BROADWAY — Whenever a new restaurant opens, my sister says, “Not another Italian restaurant!” A friend who works at Cal Tech claims that when man finally gets to Mars, he or she will find a Starbucks on one corner and an Italian restaurant on the other.
And so with trepidation I went to the new Hostaria del Piccolo on Sixth Street and Broadway, a block from an office in which I work one day a week. According to the owners, “Hostaria” is the old Italian word for “Osteria” and was the name of the first such restaurant of that type in Italy. It describes a neighborhood restaurant where the emphasis is on local camaraderie rather than fine food.
It was a good thing I knew it was there because there is no signage (yet?) and one wouldn’t know it’s a restaurant from the outside. But on the inside it has a very homey, comfortable feeling. The space is divided into three parts, a front room and back room, each in view of the open kitchen, and a lovely patio in the back.
It’s always a good sign when there’s an owner and a manger right there to watch over things, and that seems to be the case at Piccolo. Christian Bertolini, the manager, was right there to greet me. And Vittorio Viotti, one of the owners, was also there to watch over things. So really, nothing could go wrong. Viotti is also one of the owners of the original Piccolo at 5 Dudley Avenue in Venice, a well-known Italian restaurant that I have yet to try.
And so Harvey and I ordered a bunch of stuff to try out. There were tasty pork ribs and a delicious poached (I think) calamari on a bed of spinach for appetizers. I already tried the fried calamari at the opening party and it too was well prepared.
Then we had a cheese pizza and a linguini seafood neri. The pizza was OK, although I would have made the crust a bit thinner and more crisp. The linguini was a bit disappointing, in that I like dishes flavored with squid ink to be black and rich in squid flavor, and this one was a bit namby pamby.
I was very impressed with the wine list, especially by the glass, and we had a couple of glasses of red from different regions of Italy. Of course, one of the glasses was from a different vintage than was on the menu, but I’ve given up complaining about that since no one is listening.
Lunch wasn’t cheap, because we ordered a lot. With the wine it was about $30 a person, but I feel that was reasonable for what we had.
I don’t usually have dessert, but I saw on the menu (for $9) a fruit cup with crème fraiche on it, and that seemed like something I would like. That too was a disappointment. The “cup” was too rubbery, there weren’t many berries, and there was no crème fraiche, just a few drops of coffee cream on top. Pass on dessert.
All in all I consider this a nice addition to the Santa Monica eating scene. This is a well-run, authentic Italian restaurant with a nicely balanced menu, reasonable prices, comfortable seating, an outdoor patio, and a good wine list. And I predict it will get better and better because management is on the ball. As the old refrain goes, “Who could ask for anything more?”
If You Go
Hostaria Del Piccolo
Santa Monica, Calif., 90401
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 email@example.com