Must Mangia at Mozza

Osteria Mozza

It seems like every Angelino worth their grain of salt has gone to eat at one of the Mozza restaurants, a collection of Italian-themed eateries from Nancy Silverton, Mario Batali and Joe Bastianich.  Although I have heard some raving reviews for both Pizzeria Mozza or Osteria Mozza, I was more keenly interested to eat at Osteria Mozza.  Thankfully, my sister, having already visited multiple times, thought it would be a good place to take our Mom for her birthday.  In fact, all my siblings have eaten there before, so it was only my mom, Pdho and myself who were going to be trying it for the very first time.  So after a long day biking from Manhattan Beach to Santa Monica and back, my family, H.o.P. had worked up a very healthy appetite.

Packed House Tonight

I’m quite geographically challenged when it comes to the LA restaurant scene, but it looks like both these restaurants are located on a foodie-lover’s strip of Melrose Ave at the corner of Highland where there seemed to be quite a number of nice-looking restaurants.  The restaurant was absolutely packed inside, particularly at the bar where there seemed to be a mix of patrons eating dinner while others were partaking in a drink before their table would become available.  Even though we showed up about 15 minutes late for our reservation, we ended up having to wait over an hour to get seated.  The place was absolutely packed that evening, but the people sitting at our table completely overstayed their time.  I really think it was rather rude of those people considering how busy the restaurant was.  It was not my proudest moment, but I decided to walk by twice and give them a dirty stare to let them know they needed to get and leave…. NOW!  I was pretty overt about it and stared down some of the people that I made eye contact with, but I was hungry and they really needed to go home.

Mozarella with Four Sauces

Politely enough, as any fine restaurant should do, they brought out a mozzarella sample appetizer to apologize for our extremely long wait.  This kind gesture was greatly appreciated by H.o.P. as we wolfed down the two samplers that they brought out to us. The mozzarella was quite light in taste and very soft almost like came out with 4 different sauces (from left to right), Caperberry Relish, Olive Tapenade, Romesco, and Salsa Verde.  Although all of them provided a tasty bit of flavor to accent the taste of the mozzarella, I think the Caperberry relish was the most interesting.  The caperberries had a nice crunch along with a punchy pickled flavoring.  I really liked the various different flavors that came with this dish.

Burrata with Bacon, Marinated Escarole & Caramelized Shallots

I’m not sure if I could tell the difference between mozarella and burrata.  They both tasted fresh and creamy and served as the perfect canvas upon which to showcase the various different ingredients.  I know Pdho loves his bacon, so we ordered the Burrata with bacon, marinated escarole and caramelized shallots for our savory choice.   The bacon was wonderfully crunchy.  The combination of the salty bacon seemed to meld perfectly with the caramelized shallots.  I really liked it.  It was absolutely delicious!

Burricotta with Radicchio, Spiced Walnuts, Honey & Fried Rosemary

My brother (aka Smooth Obturator) highly encouraged all of us to get our own order of the Burricotta with radicchio, spiced walnuts, honey and fried rosemary, so much to the surprise of our waiter, we got 3 orders of it to share amongst each of the couples.  My sister, being the last to order, assured the rest of us that the waiter looked at her like we were crazy when he confirmed order #3 of the Burricotta.  Although I was pleasantly surprised by how this flavor profile played out on the plate, I was slightly annoyed with the radicchio and how difficult it was to eat.  The honey, however, added the right amount of sweetness to make the burricotta quite memorable.

Steamed Mussels with Passato di Pomodoro, Chilies & Herbs
Grilled Octopus with Potatoes, Celery, and Lemon

My mom ordered the Steamed Mussels with Passato di Pomodoro. Having just had mussels the previous evening at Pascal, I couldn’t help but compare the two dishes. Obviously, the mix of herbs, chili and tomato-flavor in the broth gave a distinct Italian flavor, and the mussels were a good size and quite plump and juicy.  A very solid dish.

Pdho and I went with the Grilled Octopus for our appetizer.  It was prepared with chunks of potatoes and slivers of celery drizzled in a lemon-flavored dressing.  The octopus was quite perfectly cooked.  Along with a nice mesquite taste, I thoroughly enjoyed the tenderness of the octopus pieces.  It was absolutely yummy!

Ricotta & Egg Raviolo with Browned Butter

I had just seen Grub Street’s spread on Pasta Porn: 101 Best Noodle dishes in the US, so I wanted to give both Osteria Mozza dishes that showed up on the list a try.  I was a little bit hesitant about ordering the Ricotta and Egg Raviolo since it sounded cheesier than I am used to, but Pdho and I decided to be bold and different.  It was a different tasting kind of dish especially the browned butter sauce, but I think it was a little bit too heavy for my taste.

Squid Ink Chitarra Freddi with Dungeness Crab, Sea Urchin & Jalapeno

I had really high hopes for this dish, because it reminded me of a similar pasta I had at Delfina.  Like the Squid Ink Chitarra Freddi, it was a pasta made with squid ink and served with uni on top.  The big difference, which I didn’t realize when ordering, was that Mozza’s dish was cold.  This was a little bit odd, and although I liked every component of the dish from the al dente noodles to the plentiful chunks of crab meat to the large piece of tender uni, I wasn’t sure if I really liked the dish overall.  The combination of both the crab meat and uni added a strong briny flavor which seemed magnified by the coldness of the dish.  The flavors were interesting and different, but I still think I would have preferred it was served hot.

Linguine with Clams, Pancetta & Spicy Fresno Chiles

My mom ordered the Linguine with Clams.  I know, it’s a little plain, but my mom likes to go with what she knows.  However, I thought that the crispy pancetta added a different dimension of flavor that you don’t normally find in a dish like this.  It was one of the better linguine with clams that I’ve had.

Gnocchi with Duck Ragu

My sister (aka Overworked) and her boyfriend, Bongky, were quite disappointed that they ran out of gnudi, so they settled for the Gnocchi with Duck Ragu.  I’m not as big of a fan of the starchy consistency of gnocchi, but I have to say that this was prepared pretty well.  The duck ragu was good if maybe on the salty side a bit.

Orecchiette with Sausage & Swiss Chard

This was probably my favorite pasta dish of the evening.  It might have been a tad bit heavy-handed with the salt maybe because of the sausage, but ironically, that’s partly why it was forgivable.    The orecchiette were perfectly-shaped to hold the bits of sausage meat and sauce, and the crispy flakes (not sure what they were) gave a crunchy texture that I really liked.

Garganelli with Ragú Bolognese

Garganelli pasta is rather unique type of pasta.  It’s kind of like flat pieces of pasta that have been curled into flute-shaped pieces… somewhere between pappardelle and rigatoni.  Anyways, it tasted fine, but not necessarily all that interesting.  Aside from the different texture from the pasta, it was a pretty plain dish in comparison to the rest.

Pan Roasted Halibut con Pepe Verde

I only took a bite of the pan-roasted halibut, but it was not all that memorable.  It wasn’t as dry as halibut can sometimes be, but it was also wrapped in lots of green leaves which I didn’t find very appetizing.  I was also pretty full by this time, so I don’t think I could full appreciate anything beyond this point.

Rosemary Olive Oil Cakes with Olive Oil Gelato & Rosemary Brittle
Bombolini with Huckleberry Marmellata & Vanilla Gelato

The desserts were pretty tasty, but I was beyond full at this point.  The Rosemary Olive Oil Cakes and the Olive Oil Gelato were good, but I couldn’t really taste the rosemary or olive oil.  They weren’t too sweet, so it was the rosemary brittle that provided that punch of sugar.  The Bombolini was equally delicious without being too oily, but it is hard to go wrong with fried doughnuts.

Overall, I really enjoyed the food.  The appetizers and pastas were quite solid and the desserts had a different twist, but I have to say the most memorable part of the meal was the Mozzarella Bar, hands down.  I’ve never really like cheese very much, but since my trip to Italy a couple of years ago, I discovered a newfound appreciation for mozzarella.  It is much lighter than other cheeses, and at Osteria Mozza, they have done such an excellent job of using it as well as other similar light and creamy cheeses to showcase a variety of delicious flavor combinations with the freshest of ingredients.  I don’t think you could go wrong with any item on that part of the menu.

It was quite annoying how long we had to wait, but considering how popular this restaurant is, it probably should be expected.  The food ended up being pretty worth the wait, and ultimately, we ended up getting seated right by the dessert bar so we ended up getting a view of Nancy Silverton working hard behind the bar.  Bongky kept trying to convince my sister to go over and strike up a conversation, but she was feeling a little shy.  Instead, Pdho kept snapping pictures like paparazzi, so we’ll just have to settle for pictures.

Nancy Silverton at Work

Osteria Mozza
6602 Melrose Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90038

PAFO Ratings for Osteria Mozza:
Price 4 stars
Ambiance 3 stars
Food 4 stars
Overall rating 3 ½ stars

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