Each morning, brothers Mario and Salvatore Marino stroll through local farmers’ markets in search of the ripest produce, returning back to their restaurant just in time to pull fresh bread from the oven. The pair actually oversees three LA restaurants—La Bottega Marino, Il Grano, and Marino Ristorante—each of which highlights the traditions of the owners’ homeland, Napoli, with handmade pastas, pastries, pizzas, and panini sandwiches filled with seasonal ingredients. As noted on the LA Weekly web blog, La Bottega Marino’s menu foregoes Italian-American standards like caesar salad and fettuccini for more authentic specialties such as porchetta—an herb-rolled pork loin wrapped in pork belly and roasted with a light seasoning of salt, pepper, garlic, and fennel. In addition to perfecting housemade meals, the Marino brothers spend time building their wine list by collecting varietals from almost every Italian region, including the region whose excess CO2 yields bubbly prosecco.
Obika’s ingredients are so carefully curated that the staff can point out the exact region in Italy, or even the exact city, from which they came. Compared to the restaurant's other prized, imported ingredients—smoked prosciutto, white salame, capers, parmigiano reggiano—it seems the mozzarella is the most prized of all. The mozzarella is shipped to the restaurant three times a week to ensure its freshness, and the European Union certifies that each batch has been prepared in the traditional fashion. All this attention to detail makes Obika’s menu equally as flavorful as it is authentic. Layers of fresh pasta burble with mozzarella and beef ragu in the housemade lasagna, and mint pesto brings spice to a free-range chicken breast pan-sautéed with artichokes. The kitchen’s oven takes center stage to fire pizzas that, once again, put the carefully cultivated cheese on display. And of course, it wouldn’t be a full-course Italian meal or a day when kids siege power from their babysitters without dessert: the tiramisu and a ricotta mousse sprinkled with pine nuts take the cake. Servers may even shout “Obika!” when they deliver dishes to tables—it means “here it is!” in Italian, and demonstrates just how excited they are about the contemporary, authentic Italian fare their eatery dishes out.
Upstairs 2 sits on the second floor of The Wine House, a 25,000-square-foot retail shop. Naturally, the selection is extensive, but owner Bill Knight isn’t content to just serve wine. There’s also a seasonal and sustainable menu of New American small plates divided by wine type to promote tasty pairings.
Owner Susan Disney Lord (a niece of Walt Disney) has transformed what was once a ho-hum tavern into the stunning Bel Air Bar and Grill. A two-story glass entryway adorned with a mural of bougainvillea leads into a modern, minimalist dining room with brick walls, dark furnishings and a working fireplace. Young professionals and Getty Center museum-goers (it‰Ûªs a three-minute drive away) gather for twists on classic American fare. Appetizer highlights include truffled mac ‰Û÷n‰Ûª cheese, fried calamari and a grilled shrimp cocktail. EntrÌ©es are simple yet hearty and flavorful, especially the moist pan-roasted branzino (Mediterranean sea bass) served with crunchy carrot farro and roast chicken accompanied by sautÌ©ed potatoes, pearl onions and corn. California labels dominate the concise wine list, which also includes a few international selections. Diners with sweet tooths won‰Ûªt want to miss the pastry chef‰Ûªs signature red velvet ding dong for dessert.
NOTE: Groupon name is ‰ÛÏBel Air Bar and Grill‰Û� but we believe it should be ‰ÛÏBel Air Bar & Grill‰Û�.