Il Piccolo Ritrovo
15415 Sunset Blvd
Pacific Palisades, CA
By MATTHEW MEYER
Pacific Palisades is a family town through and through, so it’s little wonder a cozy Italian joint in the heart of our Village makes a common refuge for the weeknight dinner crowd.
That was the case on a recent Thursday evening at Il Piccolo Ritrovo, off Sunset near Palisades Charter High School.
A steady stream of takeout customers, kiddos in tow, made their way in and out of the restaurant with boxed and tinned pizzas and pastas at a near constant pace.
They had the breezy demeanor of parents who, at least for one night, had secured cheers with their response to chants of, “What’s for dinner?”
Those who stayed enjoyed the warmth—literal and figurative, on a rare chilly night—of a dining area that’s defined by its bright red sphere of a wood-burning pizza oven.
Imported from Naples, the oven reaches nearly 1,000 degrees and only takes about a minute to fire pizzas. The Marra Family crafted it by hand in Naples using sand and ash from Mt. Vesuvio … if you were wondering whether they take the “authentic” credentials seriously here.
The oven is placed prominently at the center of Ritrovo’s open kitchen, which is surrounded by tables on one end and a long line of booths along the far wall.
And it was the source of the first item to hit our tables, a simple, warm basket of flatbread—pizza dough, essentially—served with a dish of olive tapenade that quickly established an eternal “one more bite” cycle.
We were in the capable hands of server Pierre Mewissen, a recent hire and Milwaukee native (go Packers) who relied on his status as a New York culinary school graduate to showcase (and expertly pronounce) each of the dishes to come.
We started our meal where Ritrovo thrives: with pizza come una volta—“pizza as it once was.”
Soft, thin crust comes slightly charred and blackened from the heat of the oven, and makes this authentic fare a nice change of pace from the American pizza we’re more accustomed to. It’s light enough to actually serve as a starter.
That’s what regulars here often do, Mewissen said: “Every time I bring out pizza [to start], I know it’s going to be a good night.”
We went with Quattro Stagioni, which came with artichoke hearts, prosciutto, olives and mushrooms assembled lightly on the delicate dough.
It was a refreshing and delicious pie that we could happily devour without spoiling our meal.
The eatery also offers New York style pizza that’s plenty tasty and sometimes the safer option for young, picky eaters. But don’t miss out on the real deal if you can help it.
The restaurant’s delicious prosciutto di parma—flavor-packed, buttery cured ham—was a standout both on the pizza and on an antipasti plate that paired the meat with rich mozzarella and came drizzled lightly in balsamic.
With starters having drawn to a satisfying finish, we transitioned to the mains: one pasta, one pesce.
For pasta we enjoyed Pappardelle Bolognese, homemade wide noodle pasta prepared with the restaurant’s traditional meat sauce.
The hearty bowl of noodles was cooked al dente—tender, but still firm to each satisfying bite—and covered in fresh-grated parmesan that Mewissen provided at the table to our specifications.
But on a night of delicious pizza and pasta, our dish from the sea may have actually stolen the show.
Our File de Sole was prepared with a lemon sauce that made a perfect complement to the tender meat without being overpowering or heavy, and was served with a side of sautéed green beans topped with shaved, toasted almonds.
It was yet another dish here that didn’t force the diner to choose between feeling satisfied and stuffed. You can eat your fill here without rolling out the door.
And that’s Il Piccolo Ritrovo’s strength. It’s family fare right here in town that let’s you have it both ways—light yet delicious, approachable yet authentic.
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