Angelini Osteria – Los Angeles, CA
Asking me what my favorite Italian restaurant is in Los Angeles will elicit a pavlovian response: “Angelini Osteria”.
I have a special place in my heart and stomach for osterias- their very nature conducive to laidback, delicious, and fun meals. For the uninitiated, an osteria is a casual eatery similar to a neighborhood tavern where one enjoys rustic Italian food alongside carafes of wine. Chef Gino Angelini understands this.
Despite having cooked for former Presidents and Popes, his namesake restaurant remains unpretentious and friendly. The waiters, with their thick Italian accents, even charm my mother. And if you’ve ever met my mother, you know this is a herculean task- at least one my father will attest to. Tables are crowded but not overly so; the food is fantastic, resonating of the Italian countryside. I’ve never walked out without having at least a glass of wine -though it usually ends up being an entire bottle-, a sure explanation as to why my countless visits to Angelini’s over the years always end with a wider waistline and an even wider purple-tinged smile.
With my entire family visiting Los Angeles last week, I treated them out to lunch. It was gluttonous reminder that when it comes to honest, soulful Italian cooking-the type you’d normally expect from an Italian grandmother-, Angelini’s Osteria is peerless in Los Angeles.
Highlights of the meal included shrimp salad tossed with celery, tomatoes, oregano, and bottarga. This was an exploration in textures and flavors: strewn between bites of arugula were soft sweet tomatoes and shrimp that snapped like a sausage when chewed. Tie it all together with an acidic vinaigrette and a sprinkling of pungent bottarga and it’s easy to see why this has long been my mother’s favorite dish here.
Grilled octopus on a bed of arugula and tomatoes was another standout, with charred flavors from the grill acting as the perfect foil to the sweet tomatoes. More importantly, the texture of the octopus was perfect– neither too soft (I’m looking at you, Playa) nor chewy.
A dish of tripe was lovingly cleaned and braised in a tomato sauce for hours then topped with cuttlefish— a shining example of simple rustic Italian food that rewards careful preparation. It didn’t have that funky odor or chewiness of poorly cooked tripe, and the organ meat soaked up all of the wonderful sauce.
Angelini’s vitello tonnato might just be the best version I’ve had in Los Angeles. Veal loin, so delicately poached and sliced that it resembled carpaccio, was topped with a sauce made of tuna, capers, mayonnaise, and anchovies. It tastes like the best tuna salad you’ve ever had– surely worth its asking price ($18) twice over.
Roasted bone marrow on a bed of gnochetti was heartstoppingly good (both literally and figuratively), with each fatty, flavorful scoop of marrow caramelized on the outside and on the verge of collapsing into a puddle of grease on the inside. A lashing of balsamic reduction helped cut through the fat, but it’s a shame the bed of gnochetti was a touch undercooked.
Another memorable dish was the Spaghetti alla Chitarra Noricna. Thick, ropey spaghetti was cooked al dente and lightly coated in a creamy sauce flavored with chunks of seared sausage and shavings of black truffles. The noodles, which practically disappeared in seconds, had a wonderful irregular texture to it, no doubt from being pushed through a chitarra.
Admittedly, I’m not the biggest fan of lasagna. It’s always too heavy for me, sitting in my stomach like a boulder hewn out of meat, cheese, béchamel and pasta. But the lasagna verde, the most popular dish at Angelini’s, proves otherwise. It speaks for itself at first bite– deliciously flavorful without being heavy. At its worst, béchamel is thick and goopey; Angelini’s was nimble and creamy. The use of a mixed veal and beef filling also helped in achieving a light lasagna I wouldn’t mind eating over and over again.
We ordered some other food—truffle pizza (mediocre), calamari (good), bucatini amatriciana (usually great but just okay this time), but what truly lingered on my palate long after I exited the restaurant were the chicken livers. I probably sound like a broken record player now, but its rustic food like this that makes me squeal with glee—a marriage of fresh ingredients with solid technique and preparation. Simply served with crisp green beans and balsamic vinegar, this dish highlighted the quality of the liver— and what awesome liver it was! It had none of that chalky, gritty, starchy texture of subpar liver; rather they were smooth and creamy, closer to foie gras.
Angelini Osteria also serves desserts; some are great (mascarpone with crumbled cookies, espresso, and brandy), some are bad (carrot cake). But do like we did and walk across the street to Milk to indulge in some dark chocolate-vanilla ice cream bars. Me and my grandma think they’re some of the best in the city.
7313 Beverly Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90036