Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Osteria Mozza: The Happiest (Foodie) Place on Earth

When my semi-sister Ali told me she was coming to visit me for the weekend, she requested that we go some place I'd never been before so she could be the "star" of one of my posts. While I understood her desire to be the center of attention (I'm the youngest child in my family and only girl), I was reluctant to take her to a restaurant that could potentially offend her picky tongue. I wanted to woo her with my LA dining scene expertise -- I wanted to give her a Mozza experience.

Since I have already written about Pizzeria Mozza twice, and my Long Island born and raised friend is a pizza purist, I decided that Osteria Mozza, the Pizzeria's more sophisticated sister, was the best way to knock her taste buds off. I'd already dined at the two star Michelin restaurant three times prior, but had never written about it before -- a travesty that I am happy to correct here today. Unfortunately, while I wish I could continue letting my dear foodie friend take center stage in my review, there is another lady that requires mention.

Her name is Nancy Silverton, and she is the woman behind both the Mozzas.

After living in Los Angeles for the past three and a half years, celebrity sightings don't give me the same thrill as they did when I was a mail-cart pushing intern and an elevator ride with Jack Black was enough to justify the battle wounds (and blisters) from the experience. Yet, when Nancy strode out from the kitchen to meet the party sitting beside my friend and I on Saturday night, my eyes glazed over and my heart seized up in my chest. I was chef-struck.

And also a little woozy from my quartino of Barbera.

Regardless of the effects of the full-bodied, spicy Italian wine on my emotions, part of me really did want to leap up from my seat on the banquet and hug her. This is the chef that has brought me countless hours of joy over the past two years -- not to mention countless memories with special people like Ali, my brother, my roommate and other dear friends. Ms. Silverton is a genius with bread, mozzarella and dough, and over the course of the past year-and-a-half, she has turned Osteria Mozza into the happiest place on earth (or at least in Los Angeles) for a foodie.

Amuse bouches covered in succulent mozzarella, and thick slices of yeasty, fresh La Brea Bakery bread, immediately set the tone for the Mozza dining experience. It is clear from the beginning that something special is afoot within the perpetually bustling restaurant. Service is respectful and courteous, attention is paid to every fallen napkin or dirty fork, and there is a distinct sense of possibility in the air. Every night in Osteria Mozza is ripe with the opportunity to feast on something extraordinary-- something that the pristinely-attired patrons will not find at any other Italian eatery in town.

Osteria Mozza's uniqueness is best captured by its Mozzarella Bar that offers diners fourteen different ways to consume the succulent fresh cheese. On this particular evening, I select the Burrata with grilled asparagus, brown butter, guanciale and Sicilian almonds, a dish that nearly takes my breath away with its symphony of flavors. The sweetness of the almonds and brown butter, the saltiness of the guanciale (fancy bacon) and the luscious burrata are absurdly well-balanced -- the perfect partners in a crime of gluttony. Even though I have two more dishes to attend to, I can't stop myself from scraping my plate bare with a second slice of mulit-grain bread.

Up next on my itinerary for complete gastronomical satisfaction is, in my opinion, the piece de resistance on the Antipasti menu. The grilled octopus with potatoes, celery and lemon, is my favorite appetizer in the city. The caramelized char on the tender, meaty pieces of octopus paired with the bright citrus and tangy green onions is a combination that leaves me flummoxed. I don't understand it, but I love it, and can't imagine dining at the restaurant without the eight-legged squid joining me at the table.

My sentiments toward the grilled octopus are echoed for the orecchiette with sausage and Swiss chard, one of the most popular pasta dishes on the menu, and my personal favorite among the varieties I've tried. While the tagliatelle with oxtail ragu does put up a fight for preeminence, the orecchiette exemplifies why Osteria Mozza requires diners to call a month in advance for reservations. The girthy kernels of sausage are spooned by each al dente earlobe noodle, making it clear that the shape of the pasta is playing a pivotal role in the success of this dish. The toasted bread crumbs add further dimension -- yet another example of how much thought has gone into the plate. It is details like this that make this restaurant worthy of its Michelin fame. And it is details like this that will keep me coming back time and time again.

While I am loathe to end the review with my summation on the dessert, I do feel it appropriate to mention that they do not match the superiority of the rest of the menu. That's not to say I am not impressed by the artistic presentations of dishes like the Apple Borsellino (pictured above), but the desserts are ultimately upstaged by the savory pastas and swoon worthy mozzarella.

Of course, that's not necessarily a bad thing.

Feel free to use the opportunity to order more cheese. Or go in for a second (or third) slice of bread. Or to try something truly spectacular from the secondi menu, like the beef brasato with polenta and horseradish gremolota. There is life beyond dessert. And fortunately for Los Angelos, that life at Osteria Mozza is good.


Esi said...

oh my GAWD! Sounds like an insanely awesome meal. It's part of my 101 to dine at both Mozzas and I am for sure going to have to try the burrata and oricchiette.

The Blonde Duck said...

Life beyond dessert...maybe if I keep saying it I'll believe it! :)

Diana said...

Esi - That is an excellent 101 goal! :) I really want to try to recreate something like the orrechiette pasta dish, but have no clue where to begin! If you try it, you'll have to let me know what your take is -- I want Mozza at home!

Miranda - Hah, maybe if life lasted for a week!

Kirby! said...

Oh man, I still dream about the Burrata.... I think the next time I go back, I'm just going to order every freaking item from the mozzarella bar and have a cheesestravaganza!!!!

Heather said...

how exciting that you had a celebrity chef experience :) osteria mozza sounds like the perfect places for you and your friend. the dinner sounds delicious, too :)

Erica said...

oh yum yum. Anything that involves fresh cheese is ok in my book! What a great restaurant!

Diana said...

Kirby - A cheesestravaganza is a brilliant beyond brilliant idea! The only thing better than cheese is more cheeeese! And bacon. :)

Heather, Erica - Yes, such a good restaurant! I wish I could pack up my things and move in so I could eat there every night!