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Nov 16, 2012 12:46 PM

Celebratory dinner in the Santa Clarita or San Fernando Valleys

Hi hounds. I'll be visiting my son early in December and have a really good reason (work related) to celebrate. So, I want to take him out to a really nice dinner while I'm there. He lives in Valencia and having been to most of the options in Santa Clarita, I don't think anything there really seems special. Le Chene was suggested to me before but quite frankly, I am not comfortable about driving on a desolate, unfamiliar road at night. I'll go into SFV but don't think I want to drive over another hill into LA proper. We are limited as to which days we can go due to his busy schedule. He's not a huge foodie (doesn't see the reason for a $30 steak but then again, he's a teacher and can't afford one) but willing to venture out. I don't eat spicy food but otherwise am open to all possibilities.

I'll spend up to $100.00 per person for 3 courses and beverages (and we both don't drink much anyway). Also, we'd probably feel more comfortable with a not-so-formal place.

Thoughts, suggestions? Many thanks!!

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  1. Panzanella is an excellent upscale Italian restaurant in Sherman Oaks a few blocks east of the 405. I've eaten there a couple of times and have always enjoyed it. They don't push any envelopes, but the ingredients are high-quality and well-prepared, and the service is good. I think it's run by the same folks who own Drago on the West Side.

    10 Replies
    1. re: medrite

      This looks very good and definitely doable. And in my old 'hood when I lived there 30+ years ago... Thanks for the rec!

      1. re: medrite

        OMG I just realized I ate there when I first moved to LA in 1977! It was Italian then too but the name escapes me right strange is that! I literally lived around the corner for 3 years. Now I MUST eat there!


        1. re: alwayshungrygal

          Before it was Panzanella (which opened in 2004) it was a Piero Selvaggio restaurant called Posto.

          1. re: Servorg

            That wasn't the name. We're talking 1977, 1978. I remember it was rather stuffy inside, and a very traditional menu. Not what I would expect from Piero Selvaggio. Something like "Fiore d'Italia" or something. Once I saw the pic of the front entrance I recognized it.

            1. re: alwayshungrygal

              We ate at Fior D'Italia in the early 70's (in fact I think we first dined there in 1969) many times with my then girl friend's grandmother who adored the place (she lived close by on Noble Ave. just off of Valley Vista). I can't recall the address but it was on the South side of Ventura so it may well have been the same location as Posto/Panzanella.

              1. re: Servorg

                Definitely Fior d'Italia! I can't believe I got the name right. I have a very vivid memory of the first time we ate there. We didn't have much money at the time and it was a big splurge. The food was good, not great but we 3 ex-New Yorkers were jonesing for old style Italian. We crossed the street in the middle of the block to go home and a police car pulled us over to write a ticket for jaywalking. After we explained where we were from, he cut us a break. I think the last time I ate there was around 1983/84 or so.

                There was another Italian restaurant in the 'hood about 2 blocks east, Stromboli's, I think. It was smaller and more casual. They had really good pizza and we went there pretty often. After my now-ex and I got married, they gave us a bottle of champagne. I think they expanded around 1985/86 after we moved to the Bay Area and then eventually went out of business. Nice memories....thanks!

                1. re: alwayshungrygal

                  Glad you liked the rec, I'll be interested to know if you go & if you liked it.

        2. re: medrite

          Ate at Panzanella 2 weeks ago, and all 6 at the table would NOT return.
          Noisy, stuffy, who-cares food. Nothing special about the place, period!
          You might enjoy Ca de Sole on Cahuenga & Lankershim in the Universal City area.
          Raphael or Bistro Garden in Studio City, or Le Petit Restaurant in Sherman Oaks also might work.
          A drive to Pasadena on the 210 freeway will take no longer than going to Sherman Oaks, yet Arroyo Chop House delivers a very good meal, and within your price parameters.

          1. re: carter

            Thanks for your response. Can you explain a bit more about "who cares food" or "nothing special about this place?"

            Of your 3 recs, Ca de Sole looks like the best bet, tho I'm a bit leery of the description "light pink sauce" for one of the pastas (the rigatoni). Otherwise, it looks solid. Arroyo Chop House won't work for me as I'm not a big red meat eater (tho I do love short ribs) and the Bistro Garden menu is a bit limited in entrees.

            Thanks again for your response.

            1. re: alwayshungrygal

              I had lunch at Ca Del Sole about a year ago and IMHO it was not particularly impressive. I had a veal chop that was tough and incredibly salty. Maybe Panzanella has gone downhill, as the previous poster reports (it's been a little while since I've been there), but I'd say the same things about Ca del Sole that he (she?) said about Panzanella. Haven't been to Raphael but from what I've heard it might be a good choice. All in all, tho, I stand by my rec.

        3. Any thoughts on Larsen's Steak House in Encino? My son said they just opened in Valencia. I could do this on a different night than our celebratory dinner. Thanks!

          4 Replies
          1. re: alwayshungrygal

            I haven't been to it yet, I live in Valencia. My friend went and thought it was a bit pricey and his shrimp was a bit salty. There is also the Salt Creek Grill also in the same shopping area. It tends to get mixed reviews, but it is a nice restuarant, and I recently had a very good beef stogranoff. In the same area is Sisleys Italian, which I like. There is also Delmonico's in Encino on Ventura, I like their seafood, though it has been a while. Enjoy your trip.

            1. re: LA Buckeye Fan

              Thanks for your response. We went to Salt Creek Grill for Mother's Day brunch last May and it was good but doesn't feel special enough. Might do it another night if we have time or if we don't go to Larsen's. Someone that my son knows recommended Sisley but will also save that for another time.

              Now I definitely would consider Delmonicos. The menu looks very interesting and doable. I might have to flip a coin to see where to go!

              Thanks again.

            2. re: alwayshungrygal

              Sorry I missed this before you went, but for future reference, I would highly recommend Larsen's in Encino. The steaks are well aged and, in terms of quality, are up there with the best steakhouses in the city. With the exception of the American Wagyu porterhouse I had at Cut, I prefer the steaks I've had at Larsen's to the ones I've had at Cut, Morton's, Ruth Chris's and Mastro's. The sides and appetizers are not as good as at Cut or Mastro's, but they are still very good. (And Larsen's is head-and-shoulders above Delmonico's, imo.)

              There has been a Larsen's Grill in the SGV, but not the steakhouse. I think they just opened a second steakhouse in SGV.

              And do not waste your time at Sisley. It is not a special occasion restaurant. It is dime-a-dozen Italian.

              1. re: Jwsel

                Thanks for your response. I'm not into steak or big cuts of meat (which is why I went for the osso buco instead of the chop) and if at a steakhouse, probably would order ribs or chicken instead. The menu at Delmonico's looked interesting so that's why I considered it. Larsen's did open in SGV but we didn't get there. We did get to Sisley the night I arrived and it was...OK. I agree, it wasn't special but that's not why we went there. We couldn't decide where to go so thought we'd try someplace we hadn't been yet, I didn't want to drive very far and it just sort of worked out.

              1. OP here. I flipped a coin and we went to Panzanella. Made a res for Sunday night at 7 pm, arrived early as traffic was light and was seated promptly. Room was half empty anyway.

                Son B and I shared 2 starters, crab cakes and calamari. Crab cakes were 3 pieces, silver dollar size, served with an arugula/bell pepper salad (a very generous portion) and were tender and not greasy. Calamari is always a favorite with us (and we didn't realize we had ordered 2 seafood items til the waiter commented on it) and also not greasy.

                B was going to order chicken but I convinced him to order lamb chops, his favorite (he wasn't sure he'd like the white balsamic/mint sauce so it was served on the side). It came with a few roasted potato wedges and a nice portion of fresh veggies. Waiter has asked if he wanted the chops medium rare, medium or well done, and the medium chops were perfect. The sauce wasn't overly minty but B didn't need it.

                I decided I didn't want pasta so concentrated on the main entrees. I was torn between veal chops and osso bucco and went with the osso buco. I'm not a huge meat eater but love osso buco, and it was very tender, falling off the bone but not overdone. Served with risotto and if memory serves, was supposed to be saffron but I didn't taste any saffron. Also served with fresh veggies but a smaller portion than my son's plate.

                We both went for chocolate dessert. I can't pass up a flourless chocolate torte and it was perfect, I practically licked the plate. B went for a chocolate cake which was served warm and he enjoyed it very much.

                Service was excellent, timely and not intrusive. B had a rum & coke, I was driving so no alcohol for me, just a soda before dinner and coffee with dessert. Bill with tax before tip was $129 and change.

                I was pleased with the way the restaurant had been remodelled, it is much more cozy than I remembered from 30+ years ago.

                Thanks medrite for the rec. I disagree with carter, I didn't find it noisy or stuffy at all but I can see that the food isn't exactly innovative. But what I wanted was a very good meal, and that's what we got. I would definitely go back if the occasion warranted. I think I'd try Delmonico's first tho.

                Oh, and we went to Salt Creek Grill for brunch yesterday, as I really wanted a full meal before I hit I-5 to go home. That worked as I hit traffic, it took an extra hour (total time 5.5 hours) to get home and I wasn't hungry at all. Didn't want to hit any of the chains on the road.

                Thanks again, can't wait til my next visit in the spring.

                1. Thanks for the feedback, glad you had a great time!