By MICHAEL AUSHENKER | Contributing Writer
Angelo Peloni opened Westwood mainstay Ristorante La Bruschetta back in 1984 in the building that, previous to its iconic Sunset Boulevard location, was originally home to the Comedy Store in the late ’70s/early ’80s.
Comedian Pauly Shore, son of Comedy Store founders Mitzi and Sammy Shore, continues to return here as a diner, and you can see the stand-up venue’s exposed brick wall which, several interior makeovers later, has been folded into the restaurant’s cozy rustic décor.
Wooden racks of wine line the back wall in concave fashion like the hull of a ship—appropriate since Peloni had hired a ship-builder to create the wall-encompassing bottle shelves.
All of this adds up to a homey backdrop to some fine Italian cuisine, solidly traditional in presentation. With nary a hint of fusion or contemporary flash, dishes here are done straight from the old Italian recipe books.
This is a no-nonsense destination but in the best possible sense. To say it’s a no-frills cucina might suggest that it’s dull or something, but that couldn’t be further from the truth—the “frills” here are the purity of flavors with every course.
Peloni runs his restaurant with the help of heir-to-the-family-business Roberto Peloni and his fiancé Jo Beyersdorfer—a couple knowledgeable about the food- and wine-scape that is their professional life.
On a Wednesday night, their hospitality knows no bounds as they greet a packed roomful of regulars.
Our meal began with (what else?) a small plate of bruschetta and bread basket with olive oil to whet our appetite for the epic meal to come.
Several items off of the autumn menu have gone over so well, they’re becoming permanent menu additions. Take the Pera al Forno, roasted pear served chilled over arugula with a creamy burrata (imported from Puglia, Italy) with a reduced balsamic dressing.
The interplay between sweet and savory that is the fruit and the burrata, respectively, tantalized our palate. The Puglia cheese tastes fresh and beautifully textured; wonderfully creamy and stringy as it pulls apart.
Also balancing the sweet and the savory off the fall menu is the trés courant Pumpkin Ravioli, four scrumptious pasta morsels topped with sage leaves and wallowing in a delicious pool of sage butter sauce. Borratina, a burrata insalate with black truffles flanked by tomato and toasted bread slices lathered in a black truffle butter, is as sublime as it sounds.
The trattoria offers various risotti and paste, including Linguine al Nero di Seppia, a sublime-sounding squid ink linguine with sautéed calamari, white wine, garlic and fresh tomatoes. Basking in a traditional meat sauce house-made from scratch, Lasagne alla Bolognese delivers a depth of taste with its ample portions of ricotta-, parmesan- and béchamel-laden beef and flat noodles.
For our secondi, we could have ordered Tagliata di Manzo con Spinaci (rib-eye steak accompanied by sautéed spinach, garlic and olive oil) or Pesce del Giorno (market-priced fish of the day) and we would’ve been happy diners.
However, the house brought us Costolette di Agnello al Barolo—a substantial tower of tender, flavorful Australian lamb loin chops, marinated in Barolo wine and cooked to juicy perfection with balsamic herb sauce and fresh herbs. Our meaty lamb plate, with its small roasted potatoes and an array of cooked vegetables, became a major meal highlight.
Dolci came in the form of Affogato, an espresso pour over a scoop of ice cream, and Tiramisu, fresh and non-alcoholic, traditional layered cake of espresso-soaked lady fingers with cream made of mascarpone.
Dessert here is as bright and acute as its ingredients and perfectly light after a multi-course meal. (Of course, extensive aperitivi and digestive bottles are offered here.)
In Los Angeles, high-profile Italian restaurants come and go like summer trysts. Yet like the restaurant’s previous tenant in 1983 before relocating to the Sunset Strip, La Bruschetta, a solid local favorite with the longevity of a ristorante handed down from generation to generation, will have the last laugh.