“Instructions for living a life: Pay attention. Be astonished. Tell about it.” ― Mary Oliver
My visits in August to LA and Orange County already seem like eons ago, though only two months have passed. That could be attributed to the fact that it is November 7, and we had our first snow of winter(?!) yesterday!
Well, back to the California bit…first there was a business trip, and then a week later, a visit to the in-laws. I did find time to catch up with my brother and one of my good friends who both live in the area over lunch and dinner. Which brings me to the restaurant situation in LA. The funny thing about LA is it’s such a huge city, but really didn’t have much of a dining scene because people in LA cared more about the scene at a place than the food. Given how image-, body-, and diet-conscious the Angelenos are, it’s surprising any good chefs have taken up there at all. Does the city have any appetite for chef-driven (versus celebrity or restaurateur-led) places?
One place I tried for lunch with my friend was Mario Batali’s Pizzeria Mozza, off Melrose. It’s always got a wait and was packed even though our “lunch” was more like 2:30pm. We ordered fried squash blossoms (yummy!), a salad that I can’t remember well now – so I guess it wasn’t remarkable, and two pizzas, I had the anchovy and he had the bacon, sausage, and salami pizza. The sauce was perfect, tangy, rich tomato. But the crust was not my favorite, and not because it wasn’t good, but I guess I like a style that isn’t quite as crusty/bready, and not quite as charred from the wood fire oven. But, still, I was happy we found a place in LA with pretty decent food – even if we did wait 30 minutes to sit down for a very late lunch.
Later, I met my brother for dinner at Bäco Mercat, a popular restaurant in downtown LA near where I was staying. We had a great dinner and I got to catch up on the glamorous life of a 30-something single hipster in LA. We could not live more different lives! Of course, I’d just eaten a few hours ago, so we ordered a bunch of small plates to share – and we didn’t even try one of the namesake Baco’s. We had roasted olives (warm and briny), pork belly (rich and smoky), and a tomato, fig, goat cheese and walnut salad (fresh, summery, and bright — I miss summer already. Oh, the tomatoes!).
And last but not least, when I was back in San Diego two weeks later with the family, we went to San Diego and ate at the Prep Kitchen in the Little Italy neighborhood. Sad to say, I didn’t document much about the meal (had my hands full with the kiddos!) but I do remember three things: 1) the waitress was super nice and accommodating with the kids’ dishes, etc., 2) the food was VERY good, especially some pork belly we ordered and 3) I had a hearty panzanella salad and everything was super fresh and seasoned really well. I’d definitely recommend stopping by this place, and even more so because it’s in the heart of Little Italy which means just down the street, gelato for dessert!