BY David Pisarra
I was invited in to try the new O+O Sicilian on Olympic Way across from Tongva park. This is not a bad gig and since I was allowed to bring along the trusty assistant, Young Mike, who is also of the Italian Persuasion (by way of New Jersey) lunch looked to be at worst a fun hour, and at best a culinary journey to the homeland of our forefathers and foremothers.
These restaurant reviews are some of the most fun I get to have these days so when I have the opportunity I truly enjoy it. We went to O+O Sicilian last Tuesday. I had just been in court across the street, so definitely ready for some relaxation and fine dining.
We arrived at the stroke of noon and were the second table seated. The first thing that I noticed as I approached the table was very comfortable looking mid-century modern style leather chairs. This is a sign that the restauranteur is looking to have you stay a while. No hard, cold metal pieces of torture here, these were as comfortable as could be, just shy of a Laz-y-Boy recliner.
The dining room is a very bright and open space, with glass walls that open on to an outside seating area. It was a bit too brisk for me to sit outside, even though there are heaters, it’s just as comfortable to me as being inside. Those outside heaters always seem to either not do the trick, or have me roasting like a marshmallow on a soon to be s’more.
Our server was a lovely young woman named Annette with a bright and charming personality, and a commanding understanding of the specials of the day. However, she is also part of the main complaint I had of the restaurant – she has a very soft voice, the music not so much. In fact, as usual for most restaurants these days, the music was too loud and it made understanding her impossible at times as she was reciting the specials of the day.
The menu at O+O is a wide range of small plates and large plates, and actually rather light on the pasta. It’s a pleasant change from the carbohydrate heavy menus of most Italian restaurants that focus on having every type of pasta and sauce combination, and doing none of them particularly well. This experience was a refreshing change that brought us some appetizers such as a chicken and mushroom meatballs which were delightfully showered with a cream sauce that complemented, but not overpowered the chicken spicing.
Of course for two Italian boys, the proof of this place was going to be in the meatballs and the gravy. Were they like the ones grandma made? or that flavorless, hard ball of protein that some places call meatballs, but I’d call a golf ball in ketchup. Thankfully, O+O delivered three tender and moist, full of flavor and spice meatballs the size of a golf ball, but the texture of perfection. Sometimes restaurants use salt like it’s oxygen, pervasive and overpowering – not this place. I found the red sauce to akin to a homemade Bolognese in consistency and flavor. A robust meatiness with a bit of the tomato bite still present.
Next up was a salad of arugula on a bed of paper-thin sliced bresaola – dry aged beef. For anyone on a Paleo diet this would be the perfect entree salad to get. The bresaola was firm and savory, without verging on the edge of beef jerky as happens at times. The dressing on the arugula was a light and bright vinaigrette that accented the pungent saltiness of the pecorino Romano slivers. All in all this was a perfect salad for a light lunch.
We ordered two pizzolos, that came calzone style, this was the most uninspired of all the dishes we had, but that is not to say they were less than satisfying – they were excellent, but paled in comparison to the rest of the menu. They were accompanied with a side order of caramelized Brussels sprouts and apples – which were tremendous.
I think it’s a rule that you have to have dessert in a place like this, especially if they cannollis on the menu. We were served a trio of mini cannolis, chocolate, pistachio and orange. They were clearly freshly made as the shells still crunched and the gooey cheeses filling oozed out. For my money, they were a tad bit better than the orange cheesecake, which was also excellent.
Young Mike and I left fully sated and both saying this was one of the better Italian restaurants in town.