I had dinner at Osteria Mozza tonight. It was officially the restaurant's first night, though I understand they've had a soft opening for the whole week. Overall, Nancy and Mario have another winner. The space feels a little more formal than Pizzeria Mozza but not so formal that you wouldn't feel comfortable walking in on a whim and eating at the bar. (It wasn't clear to me if the bar is walk-in like Pizzeria Mozza, but I hope it is. Otherwise, it will be very hard to get in there for a long time.) The room is clean dark wood and white marble. As with Pizzeria Mozza, the staff is unusually attentive and friendly, although there were a few opening night jitters (nothing that won't be ironed out).
There were a few celebrities there tonight, most recognizable was Mario Batali who was dining with his family and wearing his orange apron and orange kitchen clogs. Nancy was, of course, working the line - unlike many celebrity chefs she seems to be involved with every detail of the restaurant, and it shows.
The menu features a section of mozzarella appetitizers. We had two - their version of a caprese only the buffalo mozzarella was thinly sliced and rolled with tomatoes and basil, and a scarmoza panini with mole salame and pickled hot chiles -- nicely spicy. We also had the "gnoccho frito," which were deep fried bread pillows served with an assortment of cured meats; I found the dish too heavy, but it would appeal to a lardo lover. Three pastas: the standout was an orechietti with sausage and chard. This is a must order dish; the sausage and chard melted together in an extremely satisfying way. Gnocchi al forno were served with a traditional tomato sauce with ricotta. The gnocchi themselves were quite good, not quite ethereally light, but still delicious; the tomato sauce was extremely bright and fresh tasting. Then, a giant raviolo filled with ricotta and a soft egg yolk, served with a brown butter sauce - rich but good. We had two mains, a fish whose name I can't recall -- but extremely fresh and served with a grilled lemon. And excellent lamb chops with Greek yogurt and a very fresh Israeli couscous salad.
Side dishes were small but delicious: a slow cooked broccoli, which will change your views that broccoli must be served al dente to be delicious (this broccoli is verging on gray, so soft is was almost custard-like, but quite satisfying). Then the best roasted potatoes I've had this year; they seemed to be small Yukon golds which had been poached in chicken broth, then smashed lightly and sauteed in copious amounts of olive oil. And a very good spinach dish.
There were three options for cheese: a pecorino tasting, a soft cheese tasting, and a blue cheese tasting. We opted for the soft cheeses. These were all very good, but quite strong; go for the pecorino tasting if you prefer milder cheeses.
Two desserts. The almond cornette was an almond croissant infused with flower water syrup, served with an intense stewed plum, and Osteria's version of Pinkberry - a wonderful frozen greek yogurt. An extremely well balanced dish. Torta Della Nonna was excellent, but more cheesecake-like than this dish normally is. Homemade panettone squares were passed with the coffee.
Overall, a great experience. Not inexpensive though - dinner came to about $500 for four including tip and a couple of good bottles of wine. Pizzeria Mozza has become my favorite restaurant in LA, and while the Osteria doesn't have some of the features that make the pizzeria so accessible (in particular, the long hours seven days a week), I plan to go back regularly.
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