Casa Nostra | 1515 Palisades Dr. | Pacific Palisades, CA 90272 | (310) 454-8889 | casanostraristorantela.comPrices: $$$

As you take in the scent of the authentic Italian kitchen mingling with the salt air you would almost believe you are in a coastal town like Livorno. Peer out the windows of the dining room and the views could masquerade as distinctly Tuscan – tiled rooftops, mountains punctuated with cypress trees… Sip a glass of Super Tuscan wine and now you’re really buying into the illusion!

This is the lunch scene at Casa Nostra – a casually elegant dining establishment with just the right amount of brio. The wood paneled walls of the newly refurbished wine tasting nook add a touch of cozy sophistication making this family-friendly restaurant also a perfect spot for an intimate dinner for two.

Co-Owner Michele Scarpino e pesce Rich Schmitt/Staff Photographer
Co-Owner Michele Scarpino e pesce
Rich Schmitt/Staff Photographer

Co-owner Michele Scarpino, always dressed to the nines, glides across the terracotta tiles to welcome his guests with a warm greeting.

Scarpino and his partners, Chef Gerardo Ballesteros and Giovanni Zappone, are committed to finding the freshest ingredients of the highest quality. On this particular day the tomatoes in the Bruschetta were fragrant and flavorful despite not being in season. The Carpaccio With Slivered Truffles was decadent and rich. For me, anything served with cream sauce is automatically designated as a “sharing dish.” The light drizzle of truffle oil brought all the components – meat, cheese, sauce and the prized delicacy – together.

Of all the tasty antipasti scattered across the table it seemed the Frito Misto was most popular. We found ourselves making repeated dips with the lightly battered (and un-greasy) calamari, zucchini and carrots in the tangy marinara sauce.

Scarpino mentioned the menu changes once a year, but you will always find favorites like the Caprese, Insalata Di Cesare and Bolognese something or other. Every three to four months new seasonal specials are featured.

When the entrées rolled out we had been feasting and sipping for some time.  Fortunately we ordered fish as secondi. Scarpino will gladly have the kitchen bone the fish but first he presents the pesce tableside in its entirety – it’s quite an introduction.

Lightly battered Fritto Misto with tangy marinara sauce for dipping Rich Schmitt/Staff Photographer
Lightly battered Fritto Misto with tangy marinara sauce for dipping
Rich Schmitt/Staff Photographer

The Branzino Alla Livornese was a less salty and more palatable version of the classic Baccala Alla Livornese, made up of tomatoes, imported olives, artichoke, and capers. A lemony serving of spinach helped soak up the juices. Ashley’s Dover Sole with caper, lemon, butter and white wine – just like the Branzino – was incredibly tender, light and flaky. This is melt-in-your-mouth fish so incredibly fresh the Etruscan Coast has nothing on us (well, okay maybe a couple things!).

Our afternoon escape from reality ended on the perfect note with a caffe latte and chocolaty mousse.