Food Fest: 2014 Welcomes New Restaurants to West Hollywood

[dropcap]W[/dropcap]ith more than 200 restaurants packed into 1.9 square miles, West Hollywood residents and visitors can be forgiven for having trouble keeping up with what’s opening, what’s closed and what has changed. For the foodies among us, WEHOville has put together this update of developments in the vibrant dining scene in the last few months, with a hint at what lies ahead.

Al Bacio Chef Christian Simionata
Al Bacio Chef Christian Simionata

The newest restaurant (if you’re not counting the recent reopening of Irv’s Burgers) is Al Bacio Ristorante (al bacio means “kiss of approval” in Italian.) Al Bacio opened last month in the space formerly occupied by Osteria Drago at 8741 Sunset Blvd., just west of Sunset Plaza Drive.

The restaurant is the culmination of a lifelong passion of Roberto Saracino, one of the owners, also owns a high-end Italian food import business, Liaison West, in Huntington Beach. The company supplies premium-grade imported food products and ingredients for a number of top restaurants in Los Angeles and Las Vegas. Prior to opening Liaison West in 1998, Saracino held management positions at L’Opera in Long Beach, Armani Café in Boston and others. The other partners include Gennaro Pirozzi, owner of Casearia Casabianca, the company which makes the mozzarella di bufala, and Antonio Galdiero.

Christian Simionato, a native of Venice, is the executive chef. He began his career at the Hotel Casale in Aosta, Italy and later was at the acclaimed Piccolo Lago. He moved to London to work at the renowned Italian bakery, Princi, and later at L’Anima under Chef Francesco Mazzei. In 2010, he was approached by Chef Marco Sacco (Piccolo Lago) and Chef Andera Tranchero to open the River Club Restaurant in Beijing, whose menu bridged Asian and Italian cultures. He came to the United States at the invitation of chef Jean Pierre Dubray to serve as sous chef at Andrea, the five star dining establishment at The Resort at Pelican Hill.

“I’m thrilled to fulfill my dream of owning my own restaurant as fine food has always been a passion of mine. My partners and I are lucky to have found a top talent to lead our team, Chef Christian Simionato,” Saracino said. “We share the same philosophy of not cutting corners, making everything from scratch and using only top notch food products and ingredients, with the goal of exceeding the expectations of our guests.”

Al Bacio is open daily for dinner except Sundays with lunch served Wednesdays through Fridays. Happy hour is from 5 – 7 p.m. weekdays. Reservations can be made at (310) 657-1182. The Italian menu includes entress such as chicken Cacciatora with Chanterelle mushrooms for $26 and lamb chops with roasted potatoes, Pecorino cheese, and “Salmoriglio“ sauce for $34 in addition to a wide selection of pasta dishes.

Cavatina
Cavatina

Recently opened is Chef Michael Schlow’s Cavatina at the Sunset Marquis, 1200 Alta Loma Rd. just south of Sunset. Schlow, who is based in Boston, has named Roger Eggleston as executive chef to oversee Cavatina. The menu is a melange of California and Mediterranean cuisine. Cavatina is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, beginning at 7 a.m. with a final seating at 10:30 p.m. , seven days a week. There’s also a Sunday brunch buffet. Reservations can be made by telephone at( 310) 358-3759 or online. Entrees include charred broccolini with ancient grains and veal loin with golden Chanterelles.

Victor Drai's 'Rare by Drai's' steakhouse
Victor Drai’s ‘Rare by Drai’s’ steakhouse

Victor Drai’s Rare by Drai’s steakhouse, which opened last month in the space formerly occupied by BLT at 8720 Sunset Blvd. just west of Sunset Plaza Drive, has been packed with diners eager to sample Chef Patrick Florendo’s menu. It is on the pricey side with entrees such as pan roasted Chilean sea bass for $38 and a ten ounce New York strip steak for $44. Florendo’s “rare specialties” menu includes “Snake River Farms” Wagyu ribeye (ten ounces) for $65 and a ten-ounce pepper steak filet for $48. Rare’s bar opens at 5 p.m. Dinner is served from 6 to 10 p.m. Sunday through Wednesday and until 11:30 p.m. Thursday through Saturday. Reservations can be made by calling (310) 360-1525.

What’s ahead?

Brian Malarkey’s Herringbone LA designed by famed architect/designer Thomas Schoos, is set to open any day now at the space once occupied by Asia de Cuba at the Mondrian hotel. It will be the second iteration of Herringbone, whose original location opened in 2012 in San Diego. Chef Malarkey and James Brennan, his business partner, plan to expand the restaurant out onto the Mondrian’s pool area, now dominated by the Skybar. The food is perhaps best described as sophisticated comfort food, with entrees such as whole wood roast sea bream, Earl Grey seared duck breast and duck prosciutto Amatriccana. The menu includes red squash chowder and shrimp and grits. The Mondrian is at 8440 Sunset Blvd. at Olive.

Gracias Madre
Gracias Madre

Gracias Madre, the vegan Mexican restaurant that is part of the Café Gratitude family, is expected to open any day now 8905 Melrose Ave. at Robertson. This will be the second location for Gracias Madre, which began in San Francisco. The WeHo menu will include all-organic dishes such as tamales, tacos, empanadas and flan. The restaurant also will serve organic tequilas and mezcal.

A peak over the plastic-covered fence shows that Beach Nation, a project of noted architect and designer Thomas Schoos, is almost ready for business at the northeast corner of Santa Monica Boulevard and Sweetzer. Beach Nation is a beach-themed restaurant and coffee bar (close your eyes and imagine the roar of traffic on Santa Monica Boulevard is the sound of crashing waves).

Barton G. Weiss is still working on plans to open in March a branch of Barton G , a hangout for the Miami Beach glitterati, at the location last occupied by Rose at 861 N La Cienega Blvd. near Willoughby. The WeHo Barton G.’s will feature an outdoor patio. The executive chef will be Scott Linguist, formerly of Dos Caminos in Las Vegas.

The h.wood.group, proprietor of Bootsy Bellows, Hoory Henry’s and SHOREbar, plans to open this spring an Italian restaurant and bar called “the nice guy.” It will be in the space occupied by Mezze at 401 N. La Cienega at Westmount. The menu will feature gourmet pizzas and salads along with other entrees.

And of course, in the foodie fantasia that is West Hollywood, more will be coming. We’ll keep you posted, and we hope you do likewise as you learn of things.