Sunday, December 6, 2009

Dinner at Fabio's Firenze Osteria in NoHo

4212 Lankershim Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 91602
(818) 760-7081

Saturday night two of my favorite people, C & K, were in town having a girly weekend. One of the many things we bond over is our love of Top Chef.  We analyze every minute of each episode, critique dishes, deconstruct character flaws, and so on and so forth, ad infinitum. They spent Friday night assisting me in my myriad of d├ęsastres macarons while watching every episode of this season's Top Chef on the kitchen TV. We are all anticipating the upcoming showdown between the three remaining culinary heavyweights Bryan, Kevin and Michael, in that order we think.  C & K were on a Top Chef tour of the city this weekend, hitting Stefan's Friday afternoon for lunch, Fabio's Firenze Osteria with D and me Saturday night and planning to brunch at The Jar (TCM, but still) Sunday morning. We had a beautiful dinner (with a few small flaws) and wonderful service at Firenze.


C & K both started the evening with a virgin Mintcucumber from the drinks menu at the bar. K is not a drinker (and loves to drive, so is always happily the designated driver). Let me qualify that by saying she is funnier sober than any other three slightly inebriated amateur comedians I may have ever come across. C has a smaller and more pointed reason for staying sober. It involves a lot of belly rubbing and jokes about gaining weight. :-) These alcohol free cucumber and pineapple concoctions were delightful, sweet and herbaceous with a touch of mint, seltzer instead of gin.

ketel one martini

D and I started with our usual Ketel martinis. I like the presentation here. It can take me awhile to drink a martini this behemoth in size. It's always nice when the martini coupe sits in an ice bath, keeping the drink fresh yet undiluted.


Firenze Osteria is elegantly and unmistakably Italian. Leather chairs at the tables and bar, dark wood convertible plantation shutters on the windows, and large format photographs of Italian landmarks.

In the bread basket we were served a focaccia and a crusty country bread. The focaccia was lovely, not overly oily as is sometimes the case. And for dipping, a picante olive, caper and sun dried tomato dipping sauce. Delicious.

 prosciutto e melone

To start, K ordered melon and prosciutto.  If it looks to you like the portions are large, your eyes are not deceiving you. Everyone's starter portions were very generous. The quality of fruit and meat here high, with a touch of luscious burrata on the plate drizzled lovingly with balsamic.  What I do not understand on this plate are the coccoli, fried Italian fritters. They were incongruous with this light summery dish.

insalata di pere

C jumped in with a poached pear salad, made very flavorful by crumbled bleu cheese, caramelized walnuts and Pecorino cheese in a light red wine dressing.

insalata di burrata

D started with a gorgeous burrata salad on a bed of arugula with sun dried tomatoes, roasted mushrooms and pine nuts with aged balsamic sweetly dribbled everywhere. The flavor of the balsamic was immensely sweet, and a perfect foil against the richness of the burrata and verdant arugula. This might have been my favorite of the starters. I had course envy.  I also was happy both salads were nothing alike. Sometimes one sees a couple salads with different ingredients and the same dressing or a similar flavor approach. Not here. Completely different flavor profiles, both delightful. One autumnal and earthy, the other with strongly contrasting flavors and textures.

carpaccio di manzo

Top Cheftestant Fabio won an Elimination Challenge on the basis of this classic Italian raw beef dish.


Filet, arugula, Parmesan cheese, pine nuts, with an olive oil and lemon vinaigrette.  Here, Lean Wong shows us how to make Fabio's Top Chef version of beef carpaccio with the infamous spherical kalamata olives. Again, generously portioned. Perfectly succulent meat, bright greens, the nuts and citrus round out the flavors. Loved.


C was excited to see Rosenblum on the wine list. Her father and Rosenblum are colleagues in their life-work, the starting of Rosenblum Cellars being a side project he started in his garage. This 2006 Rockpile Zin was perfect for everyone (C just had a wee taste), jammy at the start with a softer more mellow finish.

insalata di anatra

Cooking and eating, eating and cooking all weekend long, I didn't have enough of an appetite for pasta.  I tried instead the crispy duck salad for a main.  Sauteed duck with wild mushrooms, sun dried tomatoes and roasted pine nuts over mixed greens. This was wonderful. I ate every single bite. Cleaned my plate 100%.

Brussels sprouts

ravioli di brasato

K ordered short rib ravioli with high hopes on both her and my side of the table. While the quality of the house made pasta was marvelous, the taste of the beef and texture of the pasta were overwhelmed by the richness of the Tallegio cheese sauce. It was just too much.

tortellacci di zucca

C tried the butternut squash tortellini in a light cream and butter sauce. While still creamy, the sauce here was lighter, but the butternut squash-ricotta filling was overwhelmingly sweet. Wow sweet. Prohibitively sweet. When a pregnant lady with a sweet tooth is unable to finish her butternut squash pasta dish, there might be an issue.

linguine frutti di mare

Predictably, D asked for the seafood linguine in red sauce.  I thought this was great, and D thought it was solid with abundant seafood and good herbed tomatoey flavors, but the sauce was a little soupy.

valrhona chocolate gelato

Capping off our meal with this gelato was inspired. We were all stuffed and sleepy, but how can one pass up a rich Italian chocolate ice cream? One shouldn't and four clearly will not. So rich, it was almost like a frozen chocolate mousse.

Two good friends of mine traveled to Moorpark to eat at Cafe Firenze 6, maybe 9, months ago. Coming away underwhelmed, T described Cafe Firenze as an upscale Olive Garden. Now that's no faint criticism.  This meal, despite a couple hiccups, can in no way be described as anything even in the same neighborhood as an Olive Garden.  I'd like to see a couple of the sauces lightened up so the beautiful pasta is the star. And the filling in the tortellacci turned a little more in the direction of savory, use the current recipe for pie or cupcake filling. For the most part, this restaurant is earning its reviews here and here and here legitimately, with wonderful food and a polished atmosphere.

The service? It was flawlessly gracious from start to finish. (Except the weird thing with bringing water bottles to the table at the beginning of the meal. That's kinda weird in a used car salesman kinda way.) The host & hostess, our servers and bartender? Friendly and welcoming in the best way.  While I don't see it replacing Mozza as the hub of Italian food in Los Angeles, Firenze Osteria is a much needed addition to SFV dining. If I lived closer I would be a regular at the welcoming bar, my go to food the crispy duck salad and the wine in my glass the Terlato-Chapoutier Shiraz Viognier blend.

Firenze Osteria in Los Angeles


LetMeEatCake Eat With Me! said...

I love reading you restaurant posts and following along with everything you ordered, it's like i'm right there eating with you!

Kristine said...

Firenze is a lovely spot. I wish there was a tad more seafood on the menu but I was not disappointed by this establishment by Fabio. It kinda makes me want to dine at the Moorpark location just to see how different the food and the ambiance is.

weezermonkey said...

An upscale Olive Garden? Ouch! Glad to hear this new place is not like that.

Food, she thought. said...

Ty so much, LMEC! So happy to have you reading.

Kristine, I meant to address the surprising imattention to seafood on the menu in my review. I want to visit again in the spring, see how they might have changed the menu & if they are still using MUSTARD tablecloths.

WM, Nope, it's a classy joint. :-D

Cara said...

Wonderful, thorough post - I should never have passed up the opportunity to try a bite of your duck salad! Lovely experience after the initial punishment-room seating treatment, and I got to be on the receiving end of a night out with several of my favorite people. Can't beat that with a stick.

Kristine said...

*rubs eyes*

You mean they're not salmon-colored? Your hubs thought they were salmon, too. =P

We must have something going on with our eyes! Egads!

Kitten with a Whisk said...

I am totally jealous, and now starving for some fresh pasta at 10am.

yutjangsah said...

I was disappointed by the Moorpark Firenze but this sounds well worth a try.

Al Clark said...

I'm glad your experience there was better than ours. We've been twice now, and on both occasions it has taken AGES for our wine to arrive - we had almost finished our appetizers before it appeared - don't arrive thirsty, whatever you do....! We also disliked the salesman approach to bottled water. Many of the dishes we found to be heavy, and there seemed little choice in the way of seafood or fish on the menu. The definite star dish was the beef carpaccio with mushrooms and blue cheese - truly wonderful!

The room itself was reminiscent of a 3 star hotel dining room - drab and uninspired - the flat screen tv in the bar was visible in the restaurant, and IMHO quite off-putting.

Since my husband and I are avid Top Chef fans, we were gunning for Fabio to come up trumps with a great Italian place close to where we live. For now, we shall be continuing to make the trek down to Mozza (sorry Fabio!).

Food, she thought. said...

Al, I am curious, if you had such a bad time the first time why did you go back? Surely not just for the carpaccio? :-) I actually really liked the room and decor, and spending an unfortunately large amount of time in mid-level hotels, I don't think the ambiance is reminiscent of hotel dining at all. However, the pasta sauces were heavy handed and the water bottle service over the top. I personally don't mind the TV...

Y, Give it a whirl if you get the chance. Stay to the lighter sides of the pastas.

KWW, If you ever come visit, we can hit a Top Chef restaurant.

Al Clark said...

The first time we went it had only been open for a few days, and as most restaurants need a while to iron out any problems, we decided to go back once it had been open for a while to give it a second chance. We were wanting to love it, but it just fell short a bit on expectation... maybe we're just super picky, oh, and Mozza is a tough act to follow :)

I just discovered your blog so I've not had time to look through other reviews yet. Have you been to The Gorbals yet (Ilan Hall's restaurant)?

gastronomnom said...

We almost came here last night as we were craving pasta. Sounds like the pasta dishes were the weaker ones on the menu? Still, it looks way nicer than his old Moorpark haunts and I don't have to deal with the Mozza reservations! Maybe next time I'm feeling like Italian.

Food, she thought. said...

Al, That is a really fair approach to a new restaurant. I remember when Church & State opened, pre-Manzke. We had a friend working behind the bar, so we tried dining there three times before we threw in the towel. After the Manzke change, we tried again and lo and behold he made all the difference in the world. Now we are regulars. Yes, there is a review of The Gorbals, just recently. Scroll back a bit. Very unusual flavor profiles and ingredient combinations. Not for your average diner, but I loved it. Can't wait to go back again and watch it develop.

Gastronom, Sadly, yes the pasta was challenged. The pasta itself was wonderful, but the three sauce approaches all failed to one degree or another.Love the room, had great service, and an economically diverse wine list. I plan to try again in a few months.

Melissa said...

Was not impressed. Packed on a Saturday night, kitchen could NOT keep up and everything took forever. Drink was good. Osso Bucco, too salty. Pasta was good. Burrata salad was nice but tomatoes weren't best quality. I don't know if I'd go back. Maybe in a year.