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May 11, 2010 08:35 PM

Upscale yet relaxing Italian on the Westside?

Well, the inevitable has happened. We're leaving 405-landia for the broad sidewalks and noodle shops of the SGV. So, as for that final dinner, there seems to be a glut of places starting with "Il", though I think I've managed to go to all of about 1 (in an office building on Olympic as I recall). So, how to decide? Will some local who eats a lot better than we do (Westsidegal?) suggest one that:
- isn't a 'scene' (no waiting endlessly at the bar, straining to hear)
- big enough so it isn't cramped (widely-spaced tables a plus)
- has consistently great homemade dishes, esp. pastas, at not-crazy prices

Not looking for cheap, but something to mark the occasion. Thoughts?

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  1. Keeping it West of the 405: Valentino on Pico has a relatively new chef from Sardinia who is doing some really good dishes, including some interesting pastas (SIV just gave him 3 Stars if that matters to you), and the tasting menu is well-priced; La Botte is still providing very enjoyable food. Vincente remains one of the best, particularly for pasta, but the prices may be higher than you have in mind. If seafood appeals, Il Grano would be the choice.

    Il Grano Restaurant
    11359 Santa Monica Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90025

    La Botte Ristorante
    620 Santa Monica Boulevard, Santa Monica, CA 90401

    Vincenti Restaurant
    11930 San Vicente Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90049

    3 Replies
    1. re: New Trial

      I really liked La Botte when we went there for an anniversary a couple of years ago. But it is pricey for their pasta.

      I wonder how Ado is doing on Main Street in Venice, haven't heard much lately. If I were leaving the area, I would make sure to visit Il Piccolo on Dudley Street in Venice, since I haven't made it there yet, but hear nothing but raves for their food.

      1. re: New Trial

        Agree that Vincente or Valentino would suit your needs

        1. re: New Trial

          only based on one visit, and clearly my view of il grano is in the minority, but i respectfully disagree with the recommendation.
          had the tasting menu. the tab was astronomical.
          EVERY one of the cooked fish dishes was served way overcooked.
          because i was there on a first date, was not in a social position to complain.
          will never go back again.

        2. Guido's is not Valentino's, to be sure, but IMHO meets your third criterion admirably (and definitely meets the first). In the regular dining room there are no tables, just big red leather banquettes, including some large ones. It's a quiet and relaxed place. They do have a separate room for big parties, if that is your plan. They have their own parking lot but it is 100% valet; watch out for nearby street parking as much of it has recently been relabeled ONE hour, 8 am-8 pm to help fund the city by ticketing you.

          11980 Santa Monica Blvd.

          1. Piccolo (on Dudley) is my favorite italian restaurant on the Westside. Amazing food, very relaxed and great service.

            7 Replies
            1. re: citizenx

              That's where I've been wanting to go, forever. Hope to get there soon.

              1. re: Phurstluv


                this place is amazing. service is impeccable and the food is to die for. i didn't know what to expect - but was so happy and am so looking forward to going back. everything was perfect - nice speed of service, not intrusive. it was lovely. the food makes my mouth water thinking about.

              2. re: citizenx

                Place Link: Piccolo with website information added

                5 Dudley Ave, Venice, CA 90291

                1. re: Servorg

                  Any idea why they dropped the "Cipriani" ?

                    1. re: Servorg

                      The hotel Cipriani sued them. Or threatened to. That's what I've been told. Hard to believe an Italian company in Venice Italy could sue a little joint in Venice, California. I suspect it never went that far, they probably just said the hell with it.

                      1. re: foodiemahoodie

                        Those were some thorough lawyers!! All you really need is a certified letter, most will drop it since they can't afford the litigation.

              3. gotta admit that italien restaurants in LA is not an area of my expertise.

                that said, i really enjoyed the three course prix fix menu offered at the bar at valentino's ($35/pp)
                i requested and was served fish for my main course (something that wasn't initially offered as part of this menu) and added a pasta course (which still kept the total bill within reason)
                GET THE CANNOLI for dessert if you have any appreciation for this dish at all.

                imho, i would have done better had i skipped the salad and chose something more interesting as a first course.


                1. How about Fioretto Trattoria on Culver? Menu changes seasonally. Surprisingly good food with meticulous preparation, given the obscure strip mall location.

                  Fioretto Trattoria
                  12740 Culver Blvd Ste B, Los Angeles, CA 90066

                  15 Replies
                  1. re: sweetTooth

                    must respectfully disagree with the fioretto recommendation.

                    1. re: westsidegal

                      Thanks all! This is helping it narrow it down. I'll definitely report back. Yeah, Westsidegal - not my area of expertise either (obviously!), but we seem to think alike foodwise. Hadn't heard of (that) Piccolo - I'm intrigued!

                    2. re: sweetTooth

                      I think Fioretto is closed...when I drove by the other day, it looked empty. Have you been lately?

                      1. re: ElissaInPlaya

                        It's been closed for months. Never went, alas.

                        1. re: cant talk...eating

                          the first few meals i tried there, the food was good but the service was unbelievably terrible--one inexperienced waiter who knew nothing about the food trying to take care of the whole restaurant by himself AND cut the bread and bus the tables. . .

                          as time went on, the service got better (it hardly could get worse), but the food got awful.

                          1. re: westsidegal

                            hah! I remember that waiter. I always liked the food, when I went. But the restaurant didn't make it into my regular rotation.

                            1. re: ElissaInPlaya

                              yeah, fioretta closed? did it resurface anyhwere else?

                          2. re: cant talk...eating

                            Oh no! I will miss it! Westsidegal, I always had their vegetarian items, never any meat. So maybe that is why we had such divergent experiences. Or maybe we just have different tastes. :)

                            1. re: sweetTooth

                              i never ate any of their meat, poultry, nor seafood.
                              (i still remember their sauteed spinach--completely saturated/drowning/dripping/submerged in oil, and not a very high quality oil at that)

                              1. re: westsidegal

                                Ah, ok. Glad I never had the spinach. I think the two most impressive things I had there were a delicate veg lasagna with plated with a small intense smear of a wine reduction and a fried tomato skin garnish and a fresh peach custard - almost a creme brule, if I remember correctly. That had a few very thin slices of peach on top just under the bruleed sugar crust. Simple but very beautifully executed. And my usual fall back lunch option was their pasta with eggplant and mozzarella. Ooh and one time a friend generously let me taste her agnolotti which was served in a beautiful fennel flavored broth. Yum!

                        2. re: sweetTooth

                          Fioretto has been gone for quite a while now.
                          It was very nice for a very short time, then went on an slow motion train crash that took forever.

                          1. re: sweetTooth

                            closed and we really miss the pici pasta

                            1. re: troyavitia

                              For those of you who miss pici pasta, the new Primi al Mercato in the mall in Santa Monica has it.. HOMEMADE! And the restaurant attached will serve it on request. I believe it's the only place in LA where this Tuscany specialty is available. It takes a long time to prepare, but it's worth every moment.

                              1. re: csiprod

                                what else do they got's at teh pieeror slavaggio joint? also hows the charcuterie, and la artisan du chocolate? and rockenwagner that santa monica place food court sure sounds hella good

                                1. re: csiprod

                                  Valentino's HAS PICI! If if it doesn't show on the menu. You can call ahead to make sure, but it homemade and the real deal.