West Los Angeles
Franco Catullo, owner of Pastina Trattoria, is the award-winning “Restaurateur of The Year” for 2001, presented by the California Restaurant Writers Association. He has the kind of restaurant that attracts regulars, four, five, and six time a week, and anyone who's been there once, always returns. It’s got the warmth that families get hooked on, along with “power lunching," and the perfect spot to meet the girls before or after shopping. However, a romancing couple could find a comfortable niche too, and you will surely see Franco as a friend after your first visit.
Upon entering, one gets the illusion of two dining rooms, effected
by high backed comfortable tapestry banquettes used to shelve large
plants and fine wines. It's highly polished and beautifully endowed with translucent wall lighting set behind arty diamond shaped decorative glass. And a magnificent sky‑light of colors stands-out as a show piece in the afternoon when the outside light comes through. Pastina is a beautiful Mediterranean styled restaurant, a neighborhood jewel with a big heart along with an open kitchen and dynamite dishes. And like a sensuous pilgrimage, I look forward to the freshly made pie‑shaped pizza breads baked throughout the day.
All the pasta's are deliciously popular and generous; in combinations of everything from fresh vegetables to clams, mussels, shrimp, scallops, eggplant, cheeses, fish, and calamari. But the spaghetti with shrimp, diced fresh tomatoes, basil, garlic and olive oil is popular. And I counted about l8‑variations, along with a potpourri of pizzas; and cheeses can be excluded by request.
On several occasions I've had the Penne all'Arrabbiata, (tubular pasta) embellished with sliced mushrooms, sauteed with tomato sauce and a touch of crushed red pepper; spunky without being hot. The sauces are terrific. And if you're on a special diet, let the waiter know what you wish to leave out of any preparation. It's easy to find lower calorie items if you stay with red sauces.
Chicken Cacciatora, is popular, (meaning "hunter style"). After the big hunt the bird would be cooked in chunks of green and red peppers, white wine, onions, garlic, mushrooms, and tomatoes. And it's still served that way at Pastina's. Another recommended chicken preparation is their "Petto di Pollo con Porcini;" sautéed chicken breast with garlic, porcini mushrooms and white wine. Osso Buco Milanese, a veal shank served with saffron rice is a signature dish here. And other tried-and-true preparations are the scampi platters; one with garlic and mushrooms in a lemon and white wine; the other is combined with scallops, paired to a spicy tomato sauce. If your fancy is veal, the chef does an excellent scaloppini topped with eggplant, prosciutto, and mozzarella in a white wine.
But one could easily make a meal of the appetizers and salads offered, such as their Arrugula topped with shaved Parmesan cheese; also the large Panini sandwiches stuffed with mild Italian sausage; prosciutto; grilled chicken breast; or grilled eggplant with roasted bell peppers, red onions, sliced tomatoes and goat cheese. It’s easy to fill-up on half a sandwich, and they gladly wrap the other half to take home.
Franco's kitchen features one of the best salmon dishes I've ever had; try the one with mustard sauce. And don't miss the Italian desserts, some flown in from Italy! We ended our meal with Italy's tiramisu, and how can you not love those Italians who dream so much of love that they even bake it into their dessert. In essence, tiramisu as interpreted means "lift me to the heavens," and it does.
Most of us are creatures of habit, returning to the same restaurant every time we eat out. I think the cuisine here is "as-good-as-it-gets" and highly recommended it for a comfortable change, whether you're alone or looking for a jump‑start on an old romance. So relax with a glass of wine, and learn to say "chin chin." 2260 Westwood Blvd., between Pico and Olympic Blvd; (3l0) 44l‑4655; valet & street. pkg; banquets; major credit cards accepted; full bar service; 4‑star wine list; limited delivery; closed Sunday. Antipasti, Salads, and Pizza, $6.50-$11.95; Pasta, $9.95-$15.50; Entrees, $12.50, (chicken) to $19.95 (Osso Buco) "molto Italiana – an endless impression."