Los Angeles certainly has a healthy number of Italian restaurants, and many of them are very good. However, the number of big occasion Italian restaurants is nothing like it is in my hometown of St. Louis, or New York, Chicago or San Francisco for that matter. With the arrival of Nonna of Italy, in August of 2007, the landscape of fine Italian restaurants in Los Angeles has changed dramatically, and for the better.
The décor is California modern, with lots of wood and leather, running water and open space. In addition to the dual dining rooms and bar, there’s also an outdoor patio for the rare pleasure of an elegant outdoor meal in L.A. We arrived for dinner at 7:30, and in addition to some superb and attentive service, we had the pleasure of dining at the table next to the great Diahann Carroll, which was also a treat.
We started our meal with lobster salad, which featured a circle of arugula topped with incredibly fresh, moist poached lobster, lemon and olive oil. Absolutely delicious. We also dug the crispy softshell crab, which was a special appetizer for the evening. Like most haute cuisine in the Tuscan tradition, the superiority of the ingredients and the sure-handed simplicity of the preparation combined to create an exquisite balance of quality and taste.
Carciofini — a salad of thinly sliced small artichokes, red onion and parsley with a lemon vinaigrette — was generously apportioned and totally refreshing, leading us to the spectacular entrees. Soglia Fresca, a fresh fillet of imported dover sole lightly sautéed with clarified butter, was expertly filleted at tableside and served with fresh lemon, garlic mashed potatoes and farmers market vegetables. So fresh, so elegant, a total classic.
Then there was the Costolette d’Agnello Scottadito, or rack of lamb to you and me. A full five-bone in New Zealand rack of lamb, grilled expertly (medium, of course), and, I’m not kidding or embellishing in the least, the best rack of lamb I’ve ever had in Los Angeles. Rightfully it is the house specialty, and a shining example of how solid and accomplished Nonna is, as evidenced by this extraordinarily regal dish.
Dessert was superb as well. Panna Cotta was rich and smooth, the soft vanilla crème contrasting beautifully with a raspberry coulis. And a trio of mousses — dark chocolate, white chocolate and hazelnut milk chocolate — was creamy smooth and like all good mousse, light as a feather.
All in all, Nonna served us a meal that would stand out to even the most discriminating lover of Italian food. Although I wouldn’t call it a void per se, the relative scarcity of great Italian restaurants in Los Angeles is no longer relatively as scarce. Enter Nonna of Italy, a restaurant practical enough to dine at any day, and extraordinary enough to be a major, big event Italian restaurant on the Southern California culinary landscape.
Nonna of Italy is located at 9255 Sunset Boulevard. For reservations, please call 310-270-4455.