I wanted to give my dear friend Sharon a birthday present. What else could I give her but food? I decided, spontaneously, to treat her out to a lavish dinner at one of the best places in Los Angeles. (Well, the best within our price range.) But which restaurant? She likes one called Blairs, in Silverlake, but it didnt open for dinner until 6. And we had to be eating at 5:30, in order to make it on time to Matts sketch-comedy show at the Friars Club in Beverly Hills. (Yes, I do have a strange life.) Well, we consulted a charming guide book called Eat. Shop. LA, written by a charming woman from Portland, who writes a series of Eat. Shop guides for major cities on the West Coast. I love the Seattle book, so when I saw a copy of the LA guide at the Casbah, I convinced Sharon to grab it. After much consultation, and staring at the photographs of the food, we chose Angelina Osteria, ostensibly because the writer explained that her pickiest food friend in LA liked only one restaurant, and this was the one. How could we resist?
When I called in the early afternoon to make a reservation, the woman on the phone announced cheerfully, Ive got nothing open tonight. Nothing? Not even at 5:30? Maybe she heard the disappointment in my voice and took pity, because after a beat, she said, Okay, if you arrive exactly at 5:30, well fit you in. Hurrah!
And hurrah it was, because this was an extraordinary meal. Angelina Osteria is a warm, Tuscan place, with exquisite food based on what is fresh and in season. So many choices, including gluten-free choices. I told our ridiculously handsome Italian waiter that I couldnt eat anything with gluten in it, and he looked a little confused, but we made our way through it. How to choose? Luckily, Sharon and I are sharers. Our entire time of knowing each other, 23 years now, we innately decide to order two separate meals and split them down the middle. So that night, we ordered two appetizers:
warm octopus salad on a bed of arugula, with baby cherry tomatoes (pictured above)
braised artichoke hearts with garlic, olive oil, and parsley
By the time these had arrived, Sharon and I were already wonderfully happy. To be in such a place, together, unexpectedly. And then we tasted our food.
Oh god, Sharon moaned. This is really good. You have to try it now.
She was right. The artichokes were deeply flavored, perfectly tender. And the octopus was better than I had ever eaten before, not a touch of rubber eraser texture to it. We ate a few bites each, then traded plates, back and forth, until we had cleaned our plates entirely. I would have licked up the artichoke marinade if I could have.
And the entrees?
warm duck breast with balsamic vinegar, with a side of perfectly sauteed spinach
seared ahi tuna drizzled with parsley pesto, with a side of eggplant and wild mushrooms
Everything tasted wonderfully fresh, the textures outrageously dense and light at the same time, in season, just picked, made for us. We couldnt stop cooing over our food.
And dessert? Ah, dessert. Well, Sharon had a simple panna cotta, topped with a raspberry. The best one shes ever eaten outside of Italy, she said. And I had three small scoops of vanilla gelato, with a perfectly pulled espreso poured on top. We didnt talk for awhile. We even stopped sharing. We just leaned over our food and ate intently. My god.
We walked out onto Beverly Boulevard, happy and humming.
7313 Beverly Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90036