Restaurant Review: Osteria Mozza
We finally made it out to Osteria Mozza a couple of weeks ago. The much-hyped, Mario Batali/Nancy Silverton-owned restaurant has been the hardest table in town to get, so we wanted to wait a bit before making our way over there. Normally a place with so much hype ends up not being able to live up to it, and although there are undoubtedly a few detractors out there, we had a wonderful experience. I thoroughly enjoyed every single dish, but the stars of the menu, for me, were the pastas. Oh, the pasta at Osteria Mozza...........I could eat those dishes every day and never get tired of them. Also, now's a good time for the disclaimer- these photos are crap. As the evening wore on and it got darker and darker, I just didn't want to use my flash so unfortunately, most of the photos came out too dark and fuzzy.
The restaurant itself is gorgeous- bustling and warm, busy but comfortable....it's so very New York and I fell in love with the chocolate brown and pale blue color scheme. The bar is among the most beautiful I've ever seen.....gleaming bottles of liquor sat on high shelves which also showcased the many different shapes of wine glasses and goblets.
So- we started our meal with a nice amuse of mozzarella wrapped with basil and prosciutto which was a nice way to kick off the meal. Having been seated at the mozzarella bar, we could watch Nancy Silverton and her chefs prepare the small plates of bruschetta-like dishes which was very entertaining. In fact, I think I'd like to sit at the bar on future visits to the restaurant. Our waiter informed us that everything needed to be ordered at once, so we chose carefully. We picked a couple of things from the antipasti, a couple of pastas and a couple of mains. After taking a sip of the Brunello that J ordered (sorry- can't recall the name now!) we sat back and spied on what seemed to be the entire staff of Bastide who were sitting at nearby tables. They seemed to be having a jolly good time, and the value of the bottles of wine and liquor on their tables was enough to send ten kids to college. Ok, I joke but they were getting pretty serious with their libations. And why not? If I worked at one of the most touted French restaurants in Los Angeles (which is set to re-open sometime soon), I'd get my drink on at what some would call the best Italian restaurant in Los Angeles. Damn, I wish I was European;)!
My plate with the octopus and burrata crostini
Ricotta with honey and hazelnuts
Onto the food. We got our grilled octopus with celery and potatoes since I'd heard so much about it, and it was as tender and delicious as people had described. We had to get the crostini topped with caramelized shallots, escarole, bacon and that lovely burrata that shows up on many of Nancy Silverton's menus, and well, I mean how on earth could you go wrong with that combo on crusty bread? The kitchen sent out some fresh ricotta with honey and toasted hazelnuts which came with the same crusty bread.....wow. Those hazelnuts were some of the freshest, crunchiest and most flavorful I've ever had. A true winner.
Ravioli with ricotta, egg and browned butter
Orecchiette with crumbled sausage and swiss chard
Pockets of heaven........
Now for the pastas: my friend Mika and I had eyed a patron eating the ravioli while waiting for our table, and we had to practically tie our hands to our sides so we wouldn't reach out and grab it off his plate. Just imagine one, giant yet delicately-skinned ravioli swimming in brown butter and sage, filled with creamy ricotta and a single, gorgeous runny egg yolk that runs all over the pasta and cheese once you cut into it. Um yeah.........we almost squealed out loud when we saw the near-orange yolk mix with the rich butter. It tasted as good as it looked and we just wished that we'd ordered two instead of one. The homemade orecchiette with crumbled sausage and swiss chard was spicy, fatty and chewy- and I mean all of that in the best way possible. My absolute favorite was the agnolotti- tiny pockets of pasta filled with braised meat. Little pockets of heaven, actually.
Fish....branzino, I think
For our secondi we had the branzino (I think) which was roasted with lemon and mint. The fish was perfectly cooked but the mint was a bit overpowering for my taste. The steak was mouthwateringly delicious and nicely rare. Side dishes included the cannelinni beans with roasted tomatoes- simple, light and delicious- and the roasted potatoes which were shatteringly crisp on the outside, warm and tender on the inside. I don't even want to know how much olive oil it took to make those potatoes so crisp but they were divine.
At this point you're probably wondering how on earth we still kept eating, but we couldn't pass up dessert. We shared the torta della Nonna which really reminded me of a Japanese cheesecake- not too sweet, but creamy and slightly lemony. Topped with pine nuts, Mika and I devoured the whole thing while J tried to get bites in between.
During the entire meal, I kept looking around and the beautiful interior, the bustling mozzarella bar and the waiters putting finishing touches on the dishes at a table set up with various condiments and additions. The vibe in Osteria Mozza is indescribable and just very different from a lot of Los Angeles restaurants- I can't put it into words other than to say it's way more East Coast-style. Everyone is buzzing, eating, chatting and there's a palpable energy that seems rare in this town......I don't know exactly what it is but I look forward to returning to get another dose of it.
6602 Melrose Ave
Los Angeles, CA
(323) 297-0100, www.mozza-la.com