavishly rich and melty on the inside. And your server will smother it in a huge dollop of homemade, un-sweetened whipped cream.
It's not much for atmosphere, but they always have live music, either a pianist or saxophonist. (If the saxophonist is there, sit as far away from him as you can--he's LOUD!) But if you like amazing Italian home-cooking, this is the place to go.