Sotto

Interior

Exterior

Bread with garlic anchovy butter

Funghi pizza

*** (3 stars)

Excellent service here is the highlight, and the decor is intimate while at the same time being bustling. The food doesn’t quite live up to the resulting expectations.

Housemade bread was delicious, and worth the extra charge. The funghi pizza was flavorful, but the crust was more like naan bread, with no crispness at all. We ate the toppings off.

Rigatoni was nicely al dente, but this dish should only be ordered if you absolutely LOVE chicken livers, and they weren’t just the prime flavor component, they were the only flavor component.

I give them points for doing something different with the wine list, but it may not be what you’re looking for. ALL of the wines are from lesser known Italian appellations, so you’re not going to find any varietals you’ve likely heard of. This encourages exploration, but also invites disappointment.

Sotto
9575 W Pico Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90035
(310) 277-0210
https://www.yelp.com/biz/sotto-los-angeles

Gibsons Italia

View

Interior

Exterior

Chef’s Crudo Selection

Lettuce and herb salad with Meyer Lemon vinaigrette (off menu item)

New York Strip Bone-In

Grilled Romanesco

Grilled asparagus

Affogato

Good view, rain or shine

***** (5 stars)

The original Gibson’s is a good restaurant, but this one is a great restaurant. Every element of my meal was about as close to perfection as I can expect from a steakhouse. Of the dozens of steakhouses I’ve tried in Chicago, it was clearly the best.

Of course, there is the view, perhaps the best in the city, looking out at the junction of the Chicago River. And the room itself is also gorgeous. It’s on the third floor, with a bar on the floor below.

The service was also impressive. Not only were the waiters professional and friendly, but they were genuine hosts, with several of them stopping by to chat.

The menu includes the full range of Gibson’s branded prime steaks, and they are just as good as you would expect. But it’s the other dishes that impressed me most. The chef’s selection crudo was a wonderful starter: three sashimi preparations of tuna, kanpachi and fluke, with amazing and surprising accompaniments.

An off-menu salad of lettuce and herbs dressed in Meyer Lime vinaigrette was a perfect break before tackling the steak. For sides I couldn’t decide between the grilled romanesco and grilled asparagus, finally ordering the asparagus. To my surprise, my waiter also brought the romanesco so I could try it. Both were excellent.

I finished off with the affogato, which was served deconstructed, so you could add your own coffee to the ice cream. The coffee was laced with Averna, which imparted a delightful bitterness to offset the sweet ice cream. The homemade cookies that came with it were also amazing.

The wine list is also top notch. There’s a great variety, and some reasonable prices. The Morey Saint Denis I had was a gem.

I can’t ask for much more than the meal I had at Gibson’s, and it’s perhaps the first Chicago steakhouse I’ve been to that will keep drawing me back rather than always trying new ones. Highly recommended.

Gibsons Italia
233 N Canal St
Chicago, IL 60606
(312) 414-1100
https://www.yelp.com/biz/gibsons-italia-chicago-2

Pizza Hut

Interior at peak lunch hour

Personal pan pizza

*** (3 stars)

People seem to dislike this Pizza Hut, but I thought it was fine. At the middle of lunch time it was deserted and we thought it might be closed. But someone appeared and took our order, and the food was Pizza Hut standard, so I wouldn’t hesitate to go back.

Pizza Hut
1555 S Western Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90006
(323) 734-7713
https://www.yelp.com/biz/pizza-hut-los-angeles-11

Locanda Veneta

Interior

Exterior

Salad Insalata di “Locanda”

Carpaccio

Branzino special

Squid ink pasta

Affogato al Café

Tiramisu

***** (5 stars)

This is everything you’d want in a neighborhood Italian place: intimate, great ambiance, good food, nice wine list, friendly service.

Beef carpaccio was a nice starter, and I really enjoyed their unique Ceasar salad, which uses radicchio rather than romaine. It was a non-bitter variety of radicchio I hadn’t had before.

Their tiramisu is also unconventional, served in a bowl; it lacked the boozy ladyfingers in my favorite versions. But the affogato was excellent.

Locanda Veneta
8638 W 3rd St
Los Angeles, CA 90048
(310) 274-1893
https://www.yelp.com/biz/locanda-veneta-los-angeles

The Stinking Rose

Interior

Combo mussels shrimp crab

40 clove chicken

Prime rib

Garlic ice cream with caramel mole sauce

**** (4 stars)

I’ve been wanting to go to a Stinking Rose since I first saw one many, many years ago in San Francisco. I was expecting it to smell of garlic and for every dish to have an overwhelming taste of garlic, but that was far from the case. Garlic was very judiciously used to enhance each dish without being the focus.

By far the best thing we had was the seafood skillet, particularly the mussels. This was the best mussel preparation I’ve ever had.

Prime rib and the 40 clove chicken were good but not remarkable.

Garlic cream is an interesting experience you probably will only want to try once!

The Stinking Rose
55 N La Cienega Blvd
Beverly Hills, CA 90211
(310) 652-7673
https://www.yelp.com/biz/the-stinking-rose-beverly-hills-4

Rao’s – Los Angeles

Exterior

Interior

Seafood salad

Penne alla Vodka

Fiocchi

Lemon Chicken

Amazing cheesecake!

***** (5 stars)

Rao’s is tucked away on an unlikely side street in residential Hollywood. It has that magical and now rare ambiance of the red leather booth restaurants of the 1950s.

You’d be hard-pressed to find better Italian food in LA. The meatballs and the seafood salad were great starters, and the Penne alla Vodka was also very good.

But the standout was the Fiocchi, made of Beggar Purse Ravioli, with Ricotta and Bartlett Pear Filling, sauteed in Brown Butter, and dressed with Sage and Dried Cranberries. It was, simply put, the best pasta dish I’ve ever had.

Another number one ranking goes to the cheesecake, served New York style, but with an airy character, elevated by a hint of Amaretto. Amazing.

Our server, Jonathan, was a terrific host, and basically assembled this wonderful menu for us. A great new LA find!

Rao’s – Los Angeles
1006 Seward St
Los Angeles, CA 90038
(323) 962-7267
https://www.yelp.com/biz/raos-los-angeles-los-angeles

Flippers Pizzeria

Counter

Exterior

Interior

Lunch calzone

**** (4 stars)

Nice new location of flippers with a bright, clean interior. All the usual Flipper’s offerings. The lunch deals are excellent. I had my usual pepperoni and green pepper calzone, and it was nicely prepared.

The service was excellent. The only thing I didn’t like about the place was the manager didn’t seem to be treating the servers very well. I realize the place just opened and he wanted it to go well, but they were doing a fine job without all the shouting.

Flippers Pizzeria
6526 Old Brick Rd
Windermere, FL 34786
(407) 877-1717
https://www.yelp.com/biz/flippers-pizzeria-windermere

Carmine’s Italian Restaurant – Times Square

Interior

Exterior

Cold appetizers

Side of meatballs

Penne Alla Penne Alla Vodka

Tugboat (1/3 of a Titanic)

**** (4 stars)

When someone tells you a restaurant serves large portions, you probably think you know what to expect. You don’t.

Carmine’s is a restaurant you want to go to as a group of eight, and then order two dishes. I’m not kidding. You’ll leave full. Four of us ordered two dishes, and left with an eight-pound bag of food.

We started with the cold appetizer plate. The calamari salad was particularly noteworthy.

The Penne ala Vodka was very good, properly al dente. Truth to be told we also had a side of meatballs. A side is eight meatballs the size of baseballs.

Service was good, and the large, crowded dining room is not as loud as you might expect.

Carmine’s Italian Restaurant – Times Square
200 W 44th St
New York, NY 10036
(212) 221-3800
https://www.yelp.com/biz/carmines-italian-restaurant-times-square-new-york-3

La Scala

Carpaccio

Lobster ravioli

La Scala chopped tuna salad

Halloween decor!

**** (4 stars)

If you like old school Italian, there’s no better example than La Scala. Since 1956 they’ve been doing it the same way. That’s both good and bad, because it means you’ll reliably get the same meal you would have had decades ago, but your expectations might have changed.

For example, the chopped tuna salad is chopped up lettuce, chickpeas and essentially canned tuna. That’s what all tuna salads were like in the 60’s, but might not be what you are expecting now.

La Scala was the first restaurant in LA to make their own pasta, and it’s still excellent, in all its forms. I particularly liked the lobster ravioli in brown butter.

There’s a nice little wine list, with some good wines by the glass and half bottle, a rarity these days.

Also note that they go all out in their holiday decorating. A visit in October is a particular treat, as the Halloween decorations are fun and EXTENSIVE.

La Scala
434 N Canon Dr
Beverly Hills, CA 90210
(310) 275-0579
https://www.yelp.com/biz/la-scala-beverly-hills-2

Via Alloro

Tira misu

Ravioli with burrata

Exterior

Interior

Neapolitan pizza

Carpaccio

**** (4 stars)

This is a good neighborhood restaurant with a nice outdoor seating area. The pastas are light and fresh, and the sauces flavorful. Caesar salad was a good starter, and the dressing had a nice anchovy flavor. The pizzas have a nice thin, crispy crust. Tira misu was one of the fluffiest I’ve encountered.

The wine list is fairly extensive, with a lot of good selections at average prices. Service was good.

Via Alloro
301 N Canon Dr
Beverly Hills, CA 90210
(310) 275-2900
https://www.yelp.com/biz/via-alloro-beverly-hills-2