Angelini Osteria: Responding to Wake Up Call at Italian Standby

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Restaurant Los Angeles

Gino Angelini helped to popularize modern Italian food in Los Angeles.

I ate at Angelini Osteria in early 2002, not long after it opened, and remember really liking the hearty Italian comfort food. When my girlfriend’s boss and his wife invited us to join them for a long overdue return visit, I was excited…until I opened the L.A. Times. A week prior to our meal, L.A. Times restaurant critic S. Irene Virbila eviscerated the restaurant, basically insinuating that owner Gino Angelini was asleep at the wheel. I’ve certainly disagreed with Virbila’s restaurant opinions before, but I couldn’t help but wonder whether we would have a similar experience.

Emilia Romagna native Gino Angelini opened his eponymous osteria in October 2001, after working at two other high-profile L.A. Italian restaurants: Rex and Vincenti. He’s since launched a second highly-regarded Italian restaurant, La Terza, on 3rd Street by the Beverly Center.

Despite Virbila’s review, the restaurant was overflowing with people waiting for a table when we arrived at 7…on a Tuesday. Inside, tightly packed diners were in good spirits, downing glasses of Italian reds and lapping up plates of pasta, meat and fish.

We spent a long time perusing the encyclopedic menu. Not only does Angelini offer a substantial regular menu, but there’s a 30-item Specials list, printed daily. A shorter menu would have been easier to digest, and less of a conversation killer. One positive: plenty of options sounded appealing.

The commendable house-made bread basket was filled with breadsticks, soft olive bread, slices of crusty bread and thin crisp pizza dough. The bread was served with a glass pitcher of olive oil.

For our Amuse Bouche, we were presented with a room temperature plate of tuna and salmon, marinated in olive oil and scattered with pine nuts and thin-shaved red onions. The dish was very good spooned over the crispy pizza dough.

Artichokes in Casserole Braised with Olive Oil and Garlic ($12) were outstanding, tender hearts doused in olive oil and sprinkled with finely chopped herbs.

Italian Food Los Angeles

Artichokes in Casserole Braised with Olive Oil and Garlic ($12) were outstanding, tender hearts doused in olive oil and sprinkled with finely chopped herbs.

Salad Los Angeles

Red Beets and Burrata ($16) was plain-looking, but Jon seemed to enjoy the lightly dressed purple beet segments and mixed greens topped with a cross of creamy mozzarella-like cheese and chives.

Italian Food Los Angeles

Sautéed Scallops with Mushrooms and Balsamic Vinegar ($16) featured three seared sea scallops dusted with diced parsley and served on a bed of meaty Chanterelles and lobster mushrooms. The filling dish didn’t have the feel of an appetizer, but at least it tasted good. Sea scallops are often overcooked, but not in this case.

Italian Food Los Angeles

Fresh Figs Gratin with Gorgonzola ($14) offered good flavor, the sweetness of the hot figs balancing the salty melt of pungent blue cheese and acidic balsamic. Still, $14 for four figs was extreme.

Italian Food Los Angeles

Allison ordered Nidi Gratin with Bolognese Ragout, Ham, Besciamella, Mozzarella and Tomato, but they had sold out, so she had to settle for Breaded Veal Chop alla Milanese ($34) with Fritto of Zucchini and Eggplant, the only dish anybody ordered from the regular menu. The bone-in chop featured great texture, and wasn’t heavy, but the meat was under-seasoned. The lightly-fried eggplant and zucchini whisps were nice accompaniments, especially after a couple lemon squeezes. The scoop of smooth mashed potatoes was extraneous.

Italian Food Los Angeles

I ordered Lamb Stewed with Roasted Polenta ($23), a rich, oily tomato sauce that rendered the chunks of lamb incredibly tender and powerfully flavorful. The large triangle of polenta had a paper-thin crust and was spoon-soft within. Upon reflection, I’m pretty sure this was the dish I ordered at dinner in 2002.

Pasta Los Angeles

Pappardelle with Lamb Ragout ($18), Jon’s favorite dish, was simple but effective, thin noodle sheets tossed with nuggets of lamb and a light tomato sauce. I preferred my lamb dish, but could taste why Jon likes the pappardelle.

Italian Food Los Angeles

Karen’s John Dory Breaded with Mixed Salad ($25) featured a sunburst-pattern of four John Dory fillets that were expertly cooked, but the plating could have been more inviting.

To drink, Jon ordered a bottle of 2006 Marcarini Lasarin, a red wine made from Nebbiolo grapes in the hillside Langhe region of Italy. Jon made it clear that the wine was served at the perfect temperature, and it paired well with the meat dishes.

Italian Dessert Los Angeles

Nobody ordered this dessert special, yet it arrived at our table. Not that I’m complaining; our waiter’s gaffe was our gain. The Glass of Mascarpone ($8) was similar to a well-made tiramisu, served in a martini glass and dusted with cinnamon.

Italian Dessert Los Angeles

Torta della Nonna Topped with Pinenuts ($8) – Grandmother’s tart – was slightly dry, but found some redemption with a spoonful of vanilla ice cream, a mint leaf, and a swipe through the creme Anglaise squiggle.

Italian Dessert Los Angeles

Crostata di Cioccolato Open Faced Chocolate Tart with Coffee Cream & Hazelnut Gelato ($8) was difficult to eat, with the hard chocolate shell nearly impossible to cut with a fork. The coffee cream cradled a scoop of hazelnut gelato and the entire plate was streaked with chocolate sauce. This was my least favorite dessert.

Since S. Irene Virbila had the luxury of multiple meals, I’m sure she was able to work her way through more of Angelini Osteria’s exhaustive menu. Still, based on our small cross-section of appetizers, entrees and desserts, I think the restaurant is in good shape. Of course, her review could have served as a wake-up call, and we could have been the recipients of the kitchen staff’s swift response. I’ll never know, but I still consider Angelini Osteria a viable Italian restaurant.


Joshua Lurie

Joshua Lurie founded FoodGPS in 2005. Read about him here.

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