Mozza gets all the attention, doesn’t it? If you are an Italian restaurant in Los Angeles, you certainly feel like that, all eyes going toward this celebrity chef driven, over a month long wait for a reservation, restaurant that everyone talks about. Well, don’t buy the hype anymore because there are so many other great Italian restaurants, like Maximiliano, Osteria La Buca, Little Dom’s, and Terroni, who is the subject of this week’s Digest.
We’ve been to Terroni several times and the place is always a delight, despite having a lot going against it. First, it’s always packed–like super packed to the point where you have to yell in order to hear anything. It can be very unkind to walk-ins, showing them to the bar for up to an hour long wait. Thankfully, great wines and beers provide no reason to complain while waiting. Their staff–particularly the host staff–can be a little bit unkind too, quick with customers and–as we learned Friday at a dinner with friends–shooing you out if you linger at your table too long after paying your bill. The menu can also be a little intimidating, shoving you toward something you only have a vague idea of what it can be and are too afraid to pronounce. Yes, it is one of those Italian restaurants and sounds all together stiff and not like a great dining experience–but it is worth your time!
Terroni captures a space in between fine dining and extreme casual dining that makes this all make sense (save for the short host staff, who should never be that short, even if a deluge of men made out of $1000 bills walked up and asked to be seated at seven tables: customers should never be literally kicked out of a table!). The casualness lends itself well because you get all the fine foods of a place like Mozza but without the frills and extreme wait: you get quality food and a quality dining experience, packaged in a very laid back manner. It’s very cool and full of young faces, occasionally “It” people littered in.
This past visit, we started with one of the special appetizers: a sliced meat and cheese board that even came with a few fried pieces of pizza dough. It was a delicious little meat survey from spicy to over the top savory meats, none of which we can recall the names of because it is too loud in the space. The cheeses were various takes on Parmesan, some densely packed, some creamy, and some a bit powdery. Five little pillows of fried pizza dough and sundried tomatoes accompanied the meats and cheeses, allowing for you to make your own little bite-sized pizzas, despite how tacky that sounds. This was a nice way to start off a meal and went perfectly with an accidentally ordered expensive bottle of Pinot Noir we were served when we asked for a “nice Pinot Noir.” Always ask for a price or point out which wine you want specifically: never just ask!
Okay, the entrees. We got two specials that were definitely special. The first, seen above, is the Spaghetti with Sausage and Black Truffle. That’s right, guys: all those rough pale disks are pieces of sliced black truffle. You’d think this dish would cost, like, seven million dollars as a result but it was around twenty-ish: how insane is that?? The pasta, like all the pasta, is made in house and is light and decadent, in a light red sauce with mild sausage everywhere. The truffle provides a very earthy consistency to the dish, fitting in quite nicely when folded into the delicious mess of spaghetti.
The other special being served was Papadelle with Duck Ragu, also strangely twenty dollars-ish and will blow your brains out of your ears. The Papadelle is a thick pasta, tightly coiled when this dish arrives. This is surprisingly light, the duck cooked perfectly to a juicy, almost stewed point: the dish would be common if it were a beef or chicken ragu–the duck offers a very complex element to the simple dish. I’ve been to Terroni a few times and, good God, this is the only dish I can order because it is just so fantastic.
That idea dominates all of the Terroni dishes: they are just so light and so delicious–why order anything besides these great little pasta dishes? It’s insane and doesn’t make any sense–but it does. The place is a testament to handmade, quality food. It’s very hard to be disappointed by the food and drinks here; however, sometimes the service and wait can be a little dicey and frustrating. Definitely give Terroni a try–but get there early. If you get there around 8:30PM on a Friday, you are in for a long wait before you get to even think about ordering food. And, don’t linger at your table: the head host will kick you out of your table.