I didn’t really know what to expect when we arrived for Giada’s Festa Italiana night, but I know my tastebuds were excited. L.A. Food & Wine didn’t spare any expense when they laid down red carpet throughout the whole venue making all that attended feel like they were getting the VIP treatment. It’s only when the sun had set and DJ ?uestlove took the stage did I realize how beautiful the venue was being surrounded by the lit up skyscrappers. I think every song that DJ ?uestlove played made the crowd want to dance (or it could have been the several glasses of wine) which made the night even more entertaining. Giada De Laurentiis was the host for the evening and she is just as sweet and welcoming in person than she is on her show. Being that it was her birthday, she was surprised with a cake presented by Duff Goldman.
With unlimited food at our fingertips and over three hours of eating time, we decided it was best if we just talk about our top 5 favorites of the night! Being that a majority of the places below are California based, we hope to visit these chef’s restaurants to review some of their other food (and because we just love to eat). Michael Chiarello – Napa Valley Fresh Mozzarella, Heirloom Tomatoes, Balsamic Caviar, Basil Oil and Micro Basil The next time I imagine summer in Italy I’ll think of this simple dish. The fresh mozzarella cheese was smooth rich and creamy, the Heirloom Tomatoes sweet, the Balsamic Caviar (Congealed balls of balsamic vinegar) salty and acidic. The Basil Oil and Micro Basil tied it all together to help show that a great dish need not be overly complex, in terms of both ingredients or preparation.
Chef Brandon Boudet – Dominicks / Lil Dom’s Los Angeles Cold Smoked Albacore with Almond Hull Preserves & Salsa Verde Sashimi on an Italian night? Don’t be alarmed, it’s Cold Smoked Albacore and is absolutely delicious. The Albacore was clearly fresh when smoked and wasn’t fishy whatsoever. The garnish of Almond Hull Preserves & Salsa Verde complimented it beautifully. They both gave some crunch and texture along with a sweet acidic finish. This dish would make a fantastic party platter item.
Anthrony Carron – 800 Degrees Neopolitan Pizzeria – Los Angeles Margherita Pizza A night spent sampling Los Angeles’ best interpretations of Italian food wouldn’t be complete without some pizza. Thankfully 800 Degrees Neopolitan Pizzeria came through big with an outstanding Margherita Pizza cooked in a wood fired brick oven. The crust was light and a little chewy in the center, while the outside had those charred bits that can only be created in a brick oven. The crushed tomatoes, cheese (both mozzarella and parmigano reggiano) and basil were all fresh. The pizza had the perfect amount of each ingredient. I could eat 3 or 4 slices. And I did.
Chef Peter Armellino – Plumed Horse Saratoga Smoked Sturgeon Mousse Filled Canoli with California Caviar and Chives The name of this appetizer alone should pique your interest. Don’t let this handheld bite size treat size fool you; it packs a big flavor and texture punch. The crunch of the delicate canoli was satisfying. The smokey creaminess of the mousse could put a smile on the face of even the most discerning of palettes. The rich salty caviar and fresh chives with their delicate onion flavor worked together to create what I can only imagine is on the short list of appetizers for royalty.
Chef Bart Vandaele – Belga Café New York, New York Prosciutto Waffle with Pesto, Roasted Tomato & Parmegiano Alright, I realize this isn’t from Los Angeles but our friends in the Big Apple do know a thing or two about Italian food as well. This dish was included for not only being delicious, but also because it’s fairly easy to duplicate and serve at home. The waffle was light and a little on the crispy side, while the prosciutto was well cooked and salty. The nutty flavor of the parmegiano worked well with the earthy sweet flavor of the roasted tomatoes and the pesto provided a brightness to the dish. The balsamic vinegar drizzled around the plate completed the experience with a satisfying finish.
Beverage Options Beverage options were in no shortage as many of the best wineries in California were represented along with Stella Artois’ excellent line of beers and Chicago’s’ Goose Island brewery. As we are not great connoisseurs of wine, nor fans of public intoxication (Kathleen is a lightweight), we chose to stay within the friendly confines of the beers. I had an opening Stella Artois and intended to return for some of their other offerings, but got sidetracked by Goose Island. They have an amazing Matilda Belgian Style Pale Ale and Sofie Belgian Style Farm Ale. Both have ample hops with the darker amber colored Matilda carrying a fruity spice note and the lighter tart blonde Sophie finishing citrus-y smooth. Review By: Daniel & Kathleen