Monday, January 31, 2011

DineLA 2011 Review - Hostaria Del Piccolo

Usually I avoid restaurant week / Dine LA due to several poor Restaurant Week experiences back in New York.  The prix fixe menus are generally limited and unappealing; restaurants very rarely offer their best "signature dishes" on the prix fixe, so you aren't getting the real experience of going to the restaurant, which kind of makes the visit pointless.  The dishes the are served on the prix fixe menu often turn out mediocre and not reflective of the usual quality of the restaurant, tasting as if the kitchen didn't care to put much effort into them.  A lot of the time, service is also quite surly; you can tell the wait staff is not thrilled about offering the promotion, either because the promotions tend to draw a different crowd than their regulars or because the tips are lower because of the lower average check; probably a combination of both.  I've had very few good meals during restaurant week, which is why I generally avoid it.  In fact, the poor experience has led me to refuse to go back to those restaurants, even outside of restaurant week.

Last night, I decided to give DineLA another shot; we had just gotten back from Colorado to an empty fridge, plus I had heard good things about Hostaria Del Piccolo, both as part of and also outside of DineLA.  The restaurant is relatively new, opening at the end of 2010.  I find the space odd; it's located on the ground floor of a residential building on Broadway.  There's a nice open kitchen, but the rest of the restaurant is rather dark with dark woods and dim lighting.  The benches that we sat on were quite uncomfortable; hard with no cushion and nothing to lean back against.  There are a couple of flatscreen tvs that show a flickering fireplace, but I just found it cold and artificial, and not at all homey, which is the intended effect.  It's definitely not a comfortable place for dinner, without much ambiance.  Service was fine.  We ordered off of the DineLA menu:
Costicine: baby back ribs, herbs and beans
Anguilla: crispy sauteed eel over vegetable caponata
Rigatoni with Italian sausage, tomato cream, peas, mushroom and parmesan
Tonno: Mozzarella, pizzaiola cruda, ahi tuna, green onions, squid ink dough
Panzerotti: crispy hot ravioli filled with apples, vanilla cinnamon sauce
Pumpkin panna cotta, zucchini blossom sauce
I thought the appetizers were pretty bad.  The short ribs were greasy and underseasoned, as were the deep fried eels.  I was particularly disappointed in the eels; if I'm going to have something deep fried, it better be awesome!  But instead, the batter was thick and flavorless, and did nothing to enhance the eel. Both dishes could have used a touch of acid; they were both so flat and boring.  The entrees were much better; I quite liked my rigatoni.  There was nice texture and chew to the rigatoni, and the mushroom and sausage cream sauce was quite tasty, without being too heavy.  The pizza was pretty good; I've never had seared tuna on a pizza before, so it was interesting.  I liked the tart tomato sauce.  The squid ink dough was mostly just a novelty; I don't think it added much flavor to the dough, just turned it black.  The pizza dough was ok, still a little on the floury side on the bottom.  The desserts were decent.  I liked the apple ravioli, although I thought that the dough could be more delicate.  The panna cotta was fine, but not very memorable; the zucchini blossom sauce didn't taste like much (plus it's not zucchini season!).  The beer and cocktail list were pretty interesting, but I found the wine list a little lacking, and I usually love Italian wine; I had a very ordinary chianti with my meal.  Overall, it was an ok meal, but we won't be in a rush to go back.  It's too bad; I've been looking for a good casual Italian place on the westside, but just haven't found it yet.

Hostaria del Piccolo
606 Broadway
Santa Monica, CA 90401

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