Forget that I was seated in a chair already warmed by David Mamet's butt, John Mayer's muscular (and surprisingly expansive) back was 3 feet from my arm's reach and a very pregnant Christina Aguilera's text messaging was almost readable to my 20/20 eyes. These distractions did not work.
This restaurant is quite good!
I thought the ambiance and food would be somewhere along the lines of Dan Tana's meets C&O Trattoria meets Pace but it was much more intimate, with elegant simplicity and a small, entirely Tuscan menu. Yes, it was full and, yes, there was a short wait but it was Saturday night at 8:30pm. When you realize that the wait and the crowd are the result of a quality restaurant and not just a papparazi hang in this town it can be quite the double surprise.
Since 1990 owner-chef, Giorgio Baldi, dishes out the dishes and sips his favorite Amarone while surveying the dining room like Yurtle the Turtle from his open kitchen. His daughter, Elena, seats the customers while peppering the already seated with greetings, smiles and suggestions. The waitstaff all appeared to be from the old country and quite possibly have been serving these dishes since the restaurant opened 18 years ago. They were very sweet, knowledgeable and proud of their menu. The space is warm, modest and very nicely lighted.
We began our meal with the special beef carpaccio with white truffle cream sauce (white truffles arrive fresh from the Piemonte region every fall) and a proscuitto crostini with fonduta. The carpaccio was so carefully and thinly sliced and so fresh that it just dissolved in my mouth. From the handmade, hand-cut pasta menu I ordered the agnolotti, ravioli with sweet corn and white truffles. The raviolis were about the size of a quarter -- the portion was perfect, not too chaste not too monolithic. They were just wondrous, tender and delicate. I felt a symbiotic relationship with some musty, mountainous woodland, surrounded by large oaks and dappled light. Really just delightful.
Our wine pairing you ask? We paired the entire meal with two bottles of the very same Amarone that Mr. Baldi was sipping while he worked. This is a powerful wine with some definite oak flavors and fresh red fruit. A perfect match for pastas, veal or even the bistecca fiorentino.
Maybe it's silly. Maybe it's so Hollywood. Maybe it's overrated. It is certainly a bit pricey. But for an expensive, silly, Hollywoody, overrated Los Angeles (well, Santa Monica Canyon) haunt the food was damn good and the night was chock full of entertainment and fun times.
I love this town.
Il Ristorante di Giorgio Baldi
114 W Channel Rd
Santa Monica, CA 90402