Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Bertolli's Into the Heart of LA {part 1} A true Italian adventure through food

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This past weekend, I was invited by Bertolli on a food tour of authentic Italian cuisine found right in Los Angeles.  And I can honestly say my stomach and heart are still full.  Not only did I get to meet a wonderful group of local bloggers, but a variety of Italian food purveyors as well.  And every single person/restaurant/staff we came across shared their passion with us as well as copious amounts of food.  Bertolli started in 1865 selling regional foods and has grown in to a huge company with products in many categories.  But what I love, especially, is that their mission has stayed the same - Quality Italian food to savor in your home.  Over and over we heard from the Italian chefs about the importance of family and sharing with them exquisite ingredients.  It totally struck me to the core.  Y'all, we need to stop.  That is right, just stop.  Stop texting, stop conference calling, stop multi-tasking and really sit down and enjoy dinner together.  All these proprietors had this ridiculous sense of pride about their businesses and well they should.  But it always came right back around to the family that they are sharing it all with.   

{stop 1}
Our group met at Cafe Bella Roma to enjoy delicious coffee drinks (a delectable cappuccino for me, thank you very much) and cornetti.  I had never heard of those before which shocked me a little.  For those of you who know me well, I like my sweets.  I take them pretty seriously.  And these did not disappoint.  They are an Italian croissant, some filled with cream (holler!) and dusted with powdered sugar.  Owned by Roberto Amico, this cute little neighborhood cafe serves more than just breakfast treats and you should absolutely check it out if you are in the area.  

Our next stop just happened to be in a mall.  I don't hate to shop so I felt right at home there.  Wouldn't have even flinched if they marched us to a food court.  There is a time and a place for foods on sticks and I am not opposed to them.  How cute are Chrystal and Amir of The Duo Dishes?!  I heart them! 

{stop 2}
Obika is most definitely not in a food court.  In fact, it is this totally great little restaurant.  They sat us at the counter area and we got to hear Chef Mossimo talk all about Mozzarella (they import it 3 times a week from Italy!) as well as how important it is to use fresh, local ingredients.  It was great to hear about the area where he is from and what he thinks of where he is now.  He and the restaurant are serious about providing you with an authentic experience and it was awesome to taste several types of mozzarella and see how they compared to each other.  The salty, slightly oozy burrata was my fave.  And they ended our visit with a taster portion of tiramisu.  I will love them forever.  How cute are these ladies?  That is Andrea of Savvy Sassy Moms (one of the ladies putting on my Blogher makeover!) Romy of Romy Raves and Melanie of Travels with Two.   

{stop 3}
Another mall!  This time, Santa Monica Place at the end of 3rd Street Promenade.  I have to say that having a private driver shuttling us all over the city did not suck as there was major traffic (nobody walks in LA) and luckily we didn't have to deal with parking.  And people kind of gawked trying to figure out who this group of people was piling out of a big black van.  I had no idea what to expect at this stop but I was blown away.  In a totally great way.  Orange County, take note:  WE NEED TO BE MORE AWESOME.  I would kill to have The Market local.  Up on the dining level of the mall there is a big sign for The Market.  Once you go through their doors, you are in a whole new artisanal food utopia.  There was an organic ice cream stand, a rad florist, a specialty chocolatier and a whole slew of other places each individually owned and operated.  They got the whole thing right - the atmosphere was really cool and all the graphic design throughout was spot on.  And like, me, they think dessert should be eaten first.  I wonder if The Market has cellulite too... 

Our first stop was to Primi al Mercato, owned by Piero Selvaggio.  We were treated to a demonstration on how they make their fresh pasta by chef Fernando and his wife.  It was so cool to see and I will totally be stealing some of their tips.  I'm not going to lie, I will never attempt to make fresh pasta.  But I will certainly infuse butter with sage like they did. What will I put it on?  Who knows, but it smelled SO good when they did it.  I think I could have eaten it on a shoe and it would have been delicious.  This was for sure the most lively group we encountered so far.  Chef Nico (pictured above) was a character and totally humored us as each one of us made him pose for pictures.  They demonstrated ricotta cheese gnocchi, spinach cavatelli, and 4 cheese tortellini.  And I adore how they serve pasta samples at their take out counter.  What a great way to turn pasta in to a hand held appetizer for your next party.  Similar cones are available from Think Garnish.    

Next they brought us around to the sit down side of their restaurant and had us taste some of the most delicious pasta dishes I have ever had.  Oh and wine.  There was wine.  Good wine.  How cute is Piero above in his red and white shirt?!  He was so gracious and eager to share his staff and amazing food with us.  What struck me most is while one of the servers was er, well, uh serving us, he said he really looks forward to family meal.  Like, whoa.  The staff is treated like family.  Revolutionary.  I am not a daring foodie by any means.  In fact, I'm a pretty picky eater.  But I know when I am in good hands and when to go with the flow.  I would never order lamb or most things from the sea but these dishes have changed my mind.  We were treated to gnocchi with lamb ragu (so good it was dumb), squid ink garganelli with seafood and mint pesto (I ate tentacles and stuff) and Tuscan pici with fava beans, pancetta, peperoncino and pecorino cheese (I wanted to make out with the cheese).  

How could I have not told you about Stacie yet?  Stacie worked alongside Bertolli to find all these amazing spots in and around Los Angeles.  She is a sommelier and wine reporter/blogger.  She specializes in Italian wines and she was integral in giving us a complete picture of a true Italian dining experience.  She was crazy intelligent and knew all the best spots in town.  She talked about each wine we were served, where it was from and why it was a good pairing with what we were eating.  As a curious wino who would like to know more, this was a huge bonus of the event for me.  Bertolli rocked my world on the first part of the tour and {spoiler alert} the second part only gets better!  

Come back tomorrow for part 2!  There are 3 more stops to go! 

All photos are mine

I was wined and dined all over Los Angeles by Bertolli but all of these opinions are mine. {full disclosure}  


The Duo Dishes said...

It was nothing but a pleasure to meet you! How fun fun fun. Plus, your photos are beautiful. You summed everything up so well. Brava for being the first to share this story!

Anonymous said...

Yum. I am really jealous this looked like an awesome tour... cannot wait for the rest!

Melanie@TravelsWithTwo said...

What a beautiful post! It makes me realize all over again how lame it is that Orange County and the Valley are so bizarrely far from one another...I love that you captured our fabulous day, and that you, too, use photo collages! xo


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