Thursday, August 16, 2007

Farfalla in La La Land

Trattoria Farfalla on Hillhurst and Clarissa in Los Feliz is my go-to spot when I have guests in town. It's a short walk from my house, is a cozy and cute neighborhood joint, doesn't take reservations, and presents solid and homey, rustic Italian food that is consistently pleasing. I have been a number of times, but last night I took the lovely M (who is half Italian and knows how to eat) there for her birthday and decided it's high time I spread the word about this marvelous little place, even though I know the word has already been spreaden. They also do take-out, which I have not yet tried.

The trattoria, which is often crowded and has a long line out the door, is small, dark and cozy, with many tiny tables inside and a simple Tuscany-evoking decor, at least as I imagine it since I have not yet been to Tuscany. When you walk in, you see the kitchen and the cooks busy at work over a giant steel range. Inside, it's loud but not too loud. The crowd is a mix of Los Feliz locals, Beverly Hills types, industry people, and more, very mixed. The moment you sit a basket of crusty French bread and my favorite, a little soup cup full of olive-oil-marinated whole garlic cloves, tomatoes and sundried tomatoes drifting in their oil is placed in the center of the table. Try the garlic cloves on bread - soft and tender, with a delicate garlic flavor. Yum!

The menu is large and has a variety of appetizers, soups, pizzas and calzones, meat and fish, and pasta. I love the pasta here as it is well-cooked and the combinations are always very flavorful and zingy, so I usually order it. Some of my favorite past dishes were Ravoli di Zucca Alla Crema di Nocci (pumpkin ravioli in walnut and cream sauce), Tagliolini Cozze e Vongole (thin pasta with mussels, clams and tomato broth) and the absolutely fabulous and rich Fusilli Tartufati con Carciofi, Porri e Shitake (corkscrew pasta with shitake, leeks, artichokes, white truffle oil and aged ricotta). I have also had the Osso Bucco when it was on special, and it was delicious. The pizza I have had was the Pomodori Secchi e Pollo (tomato sauce, mozzarella, chicken and sundried tomatoes). It was yummy but not spectacular as far as pizza goes. I would definitely stick to pasta or the specials at Farfalla.

Farfalla also has fabulous wine and many of the waiters I've had, particularly a young, thin blonde woman whose name escapes me, have made excellent wine suggestions, as has the owner who is a very friendly guy and used to recognize me when I came frequently for a little stretch and give me the star treatment. My absolute favorite wine has been the Barbera "Trevigne" Clerico (2001) which is a delicious, medium-bodied and subtly rich red wine that goes with just about everything at this restaurant, in my opinion. With the Clerico you cannot go wrong! They have only a few options by the glass but all have been great that I have tried. Not surprising considering my favorite wine bar in L.A. (and one worth visiting, if you can get in - it's always freaking overflowing!), Vinoteca Farfalla, is the sister of this restaurant and lives two doors down. God, I love that place. But that is another post for another time.

Last night, one of the special appetizers was this special kind of fresh cheese made from fresh mozzarella and cream, called Burrata. When the waitress named it, M got really excited and insisted we share it. Boy, was it delicious! They served it with a drizzle of olive oil and balsamic with fresh tomatoes and a simple spinach salad with roasted red peppers. The tomatoes were underripe but the cheese was perfect and sooo creamy and mild.

For main courses, M ordered the special which was thin pasta with a lobster ragout. I tasted it, and it was flavorful and creamy, with little chunks of lobster throughout. In fact, the lovely M, who is probably 105 pounds soaking wet, devoured her entire bowl. Just as I was about to say that the portions at Farfalla are quite large and every time I go I can eat just about half and eat the rest the next day as a very exciting leftover. But anyway. I ordered another special based entirely on the recommendation of the waitress, a risotto with artichoke hearts, fresh tomato, calamari, squid and fish in a tomato sauce. I have always felt cheated by risotto- isn't it just rice?- although M has tried to entice me to give it a try. When the waitress suggested this particular dish, M gave me a hopeful look, and how could I let down the birthday girl? Well, I'm a convert now (and not just because of the good mood the excellent Super Toscana wine put me in). This risotto had texture and intense, buttery rich flavor. The fish and super tender calamari was a perfect compliment. The artichoke hearts and tomato added color and interest, and the tomatoes were cooked just enough to bring out intense tomatoey flavor with every bite. Putting down a big mouthful of this stuff was like eating a giant bite of rich, salty rice-like heaven. I am a fan.

For dessert, we shared a slice of chocolate pear tart. It was a tart shell with chocolate creamy goodness, slices of fresh pear, and chocolate ganache on top. It was very good. I love the chocolate and pear combo, and the texture was just really airy and light, like chocolate cream pie. We also had dessert wine, since it was a special occasion after all. M had a glass of Moscato Nivole which was golden with a hint of little tiny bubbles in the flavor and redolent of peaches. I had a Brachetto D'Aqui, the first sparkling red dessert wine I have ever had, which was deep garnet in color and was absolutely delicious. It smelled like roses and lavender and tasted like berries and toffee but was not overpoweringly sweet. I am in love with it and henceforth shall search it out. It would be the PERFECT dessert wine for a dinner party as its medium-sweetness and slight fizz would probably please a wide variety of palates. And the color is just to die for. SO LOVELY!

All in all, last night was emblematic of my typical night at Farfalla- something old, something new, something drenched in olive oil, not cheap but reasonable bill. Okay, I know it doesn't rhyme, so sue me. This is not the most incredible Italian food you'll ever have, but it is very, very good and solid and you know you will eat and drink something really yummy every time, which makes it a pretty fantastic spot if you ask me! So it is always a pleasure to go. It is also a great romantic spot if you go with a love interest (or so I've heard...) In any event, I plan on returning many more times.

Food: (3.25) Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Experience: (3.25) Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Overall: (3.25) Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

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Farfalla reviews on Yelp and Citysearch.

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