I love little shopping centers that have all kinds of ethnic restaurants, and sometimes I go with friends and we hop from one to the other having a little bite here and a little bite there.

One of the best examples of these little foodie centers is at the corner of Washington Boulevard and Ocean Avenue, at the west entrance to Marina del Rey. The center was famous for years as the home of Killer Shrimp on the second floor. The same owner also opened Viva Fresh, a taco place, on the ground floor. Killer shrimp is gone, but the tacos remain, and you can get a darn good one with a terrific sauce bar for $2.50.

Also on the ground floor is a very good looking Persian restaurant called the Tajrish with a big selection of kabobs plus traditional Persian rice dishes and stews. That may be my next lunch stop. There is a particularly good selection of appetizing vegetarian dishes for when you are over-meated out.

Next is a Chinese restaurant called Magic Wok with pick-up and take-out Chinese food. I have my eye on the Mongolian beef there.

But the two stars now are on the second floor, where the Killer Shrimp used to be. Aunt Kizzy’s Back Porch is well known, having been in another shopping center in Marina del Rey for 26 years. When you crave black-eyed peas, collard greens, smothered pork chops or chicken and dumplings, this is the only game in town. Aunt Kizzy, whose real name is Mary Dulan, is right there to watch over you. And can you believe two fried chicken thighs with two of those corn muffins that are like little clouds costs only $3 at lunch Monday, Wednesday and Thursdays? It’s open every day, including Sunday brunch, but no lunch Tuesdays and no dinners on Sundays.

Also on the second floor is the piéce de résistance, the surprisingly good Italian restaurant Enoteca Mosto. Take a look at the customer reviews on the web and read the surprising accolades. It doesn’t look like much from the outside. But once inside you’ll find a small dining room, a private room for parties and wine tastings, and a nice outdoor patio. When you enter you are greeted by Daniella who you know immediately is from Italy. And if one of the two owners comes over to say hello you know he too is from Italy. The whole place might as well be in Italy. For about $15 you can eat a really fine lunch. I recommend you stick to the pasta, which is made right there. Don’t miss the mezzeluna with pumpkin filling in a butter and sage sauce. This justifiably famous dish was brought to Italy by Jews from Spain in the Middle Ages and has remained a favorite dish in the region of Ferrera ever since.

That’s not the only good reason to visit Mosto. They have one of the best selections of Italian wines in Los Angeles and they host great wine tastings. Once you taste some of their Italian wines you will never go back to the usual plonk served at many local Italian restaurants.

What a nice way to spend an evening!

Merv Hecht, the food and wine critic for the Santa Monica Daily Press, is a wine buyer and consultant to a number of national and international food and wine companies. He can be reached at mervynhecht@yahoo.com.

If You Go

Enoteca Mosto

517 Washington Blvd.

Marina del Rey, Calif. 90292

(310) 821-3035

www.mostoenoteca.com

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