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Need authentic Italian in Santa Monica

We have a guest, who is Italian, who hopes to have a great Italian dinner Friday night. He's from northern CA where Italian dining means the dreaded Olive Garden or Buca de Beppo. Because of L.A. traffic, we can't stray too far from his hotel, Shutters. I booked La Botte because I like the food. But am I missing a shot for something truly authentic that will remind him of his recent trips to Italy? I've been interested in trying Capo, but I don't want our guests to be intimidatd by the tab. We want to spend about $50 pp before wine tax & tip.

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  1. Via Veneto on Main Street at Navy
    Locanda Portofino on Montana at 11th

      1. Piccolo Ristorante in Venice.

        1. In that price range, I concur Via Veneto... spend a little more on Valentino...

          2 Replies
          1. re: Emme

            strongly second valentino if you're willing to spend a little more.

            1. re: goodhealthgourmet

              One other thought is possibly Vincenti on San Vicente assuming you'd spend a bit more as well. Pizzicotto nearby is of course cheaper.

          2. I have to tell you I have had awful experiences at Via Veneto - not with the food but with the staff. They rush through like they need to turn tables every 45 minutes. The last time did it for us for good. First they kept trying to clear plates before our guest had finished his meal. Then they said they didn't have coffee or espresso - all because they clearly wanted the table. We were in an out in one hour...absolutely absurd. It's happened to many of us so we've x'd them off the list. Too bad because the food was good.

            We like Vincenzo on Montana and Lincoln. It's a tiny place, decent prices, high quality food and a good wine list -- and you can ask Vincenzo what is not on the list for some excellent pours.

            1 Reply
            1. re: trubee

              I had a perfect experience with staff at Via Veneto on a Saturday night at 8pm about 2-3 months ago. They were definitely very busy, but everyone was so nice and we were never rushed. We were probably there for close to 3 hours. It was one of the best dinners I've ever had in every aspect. Maybe you were last there too long ago and they've since fixed the service?

            2. if he is staying at shutters on a weekend, then he probably won't mind the extra few dollars for dinner at valentino or giorgio baldi's. la botte is excellent too.

              1. If you are considering $50 pp before wine, tax & tip, forget about Capo. You would be lucky to get out of there for $150.00 pp. Pizzicotto is a nice little trattoria, which feels like Italy. Toscana, is another good choice, but more expensive (a little more than Pizzicotto but a whole lot less than Capo). I find Capo's prices to be insultingly high.

                1. I second Piccolo but its actually in Venice (its in the old 5 Dudley space) - Dudley and the strand basically. I think Piccolo is one of the best Italian restaurants in all of LA. Very small quaint place with big bold adventurous food and great home made pastas. The owner/chef is very friendly and loves to talk about their specials. Duck proscuitto and home made pasta is a must. I usually rotate between the potato sage butter gnocchi and one of their specials which I'm blanking on. Make sure to leave some room for dessert. They don't take reservations.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: js76wisco

                    I love Piccolo. It was a top choice for me. The ownership is the same as La Botte. and the menus share close similarities. I chose the larger one because of the no reservation policy at Piccolo. This is a business dinner and I can't leave people walking around Venice waiting to eat! But Piccolo does remind me of Italy, more so than la Botte. That sage butter sauce is served at both locations. Its so delish'.

                    1. re: sassille

                      Piccolo's pasta dishes are served at Wilson in Culver City too.

                  2. how about Vito on Ocean Park?

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: miffy

                      Il Moro for authentic Emilia Romana food. Pasta with wild boar sauce is classic.

                      1. re: miffy

                        Is there anything special one should order at Vito? Is it Northern or Southern Italian?

                      2. My favorite Italian in SM is Girogio Baldi, although you have to be very careful when ordering. Order from the menu only. If you order anything off menu (i.e. daily special), you'll for sure go way off your budget.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: fdb

                          Bottom line: great Italian dinners cost money, especially on the Westside.

                        2. I wonder if you'd be willing to travel south to Mar Vista. I just had lunch for the second time at this delightful restaurant run by a husband and wife duo. Husband's the Italian chef (from Florence) and wife makes up the total of the wait staff at least during lunch. Seasonal menu beautifully executed. It is in a strip mall off Culver blvd. but so unlike what you'd expect from such a place. We started with house made bread with herbed olive oil. For mains, we took the chef's wife's recommendation and had the lasagna. Zuchhini, aged ricotta and sheets of fresh lasagne noodles, a dab of marinara on top, fried tomato skins and the most wonderful wine sauce. Out of this world. We ended with a peach creme brulee bursting with fresh peach flavor, thinly shaved bruleed peach slices on top and a bit of that wine sauce. Bliss.
                          Here's their website: http://fioretto.tuscanycuisine.com/

                          1. After all your good advice, I got us into Mozza at 6:45 Friday Eve. They wanted to go there after reading some reviews. We sampled a ton of food, but I thinkour guest of honor had tears in his eyes when I ordered the Bacala, salt cod, special of the night. He said he remembered it as a kid, its terrible stuff. His Mom had to soak it in water for a long time to get the salt out, then it was still dry and he hated it. Well, I ordered it because the waiter said he was getting good vibes from other partons. It came to us soft, lightly laced in thin tomato sauce with small chunks of good tomato, ceci beans, garlic and fresh herbs with a side of aioli which we didn't need. He said "Gimme some more, this is NOT like my Mom's! Along with that we had squash blossoms, asparagus, cauliflower au gratin, the cold cut meat plate (a huge winner since he once worked in an Italian deli before he became a big shot), Nancy;s salad, 4 pizzas (the 3 cheese bianci and the fennel sausage and onions were the winners, 4 desserts and the bill was only $370 incl 3 full bottles of wine, (none of that caraffe-stuff), tax and tip. We took home the equivalent of a whole pizza so we definitely over ordered. Everyone at the table was pleased. I am mentioning the tab here because so often people assume that this place costs an arm and a leg. I found this reasonable for the quality of the food for a party of 5 hungry people.
                            I do appreciate the tips you folks have offered. Fioretto is just around the corner so I will definitely try it and post about it. Il Moro had beckoned for awhile, so its added to my list as well.
                            Thanks for all your help.