There have been a couple of mentions of this place and my friend also gave it a strong endorsement. That was enough for me to try it.
A collaboration beween Matteo Ferdinandi (formerly of Spago, Cut, and Drago) and Chef Angelo Auriana (formerly of Valentino) with sommelier Francine Diamond-Ferdinandi (formerly of Spago). The sommelier looked at me and thought I looked familiar. I thought the same. After going through her resume, that's when we realized it must have been from Spago.
On to the food (* = must haves)
-mandeilli di seta: handkerchief pasta with ligurian almond basil pesto. Served by itself so we could sample the chef's signature dish. Simple so the texture of the pasta and the pesto stand out. This will probably be a polarizing dish. Some liking the simplicity and others finding that it needs something else. I'm a fan.
*papparella with bits of olive embedded in the pasta and duck ragu. Excellent. Great thickness and texture on the pasta. Very different in texture from the handkerchief pasta
*modenesi- tortellini-like dish filled with veal and 24 month old prosciutto de parma with black truffle butter. Actually a mistake and a pleasant one at that. Maybe our favorite dish of the night. The truffle dish wasn't overpowering like the truffle cavatelli at Bestia. Excellent
-casonzei- raviolini filled with veal, pork, sausage in a butter, sage, and nutmeg sauce. Hint of sweetness. Very good
-penne with pork sausage and spicy tomato passata. Not bad but didn't stand out like the other dishes.
-Octopus with fennel, red onions, and tomatoes. The octopus was tender but didn't have the char and complexity that the octopus preps at Bestia. More of an appetizer/salad serving in my opinion.
*Porchetta. Excellent! Tender and flavorful. Better than the Bestia version. Unfortunately the skin isn't crispy either. The crown still rests comfortably on Cotogna's version in SF. But this is very very tasty. Would definitely order again. If they get that skin crispy, it'll easily be the best in town.
Apple crostata withe 5 spice gelato. Solid.
Because the comparisons to Bestia will be inevitable given the cuisine and the location, I'll go ahead and mention it. I like them both. The style is actually different with the pastas here having more of a northern Italian bent. The chef is from Bergamo (near Milan). Funny since whiner was asking for something Northern Italian on another thread. The pastas here seem lighter. Bestia isn't really region specific but the pastas, calamari, and octopus preps are so delicious.
The restaurant was full and they haven't even been open for a month. Clearly there is room downtown for both. Quality Italian cuisine is really taking off in LA.
Btw, the waiter mentioned they just got in some black truffles (not sure which kind) and they'll be using them starting next week.