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Looking for Italian and Mexican restaurants in Santa Monica

We're looking for both an Italian and a Mexican restaurant in Santa Monica. We've been told about Louise's and about a kick back sort of Mexican place called El Cholo. Any thought about these two, or any other ideas.

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  1. All I gotta tell you is, from El Cholo, run the other way. Fast.
    I just posted a rant about El Cholo (there are several branches, they're all the same) a few days ago; see if you can run a search on it.

    1 Reply
    1. re: aurora50

      ONLY eat at el cholo if you are so completely blotto that you can't taste anything and all you need is to get something in your stomach to soak up some alcohol.

    2. Italian.

      First off Santa Monica has a wealth of good, very good and excellent Italian restaurants. Here are some of the greatest hits off the top of my head.

      Giorgio's in Santa Monica Canyon. Good, but overpriced. Still, one of the best places to see Hollywood mucky-mucks. A big crowded and you can't bring in wine.

      Caffe Delfini - across the street - as good, but cheaper, different, less formal.

      Drago - upscale and very good. Leans toward southern Italy. Went here with the son of a mafia boss once night and the kid knew how to order. It was great. But don't think it's like Rao's or anything (it's much, much better). Formal atmosphere. Pricey.

      Vincente
      Amici
      Il Grano
      La Botte (get a start from the Michelin people. Very good, quiet. Cant' bring wine.)
      Il Piccolo - like La Botte but less formal, smaller and cheaper. And you can bring wine. I like this place a lot, but haven't been there in a year.

      Valentino. Upscale and elegant. One of the best wine lists in the entire world. Truly stellar. Food can range from better than good to excellent. But never bad, not even close. Always look forward to going there.

      Brentwood - which is next door to Santa Monica has Vicenti which is excellent, and Pecorino which can also be very good. Toscana is over-rated, but still quite good and a place to see media movers and shakers.

      Pizzicotto - great lunch place. Tiny but always good.

      I'm probably missing a few and I'm sure someone will chime in.

      For Mexican - Monte Alban. Mole and goat tacos and rellenos stuff with chicken and raisans - and all manners of good stuff there.

      Tlaopazola has it's fans - I used to be one. But I'd rather go to the less formal, funkier Monte Alban.

      1 Reply
      1. re: foodiemahoodie

        This is a great list! I'd add that Il Grano has a more casual option next door called La Bottega Marino. In addition to Monte Alban, I'd add Tacos Por Favor and Tacomiendo for taqueria fare.

      2. Re Mexican, El Cholo's food is truly terrible, but it has a fun, festive atmosphere. A better option in Santa Monica is Border Grill, which is also fun and festive but actually has good food. Border Grill is a little upscale compared to many Mexican places. I like the food at Monte Alban, but it's not actually in Santa Monica, more like West L.A., and lately I've found it less enjoyable because of the atmosphere and service--it's been pretty empty when I've been there, which makes it feel a bit depressing, and the wait staff have been MIA.

        3 Replies
        1. re: Nicole

          shhh....Monte Alban has been busy lately when I've been.

          Anyway, I second Border Grill and Monte Alban for Mexican. I also like Vicente and Il Grano for Italian.

          Via Veneto is VERY high on my list to try; I've heard great things about its food and happy hour.

          My experiences at Valentino and Drage have been low value (i.e. food/service/atmosphere much less impressive than the high prices.) YMMV.

          1. re: ElissaInPlaya

            I really like Via Veneto. I didn't realize they had a happy hour. Do you have any more info?

            1. re: whatsfordinner

              Not much. Just a friend of mine who loves to cook and eat raves about it. If/When I go, I will report back.

        2. You can't do better than Lares for mexican.
          Lot of italian..depends on what you want to spend! Il Forno or La Vecchia are good moderately priced places.

          1. agree you can do better than both Louise's and El Cholo.

            questions i have are: how much are you looking to spend? what kind of atmosphere do you want? i'm presuming you're from out of town, so will you have a car or be willing to travel 10 minutes to neighboring areas or even within Santa Monica?

            i know i may be repeating what others have said, but if i am, i am echoing sentiment :-)
            for Italian:
            Via Veneto is pricey but good
            in Brentwood, Vincente, Pecorino and Palmeri are all good; Pizzicotto is less expensive; Peppone is old-school Italian

            for Mexican:
            agree with Monte Alban for Oaxacan
            do you want tacos? Tacos Por Favor is good
            for Mexican seafood, head to centinela (10-15 min) to Mariscos Chente
            also like Lares
            and Gilbert's El Indio esp for breakfast