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Classic very upscale Italian in L.A.

josephnl Sep 30, 2012 03:44 PM

During the past week due to unusual coincidences I had dinner at two of LA's most classic old-time Italian restaurants...Valentino and Madeo. Both were very expensive but served excellent food, with great service, in very nice surroundings. I would have to give a slight edge to Madeo. Valentino, although quiet and elegant, is rather dark and a bit dreary whereas Madeo is a bright and happy place, albeit somewhat noisy when filled. Some of the food was a bit better at Madeo...one of two osso bucos served at Valentino was rather chewy (one was great), whereas everything at Madeo was excellent...3 different veal preparations were outstanding (my Milanese was wonderful) and the pasta served was great. For a special occasion you will not go wrong with either, but I'd give a slight edge to Madeo...mainly for the ambiance.

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  1. j
    Jwsel RE: josephnl Sep 30, 2012 07:20 PM

    It's funny, but I would never have thought of Velentino as a place for "classic" Italian like osso buco. While it produces some traditional dishes, I always viewed Valentino as trying to produce food that has a modern take on Italian, coupled with exceptional wines. By comparison, I think Madeo has always been deliberately "old school" traditional Italian. Now, as Valentino has aged, it may seem more "classic" than the Italian restaurants that have come since, but I guess comparing it to Madeo based on their osso buco strikes me as a strange way to judge them.

    Out of curiosity, have you tried Marino in Hollywood? When I think of "classic" Italian, that is one place that always comes to mind.

    10 Replies
    1. re: Jwsel
      ipsedixit RE: Jwsel Sep 30, 2012 07:22 PM

      Out of curiosity, have you tried Marino in Hollywood? When I think of "classic" Italian, that is one place that always comes to mind.


      Sort of like saying CUT is a "classic, very upscale Steakhouse in LA".

      1. re: ipsedixit
        Jwsel RE: ipsedixit Sep 30, 2012 07:45 PM

        I'm not sure what you mean. I wouldn't consider CUT "classic" at all. It is an upscale steakhouse, certainly, with fine food (and appetizers that I think are exceptional) But I would never recommend it to someone who wanted a "classic" steakhouse. It's decor and ambience, as well as its appetizers and side dishes are decidedly not traditional. That illustrates some of my confusion with the OP's post. To analogize, had the OP indicated that he or she tried CUT and Morton's and preferred Morton's because it had more of a "classic" feel, I might suggest the OP try several other places -- Wolfgang's, Larsen's, or Dan Tana's -- just because there is something of an apples to oranges comparison. That's kind of how I look at the OP considering Valentino a "classic" Italian place.

        Marino, while upscale (which is consistent with the OP's post), serves rather traditional Italian dishes and pastas. Nobody would ever consider it anything other than very classic Italian cooking, though it emphasizes southern Italian where Madeo tends more to the North of Italy. Yes, the prices are high at Marino, but I seriously doubt it is as expensive as Valentino and doubt it is significantly more expensive than Madeo.

        1. re: Jwsel
          ipsedixit RE: Jwsel Sep 30, 2012 07:50 PM

          I meant saying Valentino's is classic is like saying CUT is classic. Neither are.

          1. re: ipsedixit
            Jwsel RE: ipsedixit Sep 30, 2012 08:05 PM

            Gotcha. That I definitely agree with. I was confused since you quoted the part of my post about Marino.

      2. re: Jwsel
        cls RE: Jwsel Sep 30, 2012 08:17 PM

        I would never have thought of Madeo as bright and happy.

        1. re: cls
          maudies5 RE: cls Sep 30, 2012 09:01 PM

          Madeo is, indeed, bright and happy. When our grandchild was born at Cedars, we drove right over to Madeo, told them our good news and everyone was thrilled for us. It was definitely "bright and happy" and the food was fabulous. Also, the baby was a boy and healthy.

          1. re: maudies5
            foodiemahoodie RE: maudies5 Sep 30, 2012 11:51 PM

            Madeo has a lot more energy than Valentino - which has always had a bit of a formal feel to it.

            I've had very consistent meals at Madeo's. Valentino has different chefs come so the food varies. I've had some great meals there.

            But no excuse for less than tender osso bucco. Especially in this day of nearly ubiquitous sous vide - there's really no excuse.

            1. re: maudies5
              cls RE: maudies5 Oct 1, 2012 04:25 PM

              I mean't the decor: dark wood, dropped ceiling, underground. Nothing against them, but it's never struck me as bright and happy.

              1. re: cls
                josephnl RE: cls Oct 1, 2012 07:17 PM

                Compared to Valentino which although elegant and modern, is indeed dark, quiet, restrained and sophisticated...Madeo is imho very bright and happy. The two restaurants have very different vibes.

          2. re: Jwsel
            josephnl RE: Jwsel Oct 1, 2012 12:44 PM

            I guess I meant classic more in the sense of it having been around so long...but, they do have many classic, traditonal items on the menu such as vitelli tonnato, pasta alla Norma, osso buco, lasagna, etc. which are served pretty traditionally albeit perhaps just a bit updated.

          3. w
            whiner RE: josephnl Oct 1, 2012 08:29 AM

            Thanks for the report. While more akin to what you might find in an upscale restaurant in Milan as opposed to San Gimignano, my favorite Italian in L.A. is Il Grano. http://www.ilgrano.com/index.html

            1. Ciao Bob RE: josephnl Oct 1, 2012 10:24 AM

              Try Vincenti, while you are on a roll with high-end Italian.

              1. Tom P RE: josephnl Oct 2, 2012 02:42 PM

                I love Madeo. And you are right, all the veals are amazing. The veal chop is my favorite but I love them all. Their side potatoes are incredible.

                I also like Marino very much, as another suggested.

                1. f
                  FED RE: josephnl Oct 3, 2012 12:11 PM

                  i think this definition of "classic" works best if you're talking about New York-style red sauce places (albeit nice ones with very good food). I like Madeo, but they're not trying to do the same thing that Valentino is doing. kind of like comparing the new water grill with providence.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: FED
                    josephnl RE: FED Oct 3, 2012 12:45 PM

                    I disagree. I don't think red sauce at all when I think of classic Italian cooking...dishes such as beef carpaccio, osso buco, veal milanese or piccata, pasta vongole, risotto, etc., etc. are to me, every bit as classic as marinara sauce, chicken parm or lasagna with red sauce.

                    As to comparing Valentino with Madeo...I think the difference is mainly in the ambiance/vibe, not that much in the food (although I prefer the food at Madeo, a bit) but would like to hear what makes you feel differently FED,

                    1. re: josephnl
                      FED RE: josephnl Oct 3, 2012 01:38 PM

                      again, no disrespect to madeo's, which is good at what it does, despite the celebrity crush. but it's basically what you'd get in a new york "italian" restaurant. valentino is much more about alta cucina -- it's the kind of food you'd find in a fancy place in milan or rome (or palermo for that matter). i don't believe madeo's has a tasting menu (never seen one, anyway), but that's really the best way to go at valentino. madeo's has a decent enough wine list, valentino's is world-famous, literally.

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