Monday, November 8, 2010

Dining in Los Angeles

Simple Pleasures
Italian peasant chic in Beverly Hills
For a high-end Italian restaurateur, Scarpetta's Scott Conant has a fairly simple driving force in cooking: Take Italian ingredients and elevate them "a bit."

This coming from a man whoearned three stars from theNew York Times, based in large part on his spaghetti with tomatoes and basil (pictured; $26).

As in all great Italian cooking, this style of pared-down simplicity at Scarpetta--which added a Beverly Hills location late last month--tastes far better than any high-concept dish made from a litany of ingredients and sporting a swath of foam.

Foie gras, sweetbreads and aged beef grace the menu, but the elevation Conant refers to is exhibited best in dishes inspired by Italy's tradition of peasant cooking.

Polenta ($15), historically gruel eaten by the working masses, loses its proletarian grit here: Its texture is luxuriously creamy and the taste of corn still creeps through. Oh, and there are truffled mushrooms served on top, but we would've gladly eaten the polenta on its own.

The filling in the stuffed pasta casonsei ($23) is redolent of iron, earth and smoke, the puree of beets and smoked ricotta recalling long-braised beef. The packets of pasta are sauced with poppy seeds and pistachios, adding their own deceitful, nutty foil to one of the meatiest vegetarian dishes we've come across.

Scarpetta, Montage Beverly Hills, 225 N. Canon Dr., Beverly Hills; 310-860-7800 or (map/directions)

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