Had been on my radar for a number of months now, having first seen the joint venture of Mario Batali and Joseph Bastanich when I gave my mother the Mozza cookbook for Christmas. The Mozza group’s flagship restaurant is the much-famed Osteria Mozza; the driving force behind it being decorated chef Nancy Silverton. The upmarket restaurant is nestled in a pocket on Melrose Avenue; the corner site allowing the sister restaurant and more casual setup of Pizzeria Mozza to flourish next door.
When I made the booking over a month ago, the 9:30 sitting was the earliest timeslot they had available so carried into this booking were high hopes, and even higher expectations. With Nancy at the helm and very much the driving force in the kitchen, Mozza has established itself as one of THE restaurants on the West Coast for fine Italian dining. The Bastianich influence is very prominent; the wine list featuring hundreds of wines from a raft of regions with more focus on the lesser-known areas and varietals in an obvious attempt to develop awareness of these wines. The houses own Bastianich brands also feature on the list; so for punters wanting to try something a little left-of-field they are well and truly catered for.
I must admit, my first impressions of this restaurant were very mixed. Upon entering, it was apparent that this was the place to be on a Saturday night. Even this late (For Melbourne diners), the restaurant was at capacity; the bar was buzzing with people hanging out, eating and having a drink, the floor-staff were shuffling around constantly and there was a definite air of exclusivity for the ability to dine here. Rather frustratingly, my initial feelings of eagerness were replaced by frustration as our short wait for a table that was ‘running behind’ grew to the better part of an hours wait; which at 9:30pm for a reservation is obviously less than desirable. Our host for the night, Taylor, was incredibly hospitable during this wait; often checking in to keep us updated and bringing starters to snack on while we waited. We grabbed an Aperol Spritz and bunkered down by the bar.
I will get my gripes out of the way first:
One thing I will state; is that in general; the staffing seemed a touch inexperienced in resolving situations that may arise during service. During our stay, I observed a rather obnoxious bartender be quite rude to a patron requesting a drink with his girlfriend; almost showing off in front of her and making the man wait at least 10 minutes just because he requested a drink while the bartender was serving someone else. Furthermore he even gestured to other guests at the bar in an almost ‘Get a load of this guy’ way, which, in a restaurant of this caliber should just not happen.
Elsewhere, little things such as a waiter not being able to help me in finding out how long a table would be simply because he ‘was not a host’, and being unable to order starters, entrees and mains separately (We were told they had to be ordered at the same time which is just bizzare as we wanted to start on a few things while we decided on wine) soured the otherwise excellent experience of both food, wine and great conversation with our host Taylor.
With those minor niggles out of the way: Onto the food and drink. My food was as follows:
We started with an Insalata Caprese.
Wow, look at the way those colours just pop. A great indicator of the freshness and quality involved. The tomato sautéed to perfection, the cheese delicate and soft and the extra virgin olive oil and basil that complimented were executed perfectly. This just worked.
With this we paired with a sparkling italian ‘Alta Langa’ from Dogliani by Ettore Germano. It was recommended by Taylor, and I can honestly say it was the only Italian ‘champagne methode’ that I have ever considered in the same leave as decent French and this was superb. We followed this up with a cheeky blend from Venetian powerhouse Quantarelli, this his ‘Ca del Merlo’
It had lovely acidity and length and was perfectly balanced. The wine itself is a blend of predominately Garganega yet it offers something completely left-field of Soave and was enjoyable.
Next came the pasta; Corzetti Strampati with eggplant and ricotta.
Delicate, rich and full of flavour. The ricotta accompanied it a treat and it was very flavoursome. I think however the olives that were included added to much of a contrast to the dishes sweetness and seemed a little out of place.
I followed this up with one of Mozza’s signature steaks; the truffle rubbed bistecca.
This was again executed very well the crispy outer layers lined with salty truffle notes and inside the steak was moist, rich and tender. I order all my steaks medium-rare and this was cooked perfectly.
Owing to the calibre of the food, we decided to pair it with an equally high-calibre wine and one of my favourite producers: Cappellano
The ‘ Otin Fiorin Piè Rupestris’ 2004 despite being much too young to drink now was showing up a treat after half an hour in the decanter – The brand has considerable presence so it came as no surprise when Taylor our host and also the man responsible for being the principle wine buyer of the group told us it was one of his favourites too.
Then followed the amazing ’99 Flaccianello by Fontodi; a rare treat and such an amazing wine.
They were simply breathtaking; with perhaps the 2007 being the one drinking better now but only because of the power of the other two vintages. It is such a rare treat to have one in a night, so to be able to try three was incredible and credit to Taylor for his extreme generosity.
Finished off with some rather delectable strawberry crespelle and another interesting recommendation; this time a blend of Brachetto and Moscato. This was a great paring with the tart and sweet flavours of the crespelle and despite being a wine I would perhaps not try again was such an experience to be able to try.
All in all an extremely enjoyable night. The food and wine were sublime, Taylor was fantastic and we certainly ate and drank more than our fair share. Definitely one to return to.
Anything Batali/Bastianich branded is generally very high quality; and with such a long waiting time for reservations this was very high on the list.
Elegantly decorated, a central mozzarella bar and a sizeable bar towards one end. Booth style seating around the edge of the restaurant and centralised tables in the middle.
Very shaky start to the evening; but ended on a great note.
Really high quality food that delivers more than your average celebrity restaurant.
Wines from just about every region in Italy (And plenty of wines within that variety to choose from); medium-high markup was to be expected but several gems to be find amongst them. Certainly no shortage of beers either.
Would I return?
Definitely; but for diners my advice would be to book with plenty of time ahead and get an earlier time slot.
602 Melrose Ave, Los Angeles CA 90038