15415 W. Sunset Blvd. | Pacific Palisades, CA 90272 | (310) 454-2243 | www.piccoloritrovo.com | Prices: $$
The covered patio outside Il Piccolo Ritrovo casts a golden light on the tables as we take our seat. Just beyond the canopy is the rush of Sunset Blvd. traffic, but we are snug as can be in our own little cocoon. A basket of warm charred flatbread arrives with a bowl of garlicky green olive tapenade. All lunches should begin like this.
That’s right – our beloved Ritrovo is once again open for lunch. The additions to the lunch menu are sure to please even those seeking a “carb-less” lunch at an Italian trattoria.
Case in point: the Tonno Tartare’s sushi-grade seared ahi becomes a tower of tonno when it is piled on a generous pasticcio of mixed greens tossed in a fragrant ginger-soy vinaigrette, pickled ginger and a sprinkling of black sesame for added texture. This Asian-inspired dish was unexpected and as good, if not better, as any you might eat in a high-end Japanese restaurant. The generous proportion makes it a perfect candidate for a shareable, although you might want to have it all to yourself.
The traditional Caprese was served alongside the tonno. Just to kick it up a notch the customary buffalo mozzarella was replaced with its creamy cousin, burrata. Flavorful heirloom tomatoes were anointed with a drizzle of balsamic reduction, pesto and a dusting of micro greens. I never tire of this classic. It’s the perfect mate to a Ritrovo pizza Napoletana.
Their wood-burning oven-charred pizzas, devoured by fork and knife, are made with flour and Aqua Panna imported from Italy. San Marzano tomatoes are the main ingredient in the simple tomato sauce, and the fresh mozzarella is house-made.
As co-owner Nando Silvestri described, “It’s a way to bring a little bit of Italy to the Palisades.”
Ritrovo, we discovered, does a solid job with classic American cuisine as well. The Borgy, a burger made from Kobe beef had a real char-grill flavor to it. The juicy and perfectly cooked patty was piled on a toasted brioche bun with lettuce, onion and tomato. The requisite stack of shoestring fries accompanied the burger, however side salads are available for the disciplined.
For lighter fare, the Salmone is a good way to go. Slow-roasted Scottish salmon, fingerling potatoes and saffron roasted cauliflower, wade in a puddle of lemon caper cream sauce. Don’t let the cream sauce discourage you – it’s very tangy and not heavy in the least.
Although the plating wouldn’t be nearly as appealing, there’s always the option of ordering the sauce on the side (this is LA after all).
If you’re really in the mood for seafood, I highly recommend the aptly named Tutto Mare. Clams, mussels, calamari and shrimp are enmeshed in a pile of al dente linguine. The garlic white wine sauce, flecked with chili flakes, brings the whole mess together. Muah – buonissimo!
If you’re up for indulging, be sure to browse the dessert tray. You will be tempted to have one of each. In our case we opted for the time-tested Crème Brûlée. As the spoon broke through we knew we were in for a treat – the sign of a good Brûlée can be found in the thinness of the caramelized sugar crust. The custard, just like the entire feast, didn’t disappoint.
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