The sun rises and sets on the staff at Milo and Olive. From 7 a.m., bakers start filling the chalk-scrawled bakery trays with house-made baguettes, bagels, and pastries, and at 11 p.m., the last waiter clocks out after a long night's work. In between, customers can watch the chefs work in an open kitchen as they begin preparing for lunch and dinner crowds by roasting vegetables, braising meats, and returning eggs to their rightful hens. Chef Jason Mattick lets the ingredients he culls from farmer’s markets inspire the majority of his afternoon and evening menus. Aside from creating leafy salads and small plates, these veggies crown pizzas from a selection that changes regularly, depending on the ingredients on hand. Mattick finishes each one—which could be topped with locally produced mozzarella or sustainably raised meats—in the restaurant’s wood-burning oven.
For 30 years, Dennis Klempner ascended through the ranks of the restaurant industry, having begun as a dishwasher in an Italian restaurant in San Fernando Valley. In 1981, he was finally able to open the doors to his own place, Earth Wind & Flour, which has thrived under his tutelage and strong yet laid-back family values for three more decades. Three nights a week, guests are entertained by magicians and Rat Pack?style singers. But the performers can only hope to distract them from classic Italian dishes off a menu filled with pizza, pasta, and California-influenced house specialties like vegetarian lasagna and spinach salad with avocados, artichoke hearts, and mushrooms.
Even before they sit down at Vincenti Ristorante, guests experience its trademark warmth. Owner Maureen Vincenti—whose "bear hugs and generous laughter" might make her "the best hostess on the Westside," according to Tasting Table—greets everyone at the door. She and her staff oversee a dining room colored in calming reds and purples, accented by light Scandinavian wood. Most any table in this room offers dinner and a show, as they look out on chef Nicola Mastronardi's kitchen window. Nicola contributes the other half of the restaurant's warmth with help from two key players: a wood-burning oven and rotisserie. Homemade pork sausage, Dover sole, and selections from a daily six-course chef's menu all derive smoky flavor from this old-world equipment. When he isn't using the oven, Nicola still prefers a classic style of preparation. He cures guanciale and makes pastas in-house, all the while relying on a combination of imported Italian ingredients and organic, locally sourced foods. On Mondays, the oven's efforts go towards cooking pizzas, which sport toppings from buffalo mozzarella to salty prosciutto.
Everything about Layla's Cafe & Catering is designed to create a sense of communal enjoyment. The menu features plenty of tapas and appetizers for sharing, including fresh caprese salad with burrata cheese, heirloom tomatoes, and basil pesto, and grilled kebabs that can easily be divided among friends. Within the quasi-outdoor seating area—which is kept warm by cozy heating lamps—the bottom of one wall is lined with green plants and tiny orbs of strung lights float overhead. A gently murmuring water fountain invites guests to toss in pennies and make wishes, or toss in silver dollars and watch their friends jump in after them. The restaurant also caters for special occasions and hosts private parties.
Guido's Restaurant hasn't changed much since opening in 1979. It hasn't had to. The same fireplace still crackles by red booths that are both plush and spacious. The same carved wooden statues and floral accents line the walls and support the bar. And the same deep-stained hardwood columns and wine racks add a smoky sophistication, recalling a mountain lodge or Winston Churchill's childhood treehouse. When cast in low light, these exude nostalgia to create a vintage atmosphere ideal for dates or family meals.
The food is equally classic?Northern Italian recipes that have found their way from generation to generation. The authenticity is apparent in their ingredients. Swiss chard and fresh basil sink into the ravioli di magro, whereas white wine and porcini mushrooms complement the pollo toscana. And if that taste of wine isn't enough, high-end and more modest varietals from California and across the globe can be fetched from the cellar.
In Gaucho Grill's kitchen, juicy steaks and marinated poultry sizzle on grills, sending the rich aroma of Argentine cuisine drifting through the restaurant's rustic interior. Savory mushrooms and veggies garnish meats on intimate lamp-lit tables surrounded by knotty timber walls, rough slate arches, and lariat-hurling ranchers. Dulcet treats of flan, mousse, and crepes cap South American feasts with notes of sweetness, and glasses of fruit-packed Argentine wines tastefully complement choice selections from the grill.