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May 19, 2008 10:14 AM

Osteria Mozza pasta tasting menu (pictures)

I finally ate at Osteria Mozza and I loved it. Couple of months ago I went to Mario's other restaurant Babbo in New York, so I didn't have high expectations of Osteria, but I was pleasantly surprised. My wife and I order the pasta tasting menu. IMO, with each course the dinner got progressively better. I thought that Babbo was only slightly better than OM, but the desserts here at Osteria Mozza was absolutely delicious. I can't wait to come back and try other dishes off of the regular menu. There are so many things I want to try.

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  1. good report. I regret reading it 20 minutes before my lunch break!

    1. How much is the pasta tasting menu?

      Thank you for your report.

      23 Replies
      1. re: Wolfgang

        iirc, it is $69pp and the wine pairing adds another $50pp.

          1. re: wilafur

            It looks absolutely delicious, but seriously? $70 for five small plates of pasta? What am I missing here?

            Mr Taster

            1. re: Mr Taster

              I thought about that the portions in relation to the cost, but believe me... I was stuffed and satisfied. Mario's restaurant in NY, Babbo, the portions were slightly more generous than Osteria.

              1. re: Mr. Gohan

                While I am curious to try Mozza one day, it's very difficult for me to justify the cost when there is so much more alternative deliciousness competing for my dinner dollar. I just don't see the value of this wildly expensive pasta tasting course, and would love for someone to explain to me what I am missing.

                Bear in mind this perspective is coming from someone who felt fully satisfied by his $250 meal at Urasawa.... semi-private chef, exotic fish flown in daily from Japan, what amounted to a 3 hour educational course on kaiseki cuisine, and a chance to watch a master chef ply his trade right in front of me... it all made it worth the price point.

                So what am I getting at mozza that justifies the value of $70 pasta (more like $90+ with tax and tip)? Serious question.

                Mr Taster

                1. re: Mr Taster

                  I could say the same about dishes like sushi.

                  Sushi = rice ball + stuff

                  And I am aware like you that many itamae take it much further into detail than that simplistic formula, and I have had the fortune to have enjoyed a private ocha kaiseki in one of the beautiful gardens of Kyoto, but maybe you're viewing this in too simplistic of a formula as well.

                  I guess it really comes down to how well it is prepared and presented, and also whether it fulfills the expectations of the dining guest. It appears that each dish has been prepared with great care, I am assuming the pasta component itself is of exceptional quality and cooked just to perfection, and the other components are not of the typical "Olive Garden" fare. Finishing off with what apprears to be exquisitely prepared desserts, and they wouldn't catch any guff from me.

                  If you break down the cost of the pasta alone and compare it to rice, I think one is still ahead. You can get a high-quality bag of rice - eight to 10 pounds - for $15 at the upper end. A high-grade dried pasta? 8 to 16 or 17 ounces for $8 to $15. Fresh pasta? To the moon, Alice, to the moon...

                  Pasta = various-shaped noodles + stuff

                  Is it really that simple? If each dish is as close to perfection as one would expect, then $70 is fair in my book.

                  1. re: bulavinaka

                    I understand your point, but if Urasawa were charging $250 for just sushi, I would have had a problem with it. Only the second half of the meal was sushi while the first half consisted of all manner and variety of cooked and raw dishes, including Kobe beef from Japan (I had read that he was caught importing the beef illegally, and sadly no longer offers the real stuff), seared toro, which was so rich that it tasted like beef, exotic curiosities like junsai, waves upon waves of fresh uni, and so much more. I think it was the sheer volume and wild variety of each course (let alone the unique presentation of each of the 43 mini courses) that was most interesting and impressive to me.

                    Five dishes of pasta, even prepared perfectly, just doesn't begin to approach this level of detail and quality. But perhaps I'm being unfair... I suppose we could fantasize about a 3 hour $250 tasting course, prepared tableside by Batali (although somehow I feel that he would be charging a helluva lot more than $250 for that experience!)

                    Mr Taster

                    1. re: Mr Taster

                      Hi Mr Taster,

                      Just an FYI that Urasawa-san is definitely still offering rare cuts of real Wagyu from Japan. :) I just tried the amazing bliss a few weeks ago.

                    2. re: bulavinaka

                      Mmmmmm.....rice ball + stuff.......

                      1. re: ElJeffe

                        Howz about:

                        Mmmmmm = rice ball + stuff


                2. re: Mr Taster

                  I would have to agree with you Mr. T. The pasta tasting menu is not a value proposition based on the ingredients used or portion size.

                  1. re: Wolfgang

                    Exactly... and for me, that more ephemeral quality of ambiance doesn't justify the cost or increase its percieved value. There's gotta be something else going on to make me want to shell out that kind of dough for five humble plates of pasta. However, the restaurant seems packed every time I drive past it, so apparently Mario does fine without the likes of ornery value-centric customers like us :)

                    Mr Taster

                    1. re: Mr Taster

                      I think something to keep in mind here is how labor intensive it is to offer that many freshly made pastas. Likely they're also probably using high quality pasta flour, throwing in some expensive wild boar and imported cheeses, imported Italian butter, etc. Food cost. They need a prep team that makes all the pastas on a daily basis, and a couple pasta cooks to crank them out. Labor cost.

                      I realize that dessert is a minimal cost but it is also included in the 70$ price tag.

                      It's never a fair comparison to say, "Well, I could make this at home for $25." Great, I probably could too with a few recipes. I would need to go to Surfas and buy at least $40 in equipment and spend an entire day prepping and then another day cooking to recreate this meal, and I'd have the misfortune of dealing with the mess and dishes.

                      1. re: fooddude37

                        Do you think "freshly made" means made daily? I dunno, it makes sense, doesn't it. of course, a few other places do that as well, for less.

                        Then, perhaps they save the labor and buy the pasta made daily from a local pasta company, like the one that owns cube. Doesn't sound like Nancy Silverton, though does it?

                        I've made my own pasta, and it is a little labor intsive, depending upon what you make. I mean, gnocchi from whole potato to plate is a lot of work, but not complex, and well worth it. but the ingredients, high quality or not, are not too expensive or hard to work with for the pasta. The boar I imagine is for sauce, filling, topping.

                        Noodles of many sorts can be made with a bowl, rolling pin, your hands and a good knife. Pasta was invented pre-pasta machine!

                        I've had fabulous fresh made gnocchi at Angeli Caffe for less, and it was amazing, and it was made in house.

                        But I agree, in a modern high end "hip place to be" kitchen, putting out a variety of fresh, hand made pasta for a huge crowd on a regular basis is a lot of work that isn't easy and must be paid for. I just wonder how other places do it cheaper?

                        1. re: Diana

                          Consider my perspective in that my noodle consumption is almost always within the context of Chinese food, and when you see those fantastic hand pulled noodles being made in front of your eyes (a big bowl for $5) or when you see the assembly line frenzy of those xiao long bao skins being made at Din Tai Fung, it just rubs me the wrong way when I hear about such high prices for was it essentially very humble fare, raised to gilded proportions.

                          Mr Taster

                          1. re: Diana

                            Re: Diana and Mr Taster (below post) Both good points. We're talking rustic vs. high end (and by high end, keep in mind one could always argue the "fine dining" capabilities of pasta. It is by definition peasant food. What I mean is the mere variety of pastas offered and the care with which they are prepared) It's one thing for a humble restaurant to offer a few wellmade and handmade specialties on the menu. Look at the Mozza pasta menu, in ADDITION to the pasta *tasting* menu. It's a lot. What are there now, over 20 pastas on the menu? I do mean made daily. I know for a fact that O Mozza has their own pasta prep facilities and their own prep team just for pasta (not including the prep for everything else on the menu) One might say that this is not a valid reason for high prices, to which I would not disagree. You pay for options and variety. Some people find it worth it, others not. I happen to like O Mozza for a special occasion, but for everyday eating I would prefer something a little more homey and less "something-for-everybody".

                            Please also consider what is being offered here. I still feel like we're not comparing oranges to oranges. This is technically a 7 course tasting menu which comes out to $10 per plate. When you factor the labor, food cost, name-brand merchandising, a chance to eat at a "hot" restaurant (let's not get into this, some people really care about this), what amounts to a dining experience that many, not all, find desirable, I don't see this as overpriced. I see and agree with almost all your points, Mr. Taster, but in this case I think it boils down to the classic rustic vs. refined debate. I understand not all would find O Mozza refined. On a good night I would.

                            1. re: Diana

                              I would be interested in which other places to a similar job for cheaper? I have not explored the entire gamut of Italian restaurants in L.A. I've been to Angelli, Cafe Angelino, Vincenti, La Buca, and Osteria Angelini. I may be forgetting some. I haven't been to All'Angelo or Valentino so I don't know how Mozza compares to those, but from what I understand they are more expensive.

                        2. re: Wolfgang

                          I guess based on how I interpret your wording, you don't agree with Mr. T - it is not a value proposition - I agree - that is the crux of my view. Phrases like, "five small plates of pasta," or "so what am I getting at mozza that justifies the value of $70 pasta..." That's noodle-counting. I read Mr. T's view as it being a value proposition. The only proposition is the meeting of minds between the place and its guests.

                          But if we are to talk value, we are talking a comparatively mere $70 versus $300, and you will lose all but the most initiated (palate-driven, monied, or otherwise) and the experience expected will rise markedly once that mental barrier of $100 is exceeded, which in this comparison it is met. I think both are values relative to what is proposed.

                          A lot of this perception of value, or lack of it, probably has to do with point of reference that one is standing from as well. I am fully aware of the kaiseki experience. I know it is not just sushi. I know that maybe two weeks out of the year, a particular sea vegetable is at its prime in a secluded pool off of some western shore of Hokkaido and that maybe 20 or 30 people will have the fortune to experience this coupled with ebi that has been slightly cured in a fine artisnal rice wine found only in a small town in northwest Kyushu.

                          I've been on both sides of this argument with my parents in reference to things like omakase and kaiseki - one is from a relatively well-to-do family in Japan. The other is from a somewhat other-side-of-the-tracks Kibei upbringing. The first argues that anything above Hide is burning money for ego, while the second shrugs his shoulders blurting, "why not?" But even he has his limits. He doesn't understand how these "hakujins" could shell out enormous amounts of money for Japanese food - even the "better" stuff. Most in Japan won't pay for this level of experience. Those that do are Japanese Chowhound-types, on expense accounts, or are financially secure. Who is right or wrong in this debate? No one - it all comes down to each individual, and to try to say, "it's not worth it," is definitely an individual opinion. I for one could not recreate this experience for that price, so for me, yes - it's worth it.

                          And to ponder whether Mario would offer a similar experience for $250 (more like $300 min if comparing to Urasawa), we're talking two totally different markets. Urasawa IMHO beats out Batali in the skills and arts category - that is my opinion but we're talking (Fuji) apples and (blood) oranges. One might expect Batali to offer his slightly more humble crafts at a lesser price. Batali is a celebrity figure who has an audience of millions for a lot of reasons but mainly one - mainly marketing. This gives him a higher price tag. Batali is larger than life. Urasawa-san? He represents the humble buddhist monk who is happy with an audience of ten.

                        3. re: Mr Taster

                          “$70 for five small plates of pasta? What am I missing here?”

                          Think of how proper ambiance is very important to many and to some it is a required attribute for a “fine” dinning experience. The presentation, table ware, room lighting, wall colors, noise control, music, the feel of the furniture and table cloth, the smell and feel of the fresh, clean, cool air and other proper controls of your sight, sound, taste, touch, and smell experience stimulate your multi-sensory appetite, expectation and anticipation thus making for a more enjoyable …..

                          Still, even with the proper ambiance you are correct -- $70? What is missing from these pictures? Think of the prestige and being part of the latest groupie craze. I am serious about this because this country loves fads and food fads, or chef fads, are not excluded and to some it is a required attribute for a in-thing (The Happening) dinning experience. We see many tourists seeking a “Hot Spot” to eat, rather than a specific “Hot Food” to eat.

                          Food value of the pasta = $20
                          Prestige & Groupie Surcharge = $50
                          Hobnobbing with other food snobs = PRICELESS

                          Today I had five small tacos ($1 chicken, $1 asada, $1 lengua, $1 carnitas, $1.50 shrimp and a $1.50 ice cold Mexican Coke for total of $7. The ambiance was perfect. The bottle of coke and the 5 tacos were passed through a hole in the wall on paper plates. I sat in the shade of a patio roof at a wooden table and could hear the sound of traffic on the 10 freeway across the street. Little kids from the school next door walked by on their way home. The presentation, flavor, smell, freshness, texture and how hot each cooked-to-order taco was (poultry, beef, pork and sea food) made me close my eyes and say aloud “Oh-man, oh-yeah, this is good” several times. Bottom line, these tacos were absolutely delicious and I can't wait to go back and try them again and others on their regular menu.

                          See the post by Diana May 09, 2008 09:36AM and the resulting discussion about Mozza breaking hearts.

                          Taqueria LA Cabana (very good tacos)
                          3402 Cogswell Rd
                          El Monte, CA 91732
                          (626) 448-9310

                          Value of 5 tacos & a Mexican Coke = $14 ($7 more than charged)
                          Value of not dealing with Groupies and food snobs = PRICELESS

                          1. re: JeetJet

                            I go to Mozza, I sit at a table or bar, and have never talked with any other patrons - it's too damn loud!

                            As for value, why not just order 5 plates of pasta for 80-100, and share. It's not quite the same, in terms of pacing and presentation, but about 1/2 the price!

                            Also, you get the standard issue pastas which, IMO, are better than the tasting menu pastas.

                          2. re: Mr Taster

                            The answer is simple. Can you find this quality pasta tasting elsewhere in LA? If not, then you could argue that $70 for the pasta tasting is as justified as $250 at Urasawa. Especially since one is not about to simmer their own wild boar ragu, prepare 4 other types of sauces, and 5 types of fresh pasta for themselves at home.

                            I agree that ordering 5 pasta dishes and splitting them would be much more economic at Mozza and would drop it to about $50 pp for 5 types of pasta. Not a bad deal. Breaking things down further, I don't think $17 for a proper spaghetti all gricia is overpriced.

                            That said, the portions are smaller than the ones at Babbo. I prefer the rustic presentation and porition size of Babbo's pastas to the more dainty and fussier portions at Mozza.

                            1. re: Mr Taster

                              I'm with Mr. Taster and that's saying something. $70 seems excessive. Maybe in Tulsa people would be willing to pay those kinds of prices but in LA?

                              1. re: southernitalian

                                As someone who grew up in the Tulsa area, I can fairly confidently say that most of the Tulsans I know would laugh at the thought of paying $70 for pasta. They would say, "maybe people in LA or New York would pay that much, but not us."

                        4. thanks so much for the review. we have reservations for friday the 13th of June. I cannot wait!

                          1. Nice review and pics Mr. Gohan! :) I've been meaning to try the Pasta Tasting Menu, but each time we end up ordering something else. I'll have to try it out next time.

                            1. Mmm.....looks good. Still regretting passing this up last time I was at Mozza.

                              The price does seem out of whack with the portions, but the mix of dishes is too good to pass up.