There’s a trace amount of apprehension I try to temper when I find myself dining in oversized spaces. The fear stems from the likelihood of spending time and money dining in a space that is less likely to feel personalized – whether in terms of physical sense of space and/or the quality of service enjoyed during the meal.
You’d think this wouldn’t bode well for RivaBella, IDG’s latest project on the western most end of The Sunset Strip, as it sprawls across an expansive 8,000 square feet. In hindsight of a pleasant night in their really beautiful space, though: Who, besides IDG, might have the resources to maximize the talents of Gino Angelini, the maestro of the long-reigning Los Angeles osteria?
On that patio, with perhaps the largest retractable roof in L.A, the layout was such that my table actually felt even a little bit intimate. The foliage, fireplace and differentiating space design (like a little faux wine cave) was tastefully done so as to let the ambiance flow freely while still affording a bit a privacy from party to party.
Two cocktails I tried were successfully spirit-forward and delicious, indicating a promising cocktail menu I’m curious to delve into even more – especially given their beautiful, marble and silver-detailed bar. For now: Order the white negroni, which is fittingly served in a martini glass as opposed to the rocks glass at Bestia (West Hollywood vs. Industrial District, what have you) – but it’s nearly just as fantastic.
That’s not to discount, though, that RivaBella, in all its Sunset Strip glory, is the scene to see and be seen. So know what you go for. With Angelini Osteria being the well-oiled machine that it is, Gino Angelini now spends all of his time here. While we’re all intimately familiar with the “small plates” concept here in Los Angeles and ultimately at RivaBella, the flavors outsized any expectation I had reserved for such scenes. So while it could be chalked up to the low bar I had set, the well executed dishes are to the credit of Chef Angelini.
The octopus had that classic, charred flavor and texture while the salsa verde ladled over the top was beautifully bright; the nested pasta was the perfect portion to impart equal parts spicy meat and cream. And as a perfect metaphor for the restaurant, the Eggplant Parmigiana was deceptively small – even bordering on looking precious – but once you weave past the fried eggplant splices and cut into the delicate, cylindrically cut layers of pasta, the intense flavors and textures delight. Rustic Italian cooking fancified for Hollywood consumption – this is RivaBella.
The Branzino, however, was pretty much the star of the night. It was impossibly flaky with some intensely rich flavors – all topped by a perfect, crispy and salty skin. The roasted tomatoes were a nice, sweet element to the dish and, together with the spinach, it just made for a beautifully executed trio.
Of course, I’d be remiss if I didn’t go over the desserts. They’re fancy like your fellow diners and they’re pretty much delicious. But the Tiramisu was especially boozy, so you’ll want to go with that.