With our original lunch plans spoiled by a champagne brunch, we found ourselves at the Marina Del Rey Fisherman’s Village without a plan. Off in the distance, we heard some classic soul music and wandered in that direction to find Sapori, an Italian restaurant. It had a nice view of the marina, with that soul music played by a live band in the courtyard next door and we decided to give it a try.
Sometimes it’s hard to decide where to eat. Sure, I have a list of places, but they aren’t always in convenient locations. That’s when I turn to things like Groupon, because if I’m going out to eat somewhere I’m unfamiliar with, I’ll be damned if I pay full price. On this particular eve, I found a discount for an Italian place in West LA called Campagnola Trattoria.
With a friend in town for the summer and staying in Venice, we headed out to Centanni, an Italian joint in that part of town. The menu wasn’t too big, but had some basic sandwiches and pasta dishes. As per usual, my eyes drifted right to their gnocchi, which came with a pesto sauce. Soon enough, my meal was served and all looked well on the surface.
While in San Diego with a couple of runners the night before the Rock and Roll Marathon, we needed some carbs. I wasn’t running, but I am never one to turn down a carbo-load. Knowing nothing of Italian food in San Diego and not really wanting to go to Olive Garden (no offense to the Garden, but we wanted to support something local), we turned to Urban Spoon. Yes, there’s an app for that. This directed us to Volare, a sort of whole in the wall in a sort of sketchy part of town. It looked perfect.
A long long time ago, the girlfriend and I went on a binge of buying up restaurant gift certificates. They would have specials like $20 for $10 and other such things that seemed like no-brainers. Fast forward to six months later and loads of these gift certificates are sitting around collecting dust. We could take it no more and decided to use one at a restaurant called Food Fair by Diego. It is in the strange area that is sort of West Hollywood or Beverly Hills or Melrose or something like that, so even though the name sounded like it would be a pretentious joint (how many typical restaurants put the chef’s name in the restaurant name, it actually turned out to be in a one of those corner strips and was kind of a hole in the wall.
With a name like Al Gelato, you kind of expect to be walking into a gelato shop. This is not the case with Al Gelato in Beverly Hills. Sure, the place has gelato, but it is also a full-on Italian restaurant. Aside from realizing that it wasn’t just a gelato place, I also found that Al Gelato didn’t carry a lot of the pretension that Italian restaurants seem to have. There was no mood lighting, no fancy table cloths and no people with strange accents that weren’t quite Italian. Despite this, I found that the prices still fell into what you would expect in Beverly Hills, with very little under 10 bucks and pasta prices jumping up to 15 if you wanted any meat.
We headed over to Santa Monica to grab some pizza. Unfortunately, once we had parked and filled the meter, we realized that the pizza place we wanted no longer existed. Unwilling to let a few quarters go to waste, we decided to take a little walk and see if any other restaurant might be able to tickle our fancy. What we found was Spumoni. Though not a pizza place, at least it was Italian.
For a restaurant called the Bottle Inn, you would expect them to have a great selection of wines. What you wouldn’t expect, however, is for their wine cellar to become a dining room. Nonetheless, if you have a big enough group, that is where they seat you. It’s almost like a tease to should you all the amazing wines you could be drinking, yet it’s still pretty damn cool. Although the wine was quite distracting, I was able to take my mind off of it long enough to read the menu.
Everything on the menu looked amazing and it took me a long time to decide, but in the end it had to be the Gnocchi al Pesto. While waiting, we drank some fine Napa wine and stared at the stack of Opus wine that was probably worth more than my life.