The charcuterie plate’s salame felino is sensuous.
(Credit: Noah Galuten)
The locals were getting desperate. Very desperate. But that, they assured me in hushed, prophetic tones, was in the past. They were happy now. Their dreams had come true. The messiah, they claimed, had arrived.
Domenico Ristorante landed in Silver Lake to a groundswell of cautious optimism. The people had high expectations, high demands and little patience for inadequacy. But like LeBron James to the Cleveland faithful, those needs were not just met, but exceeded.
The reason? The chef and owner are even more passionate about their food than the patrons. Owner Domenico Frasca is a ball of energy, constantly in motion, a demanding perfectionist and fervent extoller of the greatness of his homeland’s cuisine. In Chef Michael Young, formerly of Drago, Valentino, Il Grano and two-star Michelan “Ristorante Ambasciata” in Italy, Frasca found his match.
Their list of imported goods is borderline obscene (even their butter is from Parma), and I get the impression that Chef Young would spend two hours giddily discussing the merits of in-bone, high altitude prosciutto curing just as readily with a fellow chef as he would a homeless guy in the alley out back. But it’s not just talk. Their commitment to ingredients comes across in the food.
Eating a plate of seafood risotto might find you happening upon a tiny, crunchy crystal of delightful imported Italian salt, surprising you with its burst of homeland flavor. The salame felino off their excellent charcuterie plate, for example, is so sensuous that you could probably just set it on your tongue and feel the fat render by itself.
As Chef Young put it, when a nearby table asked if a dish used real truffles or just the oil, “There’s no truffle oil coming through that door.” Let’s just say this isn’t your average, neighborhood Italian restaurant.
With $85,000 worth of art on the wall (from painter Robert Brand), white leather chairs and charming, spacious, patio seating, you can start to see what was making these local diners so happy. The menu includes personal takes on popular dishes, like tender calamari fritti, served with fried lemon in a bowl of romesco sauce (who knew fried lemons were so good?), and even the classic, like tomato braised veal rolls with hard boiled egg, roasted potatoes and spinach. Their star dish, though, and the one that already has people filling the reservation book, is their deeply potent and soul-satisfying wild boar ragu, served over massive, sauce-snaring fusili.
Yet despite the wide range of tasty dishes on the menu – including the deceptively simple, earthy and oceanic pairing of seared scallops and escarole in Parmesan sauce – the biggest surprises, and possibly the best food, comes off the dessert menu. While you won’t be scolded for simply opting for their house-made biscotti with a double espresso for dessert, you’d be seriously missing out if you didn’t dig your fork into the ricotta and pine nut tart with raspberries, which scores a miraculous combination of density and lightness.
The most delicate dessert, though, and perhaps the one best suited to follow a night of boar ragu and braised rabbit with black olive sauce and yellow polenta, is also the simplest. The imported Italian lemon sorbet, completely and thankfully lacking in pretense, is served in a frosted glass bowl, drowning in a pool of Prosecco.
After working through every last spoonful of this tender, frozen creation, you even get an additional gift, as you drink the icy, now-lemon-infused sparkling wine that remains at the end. It will, I assure you, pull you from whatever white starch or meat-induced coma you may have fallen into.
So don’t worry, Silver Lake. The restaurant you’d been hoping for has arrived – and seems poised to stay.
For more information, call (323) 661-6166 or visit domenicoristorantesilverlake.com.
Article posted on 6/3/2009
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