I blush, feeling both tickled and embarrassed by the special attention Terroni’s bartender is lavishing upon me in the form of heady Italian red wines. Stephanie from Stuffy Cheaks snaps a picture of my collection of glasses – she’s equally impressed by the service we are receiving.
After a moment’s hesitation, I finally settle on the 2007 Montefalco Rosso Antonelli, a blend of Sangiovese, Sagrantino, Merlot, and Cabernet Sauvignon that is very fruit forward on the palate. It’s a pleasant wine that I imagine will taste even better when paired with food.
Stephanie and I don’t have to wait long for such sustenance to arrive. Moments later the bartender presents us with a plate of four slices of an Italian stromboli-style pastry with zucchini, eggplant, spicy salami and mozzarella. Despite the diminutive size, the bites pack a potent punch on the tongue – everything is well-seasoned, and the salami has a surprising kick. I initially mistake it for Terroni’s addictive peperoncini piccanti that the restaurant serves as a condiment for their Neapolitan-style pizzas and rustic Southern Italian pasta dishes.
Once our friend Kate arrives at the restaurant, Stephanie and I bid our charming bartenders – and incidentally, all attentive service – goodbye for the rest of the evening. After we’ve been seated at our table for four in the far corner of the buzzing restaurant, we feel as though we’ve been forgotten. Fortunately, we have Terroni’s comforting Italian soul food to assuage our wounds from the social slight.
We start with an order of the fried Arancini, an item from the antipasti or “Apristomaco” menu. The golden conical-shaped rice balls come with judicious slices of parmesan cheese that seem almost superfluous upon tasting the arancini. The center is stuffed with ground meat and cheese and immediately makes me think, “Fried Bolognese.” I love the twist on what can occasionally be a bland, mushy bite, and am happy to oblige my dining companions when they insist I take the last one.
I am less enthusiastic about our second starter – the Ricchia salad with arugula, fresh mushrooms, parmesan shavings, lemon, and extra-virgin olive oil. The salad is meant to be pure – a study in what can be achieved when using fresh, high-quality ingredients – but it is a little too understated for my tastes. I enjoy having a bright interlude in the middle of our comfort food fest, but would not feel necessarily inclined to select the same salad again.
For our entrees, we each opt for one of Terroni’s freshly made pastas. At our waiter’s suggestion, I select the Capunti al Ragu d’Agnello with handmade capunti pasta, slow cooked lamb ragu and pecorino, and am immediately smitten with my cuddly bowl of carbohydrate decadence. While it’s an atypical preparation of a ragu – the lamb is served as pellets rather than supple strands that can more readily soak up the sauce – it’s an appropriate pairing for the shape of the pasta. I adore the chewiness of the capunti that is almost reminiscent of gnocchi in terms of shape and texture.
I’m also fond of Stephanie’s pasta selection – the Linguine alle Vongole e Bottarga with clams and bottarga in a white wine sauce. Even without the assistance of the clams, the some what stiff al dente linguine oozes oceanic flavor. I imagine that the over-the-top brininess might be tiresome after several bites, but I am delighted with the forkful of pasta I sample.
Kate is least excited about her dish – the Spaghetti ca’ Pummarola N’Goppa which is Terroni’s version of spaghetti with tomato sauce, garlic and basil. While such a dish can be a standout when done right, she finds it to be a little too simple, and the pasta is a bit thick and unwieldy to work through.
I’m tempted to order the nutella fritters with hazelnut gelato for dessert, but by this juncture in the evening, we’ve all grown a little weary from the poor service we’ve received from our disappearing waiter. I stare sadly at my empty wine glass that he never offered to replenish, but pay my portion of the bill without regret. Even though the rest of the evening wasn’t as successful as the first 20 minutes Stephanie and I spent at the bar, it was still an enjoyable night with friends.
Next time, however, I’ll be more inclined to spend my $18 on a bowl of pasta at Osteria Mozza – a place where I’ve never had to ask for a refill of wine, and a place where I would never ever find it conceivable to pass up dessert.
7605 Beverly Blvd.,
Los Angeles, CA