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REVIEW w/ pics: Osteria Mozza

pleasurepalate Jan 4, 2008 03:19 PM

Having had a couple wonderfully tasty dining experiences at Pizzeria Mozza, I had been waiting in anticipation for months for Osteria Mozza to open its doors. Thankfully, they finally did and with my taste buds ready for action, I went in one night with friends for a meal.

My first impression was that it was very loud. It was so loud that it was difficult to talk to my dinner companions without practically shouting. By the time I left, my voice was hoarse and my head was pounding. Luckily, the restaurant's decibel level didn't detract from the good food.

Our meal started with our waiter offering 3 different types of breads. Soon, our amuse bouche arrived and it was a Mozzarella Involtini stuffed with fresh basil, roasted tomato, and olives. The combined flavors were wonderful.

For our starters, my party shared 4 different appetizers and one pasta dish. Of the 4 appetizers, there were two standouts. First, there were the Grilled Figs wrapped in Pancetta with Wilted Dandelion Greens. It's hard to go wrong when your taste buds get a tasty combination of a sweet and salty, paired with a hint of bitterness from the dandelion greens.

Second, I also really enjoyed the Burrata with Bacon, Marinated Escarole and Caramelized Shallots, for almost the same reasons I loved the figs, although the figs' sweetness were replaced by the bacon's smokiness. As for our pasta dish, the Orecchiette with Sausage and Swiss Chard was a definite hit.

When it came to the entrees, 4 of us opted to share ours. My particular order was the Roasted Pork Arista with Sweet Corn and Chanterelles. After one bite, I almost didn't want to give it up to the next person. I loved the pork's juiciness and fattiness and if you take a good look, you can see the wonderful spices that were encrusted around the meat. Peppery met sweet and woodsy from the corn and chanterelles for a wonderful melding of flavors.

I also sampled the Grilled Quail wrapped in Pancetta with Radicchio and Honey, which I found blah. While I loved the fattiness of the roasted pork, the fattiness of the quail turned me off. The Beef Brasato with Polenta and Horseradish Gremolata was meltingly tender, but the sauce left a tangy after taste that wasn't appealing. The only other entrée I enjoyed as much as the roasted pork was the Monkfish Alla Diavollo. The fish was cooked perfectly and the sauce packed some heat that I found surprising. I don't associate spicy flavors with Italian foods at all, but boy, that monkfish dish was outstanding.

We also ordered veggie side dishes. I think that we could have easily done without them. They lacked punch. One of the sides we ordered was the Spaghetti Squash, Chiles, Mint and Bottarga. You'd think with ingredients like mint and chiles, you'd get a little bit of zing to your palate, but the dish was quite bland and while I liked the beet portion of the Marinated Beets with Walnut Salsa Verde, the salsa verde didn't add much and as such, was superfluous.

With all the food that was consumed, we were able to fit in one dessert, the Rosemary Olive Oil Cakes with olive oil gelato and rosemary brittle. While placing our order, our waiter instructed us on the best way to eat it. Simply, try to get the cake, brittle and gelato in one bite, because the olive oil gelato on its own is quite strongly flavored.

Once our dessert arrived, spoon in hand, I did as our waiter taught us. Yum! I don't know how to describe how all three components tasted together. All I know is that I definitely loved how the flavors blended together in my mouth and I also really enjoyed the textures. You get creamy, cakey and hard in one mouthful. By the way, out of curiosity, I did try each item separately. That olive oil gelato definitely is not something to be eaten on its own, but that rosemary brittle was outstanding. I wouldn't mind having a tin to bring home.

In general, other than the noise level, the food was pretty good. Unfortunately, with such expectations, "pretty good" was a bit of let down when I was expecting "fantastic", maybe, even "mind-blowing". I did go back a second time and sampled other menu items to see if my feelings would change.

The conclusions I got from that second visit was that almost any appetizer you ordered, especially from the Mozzarella bar was going to be a real treat and I felt that same way about any of the desserts. The pastas and entrees were a real hit and miss. Either they succeeded beyond compare or they left you wondering why you spent the money in the first place. As for the veggie side dishes, why even bother?

Overall, when you take away all the hype, I think Osteria Mozza is definitely a destination restaurant. The food is well crafted and quite tasty, but for me, the next time I get a hankering for Italian food, I'm heading back to All'Angelo.

To see pics, go to:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/la_addict/sets/72157602547420857/

Osteria Mozza
6602 Melrose Avenue
Los Angeles, CA
(323) 297-0100
http://www.mozza-la.com/

Thanks,
Abby
http://pleasurepalate.blogspot.com/

  1. Porthos Jan 8, 2008 06:46 PM

    Abby, hope you don't mind me piggy-backing on your review. I wanted to add my OM experience without adding yet another OM thread. Almost didn't do it since you did such an amazing job.

    I’ve been a longtime fan of Lupa and Babbo in NYC. I thought Pizzeria Mozza was very good and I’ve been dying to see how OM compares to the NY Batali outposts. Armed with my two ravenous sisters who also have an impressive appetite (one of them actually out consumed me once and finished her 32oz bone in NY strip and a whole mess of sides) we decided to target OM’s pasta menu.

    I agree with all the previous posters who touted the Mozza Bar as being one of the best things at OM. It's the most unique aspect of Osteria Mozza and the dishes from the Bar all look amazing. The desserts are also knockout.

    Amuse (not sure of the italian term for amuse): bruschetta with ricotta, olive oil, and basil. Very good. There was a hint of lemon and in general this amuse was far superior to the chickpea and balsamic bruschette at Babbo.

    Antipasti:

    1. Grilled Octopus with celery and potato. Delicious like everyone said it was. Tender but with a nice charred meaty taste.

    2. Burricotti with braised artichokes, pine nuts, currants & mint pesto. Excellent dish. The pine nuts, dried currants, and pesto changed things up a bit between bites. A delicious dish really.

    Primi:

    1. Gnocchi with wild boar ragu. Stellar dish. The gnocchi was soft and the wild boar ragu, rich. I liked this better than the famed ricotta gnocchi dish at Lupa.

    2. Tagliatelle with oxtail ragu. Good dish, fresh pasta, however, I thought the tagliatelle was a bit weak for the ragu. I think a nice paperadelle would have worked better…a bit heartier to go with the ragu. Then again, I think I just prefer the black pepper paperadelle with wild boar ragu at Babbo better.

    3. Orrechiette with sweet sausage and chard. Also a good dish but again, I preferred the simplicity and also the shape of the orrechiette (larger and looked more rustic/handmade) at Lupa. The orrechiette at Lupa is just sweet sausage, broccoli rabe and pecorino. The flavor of the OM version was good but everything seemed to blend together more and nothing really stood out.

    4. Egg Raviolo. Decent but I thought Quince in SF did a far superior version.

    5. Spaghetti alla gricia. Simple but absolutely delicious. Al dente spaghetti with ample olive oil, guancale, and coarse cracked pepper. Tied with the gnocchi dish for favorite of the evening.

    Secondi:

    1. Pork Arista with fennel and onion. A nice pork chop with about a ¼ inch rind of fat. At first, we tried the pork chop without the fat. Boring. Then we tried it with the fat and the entire dish transformed into something amazing. The flavor and seasoning (maybe some fennel pollen?) in that fat really makes the dish.

    Desserts:

    1. Olive Oil gelato with rosemary cakes. One of the best gelatos I’ve ever had. The texture is most reminiscent of the gelato in Rome and the olive oil and coarse salt really add to the dessert.

    2. Bombolini with lemon mascarpone and blue berries. Basically, delicious warm donut holes with powered sugar. Good in a simple, old fashioned sort of way.

    Total damage was on par with what you’d pay at Babbo and Lupa. The Mozza Bar is really something special and so are the desserts. The pastas are hit and miss and I think Babbo still has OM beat in spades when it comes to pasta. The cuisine definitely has been cal-italianized.

    As for the music being too loud, I really didn’t notice it. It’s about on par with Lupa and Babbo which is to say loud, but we were still able to carry a conversation without straining. You can definitely see the Batali influence in the design, pastas, and desserts but Silverton’s Mozza Bar really makes this a destination.

    1. SauceSupreme Jan 4, 2008 10:17 PM

      Ah you missed the Guinea Fowl with the Chicken Liver Crostini. That's my favorite item there at OMozza.

      If you want compare the food directly with All'Angelo, then I understand, but the decor and atmopshere (and resultant clientele) clearly put OMozza as playing under different rules than All'Angelo.

      The Italian place I can't wait to go back to, though, is Osteria La Buca. I've only been once but the pastas there were delicious.

      1. Tom P Jan 4, 2008 05:58 PM

        Great review! I just had the pasta tasting menu, and loved it. And, yes, the music and sound are ridiculous. And I even like a 'happening' place, as opposed to quiet. Something must be done!

        1 Reply
        1. re: Tom P
          pleasurepalate Jan 4, 2008 08:06 PM

          One thing I forgot to mention is that there is a back room, which has about 3 to 4 tables and is definitely much quieter. For my second meal, that's where my party ended up seating and we were much happier for it. I think they normally use it for private parties, but open it up when there's nothing booked.

        2. wilafur Jan 4, 2008 05:38 PM

          oooh, the roasted pork arista looks fantastic!

          1. f
            fdb Jan 4, 2008 05:22 PM

            Thanks, Abby, as always for your detailed review and nice pictures. My disappointment at Pizzeria Mozza has deterred me from visiting Osteria Mozza thus far. I'm willing to give it a try when I feel like fighting the traffic from the westside. Meanwhile, my favorite Italian restuarant is La Botte in Santa Monica. I had a fabulous meal there last night. Something to consider for one of your 2008 group outings!

            3 Replies
            1. re: fdb
              pleasurepalate Jan 4, 2008 08:06 PM

              La Botte is great. I actually hosted that as part of a progressive dinner in Santa Monica in 2006 and everyone raved about the food.

              1. re: pleasurepalate
                f
                fdb Jan 4, 2008 10:23 PM

                Oh, I must have missed your review. Glad you all enjoyed it. It's so close to me that I rarely venture out for Italian anymore. I'm making a note to try All'Angelo sometime soon though.

                1. re: fdb
                  pleasurepalate Jan 4, 2008 10:47 PM

                  No worries. I don't think I ever wrote a review about it. :)

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