We traveled to LA last week…

…for the music. And as you know by now we were amply rewarded with singular performances from Luca Ellis  and Robert Davi … but we also came up “golden” on the culinary front.

We got to know Robert Davi a bit back at his Vegas debut show in February, so as we approached LA launch day, I reached out to him for a couple of restaurant recommendations. And did Robert ever come through in fine fashion!

On our way…

…to spend the evening with Luca Ellis at Bar Nineteen 12 (nested into the Beverly Hills Hotel) we stopped at Robert’s first recommendation — one of Giacomino Drago’s places, Il Pastaio.

We made the Il P dining decision based on the proximity of the restaurant to our evening’s ultimate destination (only a few blocks away from Bev Hills Hotel) but my god, the pasta is so freaking good at Il Pastaio, I’d gladly sit on “the” 405 for an hour or so to have it again. OK, that may be a stretch … “the” 405 is big suck (as is LA traffic in general) but the meal my wife and I partook Thursday last goes in the books as one of my all-time best, and THE best pasta I’ve ever consumed.

Being us…

Of course we started with shellfish (I think my affliction is well documented at this point). The “Zuppetta” (mussels and clams in a spicy tomato broth) was Sicilian greatness — the perfect antipasto — a bowl of perfectly cooked shellfish resting happily in a just-right spicy/garlic tomato broth (“I need more bread over here!”)

The menu is stocked with awesome sounding dishes of which frustratingly we could only snare a couple, but all that frustration vanished when our selections arrived. My lovely bride took down a Pappardelle dish off their regular menu (though I’m guessing there’s nothing “regular” on this menu) that was spinach fettuccini tossed with both a venison ragu and porcini  ragu. Perfectly cooked spinach pasta … perfectly balanced against the deep, rich ragu blend. Crazy good.

I went with a daily special. Another pappardelle dish … this time a quail, porcini ragu with a touch of cream swirled in … it was almost like a quail bolognese. These folks know how to make pasta … perfect bite and sauce clinging characteristics and the sauces … oh, my the sauces. SIMPLY THE BEST I’VE EVER HAD.

We had a great Montepulciano accompaniment (sorry, I was in the throes with the pasta and forgot to log the vintner) … the service was great … nice after dinner coffee. This was as good a meal as I’ve  ever had in a restaurant … or anywhere else for that matter!

A Landmark Steak…

Another infatuation of mine (beyond shellfish) is “old school” restaurants, so when RD also suggested Musso & Frank Grill as “a landmark restaurant” we had to hit it. Sometimes these landmark places can be tired, tourist traps but not M&F!

Settling into our table near the bar, it only seemed right to match the classic chop-house environs with a full-on old school dining experience … grab a couple of highballs, nosh on a classic shrimp cocktail and then knock down a couple of tenderloin steaks.

Ok, I may have lost some “old school” points with the Malbec, but otherwise I felt like we could have been ordering and eating this meal in any decade over the past 75 years … I kept looking over to the bustling bar to see if Dean Martin had stopped in.

Sadly, Dean did not show that Friday evening, but the bar did fill up with regulars … it was like watching a floor show, or a scene from The Godfather with all the “man hugs” and kisses going down between the patrons and staff. The bloodsport of people watch was indeed great fun but came to an abrupt end when the steaks landed.

Few things command my attention better than a beautiful piece of beef, perfectly cooked and simply, but again perfectly accompanied by a nice side of unadorned “lambs lettuce” (mâche) and a classic baked potato.

For about 10 minutes, our conversation consisted mostly of moans and yummy noises (Young Frankenstein reference …cool!) as we reveled in the simple goodness of the food and wine. The steak was wonderful but I’m not sure there’s anyway to do justice to how good steak juices melding with mâche on a hot plate really is as a side dish … or how good an “old school” baked potato (just butter … sour cream and chives on the side) can be.

We got back into the people watching game about half way through the meal as both the restaurant and our bellies filled … ending with half a glass of the Malbec and some great conversation after the plates were cleared. It was like traveling back in time … I didn’t want to leave.

Musso & Frank is indeed a landmark, but it’s also a damn good restaurant that brings the classics and makes “old school” cool! Thanks so much for the recommendations Robert … it could not have been better!