There are few Italian restaurants that strike meÂ as havingÂ an authentic charm it can call its own. But now that I’ve been introduced to to the hospitality and cuisineÂ of Marino – I can now point to a place that prides itself as much on attentive serviceÂ as its food.Â Great conversation andÂ the freshest ingredients: I canÂ only describe it asÂ The Italian Way. I’m a fan.
Sal Marino – son of original restauranteur Ciro, who first opened Il Grano in Santa Monica – personallyÂ took care of Caroline on Crack, Joshua of FoodGPS and me one night at the restaurant nearby Paramount Pictures. As our team of servers came out with our food, we were increasingly overwhelmed by not only the quantity but also the presentation of things on their menu. We started out with an antipasti dish that included eggplant, zucchini, beets, sweet roasted red and yellow peppers with capers and cipollini onionsÂ seasoned withÂ marinara. Decidedly seasonal, the dish whetted our appetites for the real heavyweights to come.
The baked artichokes were rich, creamy and stuffed with two different cheeses. Though they look small, they were so rich as an appetizer I could have actually shared one. Call me weaksauce.
The fried calamari that came out were noticeably fresh and had a perfect breading. Apparently, the calamari doubles as that also supplied to sushi chefs – not your typical filler appetizer with something to hide from being fried.
The Risotto alla Salsiccia e Funghi came paired with a delicious,Â house-made Maccheroncini sauced with an Amatriciana marinara (tomato with caramelized white onion and pancetta). The risotto in particular was my favorite – okay, yes, I am partial to risotto – but the homemade sausage in the risotto was especially good, as was the fact that three different kinds of mushrooms were included: oyster, shiitake and porcini. The porcini is so delicate it actually dissolves into the risotto upon preparation.