Be Italian

Osteria Mozza Hollywood 4 Jan 10
eat: Grilled Octopus, Crostini di Anatra, Agnolotti Burro e Salvia, Bombolini
sip: Soave Classico Suavia 07

"Be Italian. Live today as if it may become your last". These words were passionately belted out by Fergie in the "Nine", the starlet-packed movie-musical based on Fellini and his assortment of often scantily-clad babes. The film is an orgy of Italian iconography - sporty Alfa-Romeo convertibles, sensual women, high fashion, breathtaking villages perched on cliffs, and the architectural wonders of Roma - that transports the viewer to 1960‘s Italy. Dining at Osteria Mozza, a Los Angeles gem co-owned by powerhouses Nancy Silverton, Mario Batali, and Joseph Bastianich, has a similar effect; the magnificent food, attentive service, and bustling atmosphere combine to create a dreamland of Italian delicacies. Everything is bellisima - the soft lighting, the fresh ingredients, the tantalizing smells of braised meat and pungent garlic, even our fellow diners are beautiful.

In my opinion, a seat at the bar is the best view in the house. The traditional, zinc bar has been perfectly art directed with an array of rustic treats - a bundle of lavender sprigs, platters of roast tomatoes and leeks, white pumpkins, and an adorable menagerie of brass ducks. Behind the bar, aproned staff prepare plates of anitpasti; watching them slice a plump prosciutto is food porn, Italian style. After seeking ordering advice from our friendly & knowledgeable waitress, Julie, we are presented with a gift of ricotta, tapenade, and basil crostini. Since Mozza offers a tantalizing array of cheeses at their Mozzarella Bar, I wasn't surprised that the ricotta was creamy, fresh exquisiteness. Next, there was charred, dare I say "meaty", Grilled Octopus complemented by a lemony celery & potato salad. Usually, celery is an undistinguished ingredient in soups or stuffing, but here the crisp, crunchy veggie is raised to a culinary level and I'm longing to recreate this refreshing salad on a sultry, summer day. In keeping with my "greens at every meal" mantra, Market Lettuces with Crostini Di Anatra followed. The crostini were slathered with a fatty, flavorful duck rillettes (Italian vocab lesson: Anatra = duck) and the greens were perked up with a shallot dressing. Moving on to the carb-ilicious part of the meal, we have Agnolotti bathed in Burro e Salvia (sage butter); these little, pillowy pasta pockets miraculously stuffed with 5 kinds of meat, including veal cheeks, pork, and mortadella, are a new contender for the title "Heart Attack on A Plate", the affectionate nickname for Pasta Alla Carbonara. Honestly, this was hands-down one of the best pasta dishes I've ever tasted, a "last meal before you die", orgasmic dish. Perhaps the Tagliatelle with Oxtail Ragu was overshadowed by the awesome agnolotti, but I found the ragu to be overwhelmingly salty and mediocre, though the thick ribbons of homemade tagliatelle were divine. In spite of our bursting bellies, we couldn't resist the Bombolini, fresh doughnuts piled atop huckleberry compote, served with vanilla gelato nestled in lemon curd. The marriage of fried, tangy, sweet and creamy was a flawless finish to our magnifico meal. Throughout the meal, I savored glasses of Suavia Soave Classico 07, a medium-bodied, lemony, mineral-y white wine that complemented the hearty meal beautifully.

When I moved to L.A., I complained about the lack of Italian restaurants, which I blamed on both the absence of a large, Italian community and the carb-heavy cuisine's lack of appeal to fitness-obsessed Angelenos. Thankfully, Osteria Mozza, and the equally yummy sister restaurants, Pizzeria Mozza and Mozza-to-Go (their takeout joint) are here to satisfy my Italian cravings. Mozza isn't cheap, especially if you are an eater like myself, but it's worth the splurge. Deal Alert: A special menu is offered Sun.- Thurs nights at the Mozzarella Bar that includes a cheese, a pasta, a dessert, and a hefty glass of vino for only $35.