Tanino's Brings a Touch of Class to Westwood

1043 Westwood Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90034

The dominance of Italian food and restaurants in Los Angeles continues unabated, with one such example being Tanino Ristorante and Bar in trendy Westwood Village. The place has been open for just over a year, and is the vehicle of chef/owner Tanino Drago, a 29-year-old native of Sicily. He is part of the Drago family who have been an influence in this part of the world for some time when it comes to top of the range Italian cuisine. The restaurant is modeled after the Pitti Palace in Florence, and dates back to 1929, almost ancient for this part of the world. Architect Paul Revere Williams brought original ceiling frescos and carvings, elaborate wall murals and artisan plasterwork from his travels in Italy, making the place extremely sophisticated and comfortable. The main dining room seats 150, with private areas able to seat a further 82. I have been told that it is allegedly one of the top five Italian restaurants in the city, no mean achievement for a place that is has literally been overtaken by the Italian food craze.

At about $120 for two with a bottle of wine might seem inexpensive by European standards, but in Los Angeles that is considered the high end of the market. Despite the vast amount of money about, superstar chef's who have arrived here in the last few years to make their fortune in general are struggling to charge the kind of prices they can in Europe and of course New York. Ritzy openings are not that common at the moment, but Tanino's seems to be doing all right, and on a rainy Wednesday night the place was about half full. Tanino's has had its share of celebrities such as Robert de Niro, Andrea Bocelli, Natassa Kinski and David Chase.

The menu is constantly changing with specials every night, and every region of Italy getting some exposure and not just authentic dishes from Sicily like Insalatina di alici. Osso Bucco from Milan ($21) is a staple of the menu, as is Spaghetti al nero di seppie e seppioline, black pasta with squid ink and baby squid ($15). In fact for $25 you can even get a seasonal dish like Branzino con salsa di uva chardonnay indivia e tartufo bianco, striped bass filet with endive in a chardonnay grape sauce and white truffle oil. The night I went Tanino was not in the kitchen because he was attending his own birthday party somewhere else, so sous chef Evelio Cornejo did the honors.

I went for the special of the night and kicked off the meal with a red beet and goat's cheese soup that was light and strong tasting, but maybe a little too overpowered by the cheese. Fresh smoked Italian salmon was very classy however thanks to the balsamic vinegar and the capers, tomatoes, lemon and pepper. The wine selected for the meal was a Chardonnay from Sonoma county called Lambert Bridge. Typical California white and a good complement to the food selection. There are about 200 wines in the cellar, mostly from Italy or California. Red meat ravioli from Bologna was next up with a creamy honey/thyme sauce that was really a departure for me, but well worth having again, and a good example of the style of cooking you will find at Tanino's.

Main course of Scallops prepared with spinach also featured a roasted fennel based creamy sauce that was equally tasty, and a perfect match for the relaxed and elegant surroundings and first class service. They were not the biggest scallops I had ever had, but certainly juicy and fresh enough. Probably saving the best for last, the dessert tray featured a superb range of Italian pastries complemented by two excellent dessert wines, the Fragolino and the Vino Santo. Rich and fruity, both wines will now be a regular choice for me in the future. A very rich and delicate selection indeed. A mention here for pastry chef Sylvia Young.

Tanino's is a special occasion restaurant well worth checking out next time you are in Los Angeles, if not for dinner then at least for lunch. You could easily catch a few stars there checking out the authentic food on offer. How it would compare with the best on offer in London for example is a debatable point, but for Los Angeles it is indeed very good.

Mike Hepworth, December 1999

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Tel: 310-208-0444
Fax: 310-264-0715

Valet parking-$4
Dress-Casual to Elegant
Credit Cards-All major cards accepted
Lunch, Monday-Friday: 11.30 a.m.-3 p.m.
Dinner, Monday-Saturday: 5.30 p.m.-11.30 p.m.
Sunday: 5.30 p.m.- 10 p.m.

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