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Executive Chef Walter Cestrone of Locanda del Lago serving his Terrina di Pollo,ÊFoie Gras wrapped withÊchicken pate covered in prosciutto di Parma. (photo by John Blanchette)

DOWNTOWN — Santa Monicans who love authentic Italian food do not have to travel to Tuscany to get it. It turns out there are two quality restaurants right here, according to the Italy-America Chamber of Commerce West.

The nonprofit, formed in the late 1980s to promote and foster economic and trade relations between Italy and the West Coast, recently bestowed upon Locanda del Lago and Valentino Ristorante Italy’s top culinary award, the “Q” Seal of Quality.

It’s the first time the Q has been awarded to a restaurant outside of Italy, said Letizia Miccoli, executive director of the chamber.

The Q certifies restaurants that preserve Italian history, culture, quality and authenticity. Restaurants are required to pass an extensive series of rigorous tests proving they follow the traditions of Italian agricultural and food products. They must emphasize and feature the Italian gastronomic culture, as well as the image of Italian restaurants abroad; guarantee the quality standards of Italian hospitality; include a certain percentage of denomination Italian wines; present a menu written in Italian; ensure there is at least one Italian-speaking person to engage with customers and offer the highest quality of extra virgin olive oil.

Valentino, founded in 1972 by Piero Selvaggio, was also the winner of the “LA Top Chef Italian” competition at the Istituto Italiano di Cultura in Westwood.

The other two top winners were Ago in West Hollywood and Da Pasquale Trattoria in Beverly Hills. Honorable mentions went to Il Moro in West LA, Caffe Pinguini in Playa del Rey and Osteria Latini in Brentwood.

Continuing with the Italian flavor, the chamber is hosting all next week (May 16 to May 21) a series of events, tasting dinners and seminars in various locations across the county that highlight Italy’s wines.

Viva Vino LA (www.vivavinola.com) will highlight wines from the regions of Campania, Friuli, Marche, Piedmont, Puglia, Sicily, Tuscany, Umbria and Veneto. Event partners include, The Wine House, Pourtal, Locanda del Lago, Il Fornaio and The Tasting Panel Magazine.

“Los Angeles is one of the biggest markets for Italian wine and this provides an opportunity for the most complete and comprehensive setting for retail and on-premise wine decision makers,” said Anthony Dias Blue of Blue Lifestyle, one of the event’s sponsors.

If you can’t make it out to an event, Pourtal Wine Bar in Downtown will be feature some of the wines from Viva Vino.

Cheers!

kevinh@www.smdp.com

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