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Aug 26, 2007 04:13 PM

Sitting at the Kiddie Table at Osteria Mozza

A coworker asked me to help arrange an Osteria Mozza reservation for her, but, a week later, she found out she would be unable to go and asked me to help her push the date back a week. "There's going to be an open Osteria Mozza reservation on a Saturday night!," I said to myself. How could I not take advantage of that? So it was back to Osteria Mozza for me. After all my last dinner there went so well:

Would it be silly to think my second meal here would be so nearly flawless? Uh, yeah.


Let’s get the food out of the way first.

We had only one dish from the antipasti, which was the octopus. It was magnificent, just like the last time. One diner remarked she could order five plates of the stuff. The rest of our dishes came from the Mozzarella Bar selections. The sheep's milk ricotta with lemon zest and hazelnuts was nice, but its simplicity did little to amuse past one bite, really. I was glad we were sharing as I would not have enjoyed being stuck with an entire plate of that. The burrata with bacon and escarole had a wonderful smoky flavor, and the cheese was creamy and rich, but I was surprised that the cheese itself was cold atop the other warm items. My favorite of the Mozzarella Bar selections had to be the burricotta with braised artichokes, currants, and pine nuts. The artichokes themselves were a treat, and the warm toasted burricotta was another delight.

When our pastas arrived, I specifically asked for the ricotta and egg raviolo to be placed in front of me. After reading other diners' experiences with the yolk running out to create a sauce with the browned butter, I wanted to be the first at the table to try it. The yolk did not run out as expected; it was a little too cooked for that. There was no egg-brown butter sauce to be made. Still, the raviolo was delicious, with the soft egg and ricotta tasting a lot like a cheese custard inside the pasta casing. Very simple, very rich, very elegant. After the orecchiette – the second dish to make a reappearance from my first visit and just as wonderful as the first visit – the raviolo was my favorite pasta dish at Osteria Mozza. The agnolotti were soft pillows of pork in a creamy butter and sage sauce, and the spaghetti all’Gricia was described as a “white Amatriciana,” with pancetta, pecorino, basil, and olive oil – and liberal amounts of black pepper. I thought it worked much better than their bucatini all’Amatriciana. Still, the latter two pastas paled compared to the orecchiette and raviolo.

We were already full before the secondi. Thankfully, we only were splitting two secondi. The whole orata was presented to the table before being filleted, tender and covered with herbs, hinting of mint and perhaps tarragon, but I’m far from certain. It was simple and elegant and just right after all the rich items that came before. The beef brasato was fork-tender, its richness the opposite if the orata’s spare cleanness. Fresh horseradish was grated over it, but I could not get much taste of it. The polenta it sat upon had a good consistency. Contorini of the roasted potatoes and cipolline were ordered. The potatoes were crisp and golden but generally lacking in much of the advertised rosemary flavor; the pearl onions could have done with much less vinegar to allow the natural sweetness of the vegetable to show. (I was heartbroken the wonderful long-cooked broccoli was absent from the menu.) The secondi remain the week point on Osteria Mozza’s menu. An antipasto or choice from the Mozzarella Bar and a pasta are enough for a meal here.

As has happened at the Pizzeria next door, the gelato options have been mercilessly pared down to three, none of which are the star olive oil gelato. Has it proven unpopular? It must have; after all, I have gotten resistance from my fellow diners when I ordered it for the table. Only after people have tasted it have they recognized it is actually good. I asked if we could get a dish of the olive oil gelato, and our server arranged for it. (After all, they still serve it with the rosemary cakes.) We also tried the torta della nonna, which was strange. It was reminiscent of cheesecake in texture and taste, yet it was more doughy and floury. So it was neither cake nor cheesecake, but it was not tart as cheesecake or moist as cake – ultimately, then, lacking the best qualities of either, it was a bit unsatisfying.

Our wines were really nice white, I Favati Fiano d’Avellino, which was a bit more full-bodied than the Falanghina we’d enjoyed at the Pizzeria. One friend thought it a bit like Sauvignon Blanc, but, as it warmed, I got some sweetness from it like a lighter Riesling. We transitioned to a nice red from Sicily whose name I forget (it did have “Etna” in it), but it was nice and light, not very aggressive, accompanying the beef well but not steamrollering the orata.


Whereas our first meal was at the beginning of Osteria Mozza's service - a 6:00 P.M. reservation, a scant half-hour after the restaurant opened, when we arrived to a nearly empty place brightly lit by the late evening summer sun - this reservation was for 9:00 P.M., when we walked into a packed joint, really deafeningly loud and dim as a speakeasy. We grabbed a place on one of the three floating marble slabs for those waiting to dine, and I ordered the Aperol cocktail (Aperol and soda with a bit of citrus juice added) from their new aperitivi cocktail menu – I was planning to get an Aperol and soda anyhow – while another diner got something called a Sugar Plum, a vodka concoction with orange peel that wasn't obnoxiously sweet or complicated but also wasn't particularly memorable. (At $12.99 each, I would want something a bit more exciting, like the amazing Negroni I had on my first visit.) It took awhile for the drinks to arrive, and it took us longer to flag down the bar waiter when we wanted another drink as the wait for our table was taking a little bit of time. Forgetful service was to be the theme of the evening, we would later find out. In fact, by the time we had gotten the wine lists we wanted, our table was ready, and we had to abandon them.

The hostess walked us from the bar area, and I looked to see where we would be sitting – all the tables appeared to be full. Then she motioned to the door at the back I remembered from my last visit - it's not a back entrance but another room. We were being put in the kiddie table room! I began to feel like we were marked as the short bus kids who had to take their lunch break in the special cafeteria. My fellow diners may have been saying things like, "Oh, it's much calmer in here," but I was not pleased. I knew that being through a door, down a little hall, behind a wall and some high windows meant that we were largely out of circulation. I never accept the side room tables at Ocean Star, and I'd never want the side room at Osteria Mozza.

There were three other tables in the room with us, and we all shared the same waiter. We got prompt service for a bottle of prosecco we ordered from the waiter (which was sent back when one diner, distracted in conversation during wine ordering, revealed that sparkling wine gives her a headache). The waiter was gracious when we asked to send it back while we made another choice, but our wine service slowed down for us from that point on. Requests for a sommelier were answered at a glacial pace, and we were shifted sommeliers halfway through. At least twice, I had to walk into the main room to ask for remind someone we needed a sommelier. The three tables finished their meals halfway through ours, so we were this one little table hiding in the kiddie table room, waiting for people to remember we were still there.

The sommeliers were very helpful in choosing our wines, and both of our choices were excellent. (K&L Wines in Hollywood sells the Fiano d’Avellino we had, and I’m actually considering picking up a bottle because I enjoyed it so much.) But when one diner made the mistake of ordering a glass of Cynar because I mentioned I liked it to the sommelier then discovered that it was definitely not to her taste, he told her, “Well, you have to be a crusty 87-year-old man who’s never left your village to like this stuff.” “Hey, I told you I love Cynar,” I said, “So you’re saying I’m some crusty old man?”

The bread server arrived only once during our entire meal, just after we sat down, and he asked if we had been brought olive oil, which we told him we had not. He said he would get us some right away; that olive oil never appeared during the course of our nearly three hour meal. The second time we got bread, I had to, once again, walk into the main room, go up to a waiter I had seen in the short bus room, and ask if we could have more bread. He brought us the bread himself, struggling mightily to manage the fork-and-spoon service; he was just able to get us all bread before the utensils crashed to the floor from his fingers. Water glasses similarly were not filled as often as they should have been, being away from the eyes of the waitstaff as we were.

In hindsight, it did not take longer for the food to arrive last night than on my first visit, but last night, it certainly felt like it did. Being in the still, blank-walled little dungeon of a room was a much different experience than sitting in the buzzing, vibrant main room. It was, at times, very dull indeed in our little cell, when all we were really doing was waiting for our food. (Having as a member of our party a diner who does not frequent higher-end restaurants and found cause to make jokes about everything down to the hallmarks on the sterling silverware did not make the evening a barrel of monkeys, either.


I feel like I’ve had my Mozza experience for a long time. I’ve gotten it out of my system. One of my friends who went with me and has often accompanied me to Pizzeria Mozza said, “Not again ‘til 2008.” Another said that, if she comes back, she would want to eat at the bar. I feel the same as both of them. I don’t really need to come back for a good long while, and, when I do, I’ll eat at the bar. I’m disappointed that having been put at the Osteria Mozza kiddie table sullied the wonderful memory I had from my first meal here. As we stood outside, visible to the tables at the bar, so two of my friends could smoke before we got the car from the valet, our second sommelier – the one who gave me the sideways insult – popped out of the side door and said, “Thanks for coming. Come see us again soon.” He was sitting with the manager, who popped in to check on us in the kiddie table room during dessert twice, checking on how we were. I wondered if they were discussing how things were going in there and how strange the timing he should pop out and say this right after we had applied on conditions on when and how we would ever return.

I don’t hate or even dislike Osteria Mozza. I’d still recommend it as there is a lot to like about the place. I had one truly excellent meal there, and one good-but-flawed one. But now I have a more realistic picture of the place, and I can empathize more fully with those negative Osteria Mozza experiences here on the board. I would definitely recommend dining earlier in the evening for a better experience if possible; if you options are 6:00 P.M. or 9:00 P.M., take the 6:00 P.M. seating without hesitation if at all possible.

And whatever you do, do not let them put you in the kiddie table room.

The food prices were $222 for four before tax. – four starters, four pastas, two entrées, and two desserts, and it was still too much food. One diner did not drink and paid $60.07 before tip. The three drinkers had two bottles of wine and two digestivos and paid $89.67 before tip.

Pizzeria Mozza
6602 Melrose Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90038

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  1. Hey, Woolsey, what a scathing review! I have a reservation at Osteria Mozza (for my birthday) in two weeks, but after your review I might reconsider. For special occasion service is as important as food, but it seems they lack in this department. I want this visit to be special and memorable (we don't frequent hi-end restaurants), but it looks it might not be the case. Shall I cancel my reservation? What's your advice?
    P.S. My reservation is for 7PM on Saturday. Is it a decent time slot?

    9 Replies
    1. re: marinak

      I'd say 7:00 P.M. is better than 9:00. I didn't mean for it to be scathing, but I did leave with a bad taste in my mouth, and this from someone who like Cynar. I'd recommend calling and letting them know that it's your birthday and you want a seat in the main room and not in the kiddie table room. A lot of our issues would have been easily solved if we could have just nabbed a passing waiter - we've all had to do that from time to time at restaurants - but when one has to stand up, walk down a little corridor, out a door, and into the main room to do that, well, it's much more complicated. The first time we went, there was a little brigade of people attending to us, changing out our silverware and such. This time, one guy would periodically come in to bus us. It just wasn't the same in Mongolia.

      And when you're in the main room, know that it's a LOUD room - actually much louder than the Pizzeria, I think. I didn't register it because we had an early reservation and slipped out as the place was getting really crowded on our first visit. As we stood at the bar, there was a lot of "What?! Huh?!" If you want something cozy and relaxed, pass the reservation to someone else. If you don't mind slugging back some drinks and shouting, go ahead.

      As long as you don't have the kiddie table. If you see the hostess lead you to that door, refuse it. Tell her you'll wait. It's your birthday, damn it, and you deserve to sit at a grown-up table.

      1. re: Woolsey

        Woolsey, is this the room that was unfinished? I'm trying to picture a hallway, but can only think of the one by the restrooms, near the kitchen door. I know there was a "private dining room" near the, we'll call it wine room, that corner of the restaurant with wine shelves. Was it in there? I've been to Mozza three times now, but haven't been for a few weeks. I'm curious if the kiddie-table room is that previously unfinished room. Not that I doubt how horrible it was in there, but if that extra space just opened, the staff--still getting its feet wet anyway---hasn't quite figured it into their routine. Still, you should've complained to someone right then and there.

        I know the last time i was in, i made a passing joke at the server about upselling us on the wines, as every suggestion he had just *happened* to be the most expensive in that particular category, and he took such offense to it, somehow our entrees took more than 30 minutes to appear. Even the perfect strangers who sat next to us, who ordered almost 20 minutes after us and had just as many courses, asked what was taking so long for our ents. Although I have no way of knowing if the two were connected, I still suspect it was the offended waiter. I haven't quite figured out what the staff's problem is; are they really not well trained, or are they so full of attitude to be working at the "hottest restaurant in town" that they're forgetting who's putting money in their pockets? And who's paying attention to these complaints so that they fix things?

        1. re: diningdivala

          Diva, looks that your experience wasn't that terrific either.

          1. re: marinak

  , it wasn't perfect. Wasn't my favorite of the three times I was there. I like our table, right along the windows on Melrose, middle of the banquette. good people watching. I loved most of the dishes. and I even liked that server, until that wine moment. But in truth, my favorite meal here so far was at the cheese bar. I thought the stools were comfortable, loved the view, the food was great, service good.

          2. re: diningdivala

            I'm not sure if it's the previously unfinished room or not. There's a doorway at the "wine room" end, and that's the room into which we were placed. I suppose that is the private dining room. It was small, holding just four tables, but there was a set of opaque glass doors on one wall that looked like they would open up to enlarge the room. (Eater LA had tagged the private dining room as the door between the Pizzeria and Osteria, but it seems they were wrong.) Previously, I sat with a group along where the wine cases are, and we had an excellent time.

            We made it quite clear to our sommelier that we were trying to keep our prices on the lower end with the wines, wanting to keep it under $45 per bottle - we gave them a firm price point - and the sommeliers actually would actually recommend us the lower-priced wines when we would ask between a group of selections two-thirds of the time. Maybe they thought we were cheapskates who wouldn't know the difference, but we really enjoyed the wines we had on both visits and thought them fairly priced.

            It's imperfect. The service is stretched, but the restaurant is wildly popular. I think the service problems we're finding at Osteria Mozza is indicative of what happens when a restaurant tries to execute Spago-level service but still perform at Cheesecake Factory-level turnover.

            1. re: Woolsey

              Actually, there is a private dining room between the pizzeria and osteria. Next time you're in the pizzeria, duck in. The walls are filled with wine, red velvet gothic chairs, lots of candles. I think there's a picture of it online. The room you were in, i believe, is another "private" room for the Osteria, although it sounds like they're using it for overflow, too. Just say no to the kiddie table room!

              1. re: diningdivala

                That's actually the Pizzeria's private dining room, the glass door across from the Pizzeria's host station. No, I'm speaking of a door that opens directly onto the street, not into a main restaurant.

                I think the kiddie table room/Mongolia/the Mozza coat closet/dungeon/Siberia can also serve as a private room as it has a doorway and those sliding doors to adjust the room's size.

                1. re: diningdivala

                  That's what they call the "Jack Warner Room"... it's part of the Pizzaria. I've eaten there for a birthday dinner. It was warm and comfortable and just lovely.

            2. re: Woolsey

              Thanks for the advise, Woolsey! I'll think about it (still hesitant).

          3. My one and only experience at O-Mozza was at the "kiddie table" so I really have nothing to compare it to (no main room experience). During the begin of our meal, we were not alone in that section and it seemed that they had more than one person tending to the area. But as the night progressed, the staff slowly started disappearing. It was to the point that they may have forgotten that they had customers in there- us.

            1. Interesting ... I think you should write them a letter suggesting they not seat people in that room without a specific request to be seated there. It's pretty outrageous that they would seat people by surprise in a room like that. (Never been there nor seen the room, though I've noticed the back room in the pizzeria, between the two bars.)

              1 Reply
              1. re: QualityMart

                I sent an e-mail Sunday night through the contact link on the website listing my complaints with our service that night, letting them know that I and my friends have been loyal Mozza customers in the past, and recommending they discontinue use of that room because of its severe shortcomings in service and ambience. I have yet to receive a response.

                I had an opportunity to say something to the manager, who came by at the end of the meal after the sommelier's sideways insult incident saying he wanted to make sure everything was going all right for us, but I refrained. I held my tongue as A) I had a considerable amount of wine in me at that point, and my tongue was less than diplomatic; and B) I did not want my complaining to ruin the experience further for the other diners.

              2. W-
                I'd like to see what all the hulabaloo is about. What's the difference between the Osteria and the Pizzaria? Which place do I want to try for my maiden voyage? I think I'd like to sit at the pizza bar -- is there one at both locations? TIA.

                6 Replies
                1. re: Bite Me

                  The difference is one is a pizzaria and one is an osteria :)-well, as much as an "osteria" as Batalia dn Silverton could do in Chi Chi Los Angeles. There is no pizza bar in the osteria...but there is apparently a mozzarella bar. SInce the hype is now focused on the SOteria, it might be better to start with the pizzaria, especially since you want to sit at the pizza bar.

                  Expensive pizza, but, even thoug I am not a fan of Mozza, I gotta say, the pizza is very, very good.

                  1. re: Diana

                    "The difference is one is a pizzaria and one is an osteria :)- "

                    Glad I didn't ask you about the difference between Chianti Ristorante and Chianti Cucina (R.I.P.) or you would have said, one is a restaurant and one is a cucina, punctuated with a happy face.

                    The rest of your answer doesn't really provide any insight into the different menus, locations, etc. So, thanks very much. :-)

                    If anyone else would like to desccribe the difference in the two places, I would welcome it!

                    1. re: Bite Me

                      Pizzeria: Casual (no tableclothes), close seating, small room. Mostly pizzas/apps/salumi/salads. Breadsticks/not bread basket. Small wine list/under $50.

                      Osteria: Formal setting (tableclothes, many more servers), extensive menu/more expensive. Wine list deeper and pricier...more formal wine service as well. More attitude too.

                      Having been to both a number of times, I think I might return to the Pizzeria if the buzz/wait ever dies down. It's good, but not worth reserving 4 weeks ahead or dining at 11:00pm. Also, they really cater to celebrities/vips re. reservations. Not re tables, as there really is no Siberia here. The Osteria is just not that good...the food (aside from the octopus app) ranged from good to truly mediocre. Service was OK. Chairs are really uncomfortable - both me and my spouse commented on it separately. (we are both average size, btw).


                      1. re: manku

                        I am with manku's take on Osteria. It is "just not that good" except for the octopus. As far as location goes, both restaurants are located on Melrose and Highland on the Southwest corner of the intersection. There's valet parking for 7.50. I also suggest doing the Pizzeria first as I am a big fan of the Pizzeria.

                        1. re: jocey

                          Thanks. Very helpful, especially as they had a web site up for one and not the other.

                  2. Woolsey, I know exactly the room you are talking about. I dined there 2 Saturdays ago and was seated in the main room, against the wall that is shared with that back room. I assumed it was a private room but when I saw different parties coming and going throughout our meal I realized it was regular seating. I instantly made a mental note to specifially request that I not be seated there if I were to return. Our meal was great and I had no complaints but, after reading your review, I am wary about returning for a reservation I have in late September.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: umami

                      No one was being seated in that room when we went on July 21. In fact, we were speculating that it might be a handicapped entrance or a door for celebrities to slip in through with less notice. We didn't realize it was the the entrance to the Mozza detention hall.

                      Definitely specify you don't want to dine with the short bus kids in there. I am almost positive they won't give you a firm yes that they won't stick you in the shame hole room, though.

                      1. re: Woolsey

                        Hi... Sounds like this back room for which you hold such (deserved) disdain might actually be the perfect hideaway for couples having an affair on the down-low. Even the unfaithful like a special night out sometimes, perhaps....