Alimento, a Positive Trend in Italian L.A. Restaurant
The flavors, colors and attitude of Italian food are changing in Los Angeles – a trend, I am happy to see, that is starting to simmer up from years of Veal Piccata, Spaghetti Bolognese, bad Risotto and the remaining plethora of Italian staple foods that has been served in almost every Italian eatery in the city for years and years. The old bastions of Italian cuisine in L.A like Valentino, Toscana and others like these, which continue to serve outdated, boring dishes to those who think that Italian food is made up of the same old ingredients and “nonna’s” old recipes, are being replaced by inventive, contemporary and forward thinking establishments such as Factory Kitchen, Jon and Vinney’s, Oficine Brera and most recently Alimento L.A. – one of the newer kids on the block with spectacular food, done modestly but deliciously.
In the Heart of Silver Lake
Alimento is not easy to get to – situated in the hip neighborhood of Silver Lake just east of downtown Los Angeles, it is not located in the usual city hubs of L.A.’s restaurant hustle such as the West Side and most recently downtown. However no matter the distance needed to travel, Alimento is worth the trip.
A relatively small space inside, it also has a few tables outside facing busy Silver Lake Boulevard. Upon arriving it initially appealed to me for its casual, easy feel and most importantly the absence of the ubiquitous blaring background music that plagues many of today’s hipper restaurants. At Alimento it’s all about the company and the food – both to be enjoyed without too much distraction.
The menu is divided into three main sections – “Plates”, which includes a couple dozen small appetizer dishes that cover everything from an amazing Italian Chopped Salad “amigliorata” (improved) with chick peas, fresh greens, a salty selection of salami and coated with a smooth dressing of anchovy vinaigrette . We also chose the Chicken Liver Tostone with quince mostarda, an incredibly smooth and velvety mousse with slices of crusty home made bread – delightful. As a third dish we tried the Octopus with Braised Barley, Roasted Carrots and Red Onion. The barley added an amazing nutty texture to the softness and sweetness of the octopus, which was as tender as I can remember ever having this dish.
The second section includes a selection of half a dozen Pastas. No Italian restaurant, in my opinion, can be judged fairly without trying a selection of their pastas – after all, new school or old school, pasta is what it’s all about when you’re out for Italian food.
We selected two dishes – first the Radiatori with Braised Pork Sugo, Kale and Fennel Pollen – very hip, contemporary ingredients these days, but the combination of flavors, the texture of the home made pasta and lusciousness of the sauce were unforgettable – if I could, I would have ordered seconds. Our second pasta was the Fusilli with Manila Clams, Arugula, Serrano Chiles and Smoked Butter. I could have done without the pronounced smokiness of the butter, but all together the dish was one of the best clam sauces I have tried anywhere, and I have had plenty.
The third and last section of the menu gives you a selection of three main proteins – a vegetarian Bagna Cauda, Whole Grilled Orata (Sea Bream) and a Prime Ribeye Tagliata with Potato Fonduta and Wild Mushrooms. We selected the fish, which was served whole, roasted to perfection and flavored with Calabrian Chilis, Beans and a Pesto Trapanese (mainly olives and chili and herbs). A bit salt forward for my test, however nonetheless a deliciously flavored sweet fish that delighted the entire table.
As for desserts they only had three selections – a homemade rice pudding, equally homemade Almond Cake and lastly a Chocolate Caramel Budino – we had all three – yum, yum and yum!
I had wanted to come to Alimento for a while, but due to the distance from my home it was never an easy endeavor especially taking into consideration L.A. traffic, but I am so glad I finally made it, because the food was both simple and original and most importantly a welcome change from the humdrum of conventional Italian food in this city.
1710 Silver Lake Boulevard
Silver Lake, Los Angeles