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La Botte owner Stefano De Lorenzo prepares for dinner service Monday at the Santa Monica Boulevard eatery. (photo by Daniel Archuleta)

CITYWIDE — Ever been tempted to splurge on that expensive restaurant in town, but you couldn’t because you didn’t have the funds or the hook-ups?

Well, now that can change.

The Los Angeles Tourism & Convention Board, American Express and dineLA are throwing the first-ever summer dineLA Restaurant Week, which showcases all types of restaurants, dishes and steals. Though the chowing down has already started, the food deals will continue until July 27.

Announced late June, the program’s lineup features more than 250 L.A.-based restaurants, at least 34 of which are Santa Monica locales.

“We are thrilled to welcome residents and travelers from near and far to explore L.A.’s culinary landscape during dineLA Restaurant Week,” said Mark Liberman, president and CEO of the Los Angeles Tourism & Convention Board, in a statement. “The summer schedule lends itself to a wide range of dining experiences — from poolside to patio, oceanfront to garden — all at an incredible value.”

The participating eateries will be preparing special prix-fixe lunch and dinner menus at three different price points: Lunch menus will go for $15, $20 or $25, and dinner menus will go for $25, $35 and $45. In addition to the prix-fixe menus, American Express will be offering a $5 statement credit to diners who register an eligible American Express card at amexnetwork.com/dineLA, between June 22 and July 27 and who spend $21 or more with the registered card.

Local highlights for the program include Cafe Bizou, which serves dishes on the first price point tier; Upper West, which serves on the second; and La Botte, which serves on the third.

At Bizou the $15 lunch special offers customers an array of seafood-oriented standouts, including a lobster bisque as a first course choice and grilled salmon Nicoise salad and lobster, sea scallop and shrimp pasta — black tagallini pasta made in-house with squid ink — as second course choices.

The $25 dinner special covers similar territory but also includes escargot as an appetizer and grilled buffalo New York steak salad as an entree.

Said Cafe Bizou’s manager Wilfried Leon: “[Restaurant Week] is good business and advertisement for us, and it always brings in a lot of people.”

Climbing up to the second tier of the price ladder with Upper West, Chef Nick Shipp incorporates innovative concoctions with a $20 lunch menu and a $35 dinner menu.

If you catch Shipp in the afternoon, you can give the seared beef carpaccio or the chicken and fennel sausage salad a try. Come nighttime, the dishes get even edgier: see braised lamb crepes, ahi tuna crispy tacos and pan roasted barramundi.

Restaurants like La Botte are normally on the pricier side of the spectrum, but for Restaurant Week, owner Stefano De Lorenzo is preparing a $45 dinner menu loaded with Italian specialties.

To start, patrons can choose from tomatoes and bruschetta, a seafood medley (that comes with sea urchin ice cream) and melon and parma prosciutto gazpacho. The second course boasts beef filet ravioli, gnocchi and a linguine dish, and for dessert, sorbet, pannacotta and handcrafted cheeses present formidable finales.

But the best deal, said De Lorenzo, is the free corkage fee — which permits anybody to bring in their own bottle and get the night flowing gratis.

To see other participating Santa Monica- and L.A.-based restaurants, visit discoverlosangeles.com, which allows potential patrons to search the restaurants by name, lunch, dinner, cuisine, city and menu.

“I participated because I really love [Restaurant Week] — I feel like it’s a great opportunity to promote my business and to present new items,” De Lorenzo said. “I just love these times of the year.”

news@smdp.com

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