Authentic regional Italian in L.A.?
Why, WHY is it so hard to find authentic Italian? Let's use Tuscan as an example: Tuscan in Florence, Siena or Certaldo means saltless bread, panzanella, pappa al pomodoro, game, truffles, animal innards and beans, beans, beans. Tuscan in Los Angeles seems to be whatever a restaurant that wants to call itself other than "Italian" says it is. Even the Olive Garden, it seems, does Tuscan. Except it doesn't. Not really. And neither does anyone else I've found. And Umbria? Emilia Romagna? Even real Sicilian or Neapolitan? Fuggedaboutit.
Am I missing something?
Well, there was at least one place for you to get your Tuscan on: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/716360?tag=search_results;results_list - too bad that you missed it.
This month they are featuring the food of the Veneto http://www.mozza2go.com/calendar.cfm region. Check their web site for dates and see if you can still make a reservation if you have an interest.
I hate to mention this place, because it drives me nuts, but Il Fornaio ( www.ilfornaio.com ) is currently having their Umbria festa. Next month will be Piemonte, then "Best of Festa," etc. (Toscana was in July.) I've been going to these handsome restaurants in Northern and Southern California for twenty years or more, and every time I'll find perhaps one good or very good dish (so it is worth trying if you're set on Italian regional food), one or two to mumble about all the way home, and always, always some problem with the friendly service. I may need to read a book to figure out why I keep returning every year or so.
It might be because Il Fornaio bears a superficial resemblance to another mid-level Italian chain, Piatti, whose food is much better. They do occasionally feature regional specials but seem more likely to focus on a particular food or event. Unfortunately, the only one within the coverage area of this board -- in Thousand Oaks -- went out of business last year, which means I have to trek to Montecito or La Jolla to enjoy their cuisine. Piatti is very good but not that good, when we have such excellent mid-level local places as Celestino, but I do miss it.
This site sort of goes into the history of Italian food in America and explain why there aren't regional restaurants like you would have for Chinese or Mexican cuisines.
Easy assimilation into society without a lot of marginalization as Italian Americans prospered economically in the US led to standardization of Italian food menu. The proliferation of pizza parlors had something to do with it, but as I type this I am reminded of the movie Big Night and the reason is answered there plainly. Everybody just wanted spaghetti and meatballs and nothing else.
Thanks for the great link. Anyone who references Big Night is OK by me...
To the OP, as far as I know, there are no truly regional Italian restaurants in LA, but you have a shot at some good regional dishes at Angelini, Mozza, or maybe Madeo. To be fair, even in Italy, authentic regional cooking is relegated mostly to it's region of origin.
8897 Beverly Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90048
Great post and a great link. And yeah, the Big Night reference makes me hungry.
<sigh> I'll keep my eye out for special events at various restaurants and resign myself to being content with good Italian-American. S. Irene Virbilia reviewed a place last week called Amarone that's supposed to be Emilia-Romagna. Anyone tried it?
Amarone Kitchen & Wine
8868 W. Sunset Blvd, West Hollywood, CA 90069