Monday, September 15, 2014

Al Bacio Ristorante: La Loggia Room: Old World Italy, Modern Style in WeHo

As far as I know, it's not often that a chef reaches out directly to invite bloggers to their restaurant.

So when I received an email from Chef Christian Simionato of Al Bacio, I was definitely curious.

It was for a tasting to be held in the La Loggia Room in the restaurant.  Reading that “Al Bacio” means detail, care, and experience, tradition, respect, and passion, and seeing the personal effort that the chef put in just on the outreach, I knew I would be in for an experience.

Chef Christian was raised on his family farm in Villanova, a small town bordering Venice, where growing food, making wine, and curing meats - everything done with respect, and tradition - was a way of life that passed down through the generations.

Chef Christian is passionate about sharing lesser known dishes and ways of cooking from Italy, that would take LA's food lovers beyond the tried and true but all too familiar pastas and antipasti, was clear - and now he has a nook of a platform to do it with, in a front room called La Loggia.  It's a cozy event / private dining space where he gets to showcase and share, with more curious diners, the dishes that he loves in a tasting menu format.

Our experience of this new front room started with a bountiful spread of charcuterie and antipasto served personally by the chef.

There was a gorgeous leg of prosciutto, and cutting boards piled with salami, sopressa...
But of all the charcuterie the one that made the biggest impression on me was the Heart & Liver Salsiccia.  Its rich, intense flavor, density and pleasing fattiness reminded me of the Chinese version I used to love growing up: yun cheong (preserved liver sausage).  I haven't seen these in other Italian restaurants in LA - so many are focused on fresh, housemade - and cured meats tend towards salami and sopressata.  I couldn't stop eating these lovely little preserved sausages.
Then there was the Focassia di Recco with mozzarella and tomato, and fun appetizers like salted cod in a mason jar with crostini, and oysters in tomato sauce - all beautifully presented but less memorable in texture / taste.

For the formal start of the meal, we were seated at one large communal table for 10, the better for encouraging conversation, and sense of shared experience by design.

Our first course was Tortellini al Parmigiano - Parmesan Cheese Tortellini, Chicken Consomme.  The tortellinis arrived first, then chef ladled roiling hot chicken broth over it, which released strong fresh dough fragrance on contact.  

Some of chef's plates come with interesting notes about its history: Maccheroni Ragu alla Barese - pasta topped w/ a roll of beef neck, pecorino, pancetta and herbs was the 'legal' version that could be served in the US.  In Italy, apparently they would make this with horse meat.

Loved the light touch with the tomato sauce, over the fresh made al dente pasta, topped by the flavor bomb roll.
The first meat course was Coniglio alla Siciliana - Sicilian rabbit with pine nuts, black olives, roasted fennel & carrots.  Though tasty, nothing really stood out for me on this one.

It was the next course that I still dream of: Quaglia e Piccione Cotti alla Spiedo - spit roasted quail & squab, with glazed cipollini, roasted potatoes.  Perfectly cooked to delicious succulence, it made me work hard to try to tear every last piece of meat off the tiny wings.

 After dinner, a selection of Italian cheeses were served at the banquet tables to the side.  There was the photogenic large wheel of super creamy, spreadable Bontazola gorgonzola cheese, Maccagno raw cow's milk cheese, and other luscious wedges.  But it was the accompaniment that were intriguing: one such was a red wine soaked rhubarb (?) preserve that somehow tasted like beets, and went perfectly with the gorgonzola.  There was the truffle honey, which I can never resist.

To finish, chef served us a Neopolitan Rum Cake and chocolate almond cake with gelato (sorry no pics as it got too dark by then to take good ones!).

The menu will change seasonally at La Loggia.  Can't wait to see what Chef Christian does for Fall!  To book a tasting at the La Loggia Room, contact the restaurant (see below).

*Disclaimer: This meal was hosted.


Al Bacio Ristorante La Loggia Room
8741 W Sunset Boulevard West Hollywood, CA 90069
Ph: 310.657.1182


Parking: public open air lot across the street (except Thursday nights when it is taken over by a farmers market), or limited parking behind restaurant


Al Bacio Ristorante on Urbanspoon

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