Fall and Full Bar Descend Upon Pitfire Pizza on Fairfax

Apple & Pork Festival, Sprouts ‘n Bacon Pizza, Rumpkin Pie Cocktail, Linguica Ragout (clockwise)

The place known for its consistently great, tasty and reasonable Neopolitan crust with the sides and pasta to match has stepped it up in the booze department – at least at their location on Fairfax. Formerly confined to wine and beer, Pitfire Pizza now has a full liquor license with a fall cocktail menu to debut with the return of a few fall food favorites.

The great thing about their new cocktail menu is that they’ve streamlined it to just a trio of pretty phenomenal seasonals but also Moscow Mules made with Tito’s on tap, a few classics like the Old Fashioned and Negroni, and another trio of customizable sours with your choice of spirit. And they all go for a wallet-happy $8 per cocktail.

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Favorite Dish: Bestia’s Cavatelli alla Norcina

Cavatelli alla Norcina

(What qualifies as) The Los Angeles chill and corresponding grey skies have gotten me into a pasta mood. You may call them carbs with requisite detachment, but I have nothing but reverence for such sustenance. Fresh, handmade pasta is the stuff of comfort: It’s the thick, wool scarf on a windy day. It’s the down fill in your duvet.

So as I sat down at the bar at Bestia for a taste of the menu – a one-top during one of my reclusive holiday moods – I realized immediately that I’d have to come back. There were just too many things on the menu that sounded too good to pass up. But thanks to bartender Karen Grill, who was working that night, I had the inside on the menu highlights…of which there were many. So of course, the hard part was picking just one.

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The BBQ Pulled Pork Sandwich & More at J. Nichols

BBQ Pulled Pork Sandwich

As far as Los Angeles neighborhoods go, Marina del Rey isn’t exactly known as a culinary hotbed. So imagine my surprise when I found quite a few well-conceived menu items at J. Nichols, a recently revamped strip mall eatery.

Black Pepper Wings

My favorite of the meal was the BBQ Pulled Pork Sandwich – an item that you’ll find under the “sandwich,” not “burger,” column. How many times have I had a pulled pork sandwich where the bun sopped up all the sauce before essentially becoming a shell of itself, having lost its integrity? We all know and even love what a mess any handheld pulled pork item can be, but what if the “mess” part was contained somewhat by a firm, but tasty, pretzel bun? What’s more – the lightly fried, even delicate onion rings also help absorb the sauce, giving the pulled pork sandwich more structure and even crunch than anything this saucy and tasty ever afforded, before.

The Black Pepper Wings were another stand-out, an atypical nod of the Asian (Fusion) Persuasion. Think Black Pepper Beef, but with chicken, instead – and in a manner best enjoyed while your eyes are set on the sports screen. Tasty wings, they are, and there’s no better sauce from which to lick from your lips and fingers.

Of course, there are the menu essentials such as the beet salad and Brussels sprouts, both of which are done as well as anywhere. But my favorite pasta was the Creamy Chipotle Rigatoni, which was done al dente and finished off with that perfect kick. Corn and cherry tomatoes give the dish a nice, sweet touch while the mushrooms sustain its earthy notes.

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Simmzy’s is a Long Beach Neighborhood Delight

Daytime view from open patio at Simmzy’s Long Beach

Long Beach is that sister city, south of Los Angeles. If you are one who truly loves being an Angeleno – without the irony, that is – you accept The LBC as the L.A. away from L.A. Each block is potentially completely different from the next, and it’s one vast county hosting a cornucopia of cultures and backgrounds.

Blue Cheese Haystack

And then there’s Long Beach-Belmont Shore. At Simmzy’s second location, their corner on the block is bustling with flip-flops, beer and pub food. It’s a true pub without having bowed to the recent “gastro-” trends as of late. Besides, Simmzy’s are beachy places without the beachfront. People sometimes just want good weather, good beer (offered up by two dozen taps), a good time and good food – not groundbreaking culinary trends.

While I tend to think the Manhattan Beach location is a tad small, the Long Beach one also has no problems filling its space to the gills. They’ve got day-of-the-week special, which happened to be the Short Rib & Chocolate Porter Chili on Saturdays – a sweet, tangy treat. Though their crust is not a lot to write home about, their pizzas showcase some original topping combinations, such as a smoked Bacon & Date Marscapone, made with garlic, mozzarella, sage and balsalmic syrup for a slightly sweet treat.

And while I know that Brussels sprouts are a bit of a shoe-in for many places, I can’t say that I’ve had many executed so impressively as their carmelized rendition, with butter, garlic, lemon, anchovies, capers and bruschetta for a succulent yet zesty combination.

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Delicious Bites and Top-Notch Cocktails in Elegant Sadie, Hollywood

The Lounge at Sadie

I was at Sadie last night with some good girlfriend-bloggers – about a week past its official opening. It was a belated discovery that the cocktails at Sadie, curated by Giovanni Martinez, are pretty tasty. Having known Giovanni is a cocktail sleuth behind the bar thanks to his extensive travels, I was definitely not disappointed by the range and execution of the drink menu.

The Sadie Float

Although the crust on the flatbreads were overcooked and tough, the main entrees were way better than I might expect from a Hollywood Boulevard spot. (I’m truly enjoying each time I’m surprised by my own neighborhood, by the way.) Dave Schmit’s Scottish Salmon, Jidori Chicken (with delicious spätzel) and Spinach Pasta were all enjoyed by my dinner companions and myself.

But on those cocktails. My favorite of the night was the White Monk, made with white pepper & cardamom-infused Dolin Blanc Vermouth, silver tequila, Castilian bitters and Benedictine rinse. I love tequila, but this is the cocktail to erase all those college Jose Cuervo memories that have soured some drinkers towards tequila forever. It’s beautifully fragrant and extra smooth going down.

Black & White

But there’s nothing like a secret cocktail menu to spice up a stint at the supper club. Off Giovanni’s public list is “The Badger,” a unique drink made with reposado tequila, egg white and Miracle Mile bitters. But my favorite off this secret menu was definitely The Sadie Float. It’s made with Campari-flavored soda, Peychaud ice cream and, of course, Campari.

Looking at it, you’d think it was the typical, sweet cocktail made sweeter by the fact that it also has ice cream. Once you taste it, you discover pure Italian genius. It’s fizzy, slightly bitter and yet creamy. And it’s pure heaven. Hint: Don’t get it if you don’t like Campari.

Sadie Courtyard

While you’re there, you have plenty of perspectives to choose from as far as seating as the entire interior is pleasing. Sit in the front foyer bar area, dubbed the Parlour, for some darker hues and modern angles. The middle Lounge provides more of a speakeasy feel while the stone effaced Courtyard in back is probably one of the most beautiful patios I’ve seen in all of Hollywood. (Heat lamps are plentiful, if not in overabundance, back here.)

But you’d be committing a crime if you were to leave Sadie without having dessert. Their Peanut Butter & Jelly Ice Cream Sandwich is out of this world, as is their Black & White, or flourless chocolate cake complete with white chocolate ice cream on the side. The “clutch” dessert, however, at this spot is the Homemade Donuts and Irish Coffee Cream.

You won’t visit Sadie for the bargain, but like most places in Hollywood, for the atmosphere which thankfully is not a detractor from the food and cocktails, but instead an enhancement. The food has the potential to stand all on its own while the cocktails make Sadie a destination. Forget Les Deux I, II and IX; hopefully Sadie, with its multi-faceted interior and approach, is here to stay.

All food and cocktails were hosted.

Dinner:

Tue -Wed: 5:30 – 11 PM
Thur – Sat: 5:30 PM – 1 AM

Bar:

Tue – Wed 5:30 – 11 PM
Thur – Sat 5:30 PM – 2 AM

Sadie
1638 N. Las Palmas Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90028
323.467.0200

Plenty of Reasons to Love Osteria La Buca

Pork Meatballs, Calabrian Chilis, Almond Tomato Sauce

I’ll get right to the point. Let’s count the reasons, shall we?

Delicious, housemade charcuterie: Check. Fresh, housemade pasta: Check. Flavorful and tender-to-the-fork meatballs: Check. Tasty Neopolitan pizzas: Check. Former Porchetta and 10 Downing (NYC) chef Jason Neroni in the kitchen: Check.

Salumi: Chicken Liver Pork Pate, Porchetta di Testa, Terrina Campagnola, Whipped Lardo

I had the opportunity to try all this and more at a recent media lunch and came out glad that I played hooky devoted work PTO to doing so. Nothing is lost, however, on the starters. The ricotta croquettas topped with a touch of truffle honey haven’t lost their touch – still fluffy as ever - in the changeover. The excellent salumi that came out included a chicken liver and pork pate, porchetta di testa, terrina campagnola – and last, but certainly not least, a whipped lardo. I couldn’t get enough of that lardo, so of course I couldn’t complain when it also appeared on the lightly fried green tomatoes. But the meatballs! The meatballs! How unordinary they were, what with their flavor and texture. They were really divine. In between these bites were smoked and extra meaty olives and pickles as well as salted, pork fat almonds.

Parpadelle with Rabbit, Castelvetrano Olives, Porcini Mushrooms

Only after all of this did we really start lunch.

The pasta was delicious. Not oversauced, not too simplistic with just enough going on to keep things cohesive, interesting and more than enjoyable. The freshness of the angelotti, bucatini and parpadelle were quite as good as any I’ve had, with those pastas being made the same day in a specially designated “pasta room” (which doubles as a private dining room housing the chef’s table) just upstairs.

Feeling like a sweet-ish pasta? Go with the Sweet Corn Angelotti with Dungeness Crab, Lemon Basil and Butter. In the mood for a heavier variety? The Rabbit Parpadelle with Castelvetrano Olives and Porchini Mushrooms is also excellent. The Bucatini Carbonara comes with an irresistable poached egg and is seasoned with Marscarpone, Guanciale and Black Pepper, which gives this pasta a delicious kick.

Basil Ice Cream, Sauteed Strawberries

The pizza is delicious, though I must admit that my favorite tends to be the simplest variety – appropriate named “The Classic” at Osteria La Buca: Mozzarella, tomato, sea salt and basil is all you’ll find on this one. But the fennel sausage variety with ricotta, pickled jalapenos and garlic paste is also game. It all depends on what you like.

I must say, though, don’t forget dessert. Especially the refreshing Basil Ice Cream with Sauteed Strawberries. The Chocolate Budino with sea salt also stands on its own, and dare I say its simplicity gives Mozza’s a run for their money?

Osteria La Buca really is a delightful place to dine, with plenty of solid options. With its recent, refresher remodel setting the framework for Jason Neroni’s arrival, it’s apparent that they have aimed to step up their game. While I found the former La Buca warm and charming, it seems that Chef Neroni has tightened things up and dishes come out a bit more refined. Delicioso.

All food, wine and cocktails were hosted.

 

Tue – Thu: 11:30 AM – 2:30 PM
5:30 PM – 10:30 PM

Fri: 11:30 AM – 2:30 PM
5:30 PM – 11 PM

Sat 5:30 PM – 11 PM
Sun 5 PM – 10 PM

Osteria La Buca
5210 Melrose Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90038
323.462.1900

The Tuscan Fried Chicken at Cube LA

Tuscan Fried Chicken

If “November” and “turkey” have become a little too synonymous for you, you’re lucky to have the option of some good ol’ fried chicken at Cube. It’s available only until Wednesday, November 24 – and if you don’t catch it now, you can expect to see it again in about a year.

Cheese & Salumi

The recipe is of the Tuscan variety and for $23 you get a a half-chicken chock with lemon wedge, Maple Roasted windrose Farm White Acorn Squash and sauteed McGrath Pea Tendrils. This isn’t your usual, butter-filled entree but rather a zesty, juicy bird that packs a punch; red pepper flakes are in the batter. The fluffy breading crumbles beautifully under the weight of your knife (should you feel like sharing) and between your jowls to reveal an extremely tender, semi-boneless masterpiece by Executive Chef Erin Eastland.

While you’re at Cube, don’t forget a custom cheese-salumi plate of your choosing and glass of wine to start. It’s always a delightful experience whenever I’ve dined there; trying the limited edition fried chicken plate was no exception. To finish it off, go seasonal and try their Warm Hachiya Persimmon Pudding or satisfy your chocolate craving with Dark Chocolate Espresso Cheesecake.

All food and wine were hosted.

Fried chicken available through November 24, 2010

Tue – Sat, 11 AM – 11 PM

Cube
615 N. La Brea Avenue
Los Angeles, CA
323.939.1148

The Spaghetti at Scarpetta

Spaghetti With Tomato and Basil ($26)

It really all started with a heavenly dish of Duck Foie Gras Ravioli in Meatpacking District. So when I heard Scott Conant’s Scarpetta was coming to the left coast back in October - and no further than across the Canon Drive Beverly Hills parkway from Bouchon – I became elated that I would finally get to try the famous spaghetti. What’s more, I wouldn’t have to reserve one of my meals to do so (and commit a “repeat”) on my next trip to New York.

It’s a $26 entree in an upscale, self-described “Old Hollywood-style” interior. Personally, it reminded me more of New York – but I have prior associations and attachments. The pasta in Beverly Hills, though? Perfectly al dente. It’s made with semolina flour and zero-zero pasta. The fresh basil brought the other dimension to the vibrant tomato, and I found myself scarfing down the European-sized portion of noodles and sauce.

If I visit Scarpetta often and never order another dish, I would be just as happy.

Sunday – Thursday

5:30 – 11:00 PM

Friday – Saturday

5:30 PM – Midnight

Free parking for 2 hrs in public underground, adjacent lot

Scarpetta at Montage
225 North Canon Dr.
Beverly Hills, CA 90210
310.860.7970