I managed to get a riding lesson in before rushing home to shower and head out for our 8:45 reservation at Osteria Mozza on my birthday. Anticipation is a wonderful thing, and I've wanted to go the the restaurant since I first read about it in the building stages. I'm a huge fan of Nancy Silverton's breads from the La Brea Bakery and who doesn't enjoy watching Mario Batali on Iron Chef America?
First of all, the food and service at Osteria Mozza was wonderful. You could fill me up on the multi-grain bread any time. And the margarita, made with agave nectar, lime juice, and a pure agave tequila, hit me like a sledge hammer.
The decor was lovely. The sound, not so much.
As my friend had warned me, it is very noisy. When I'm spending that much for dinner (or watching someone else spend that much) I'd like to be able to talk to my dinning companion(s). It was almost impossible. I suppose if we were sitting next to each other at the mozzarella bar, we could have whispered in each others ears. But we were sitting opposite each other at a dining table. Pity. The sound was the only drawback to the evening.
I had the better view for watching what was going on in the room. The place was hopping and it served dinner quite late. If it weren't so expensive, it would be a good stop for those nights after a trip to the theater. The place is also quite hip, judging from the youngish crowd in cool clothing (where do they get the money?)
Dinner started with a complementary amuse bouche of heavenly ricotta on toast. Len ordered the burrata with bacon, marinated escarole, and caramelized shallots. Burrata is a very creamy, fresh mozzarella--and quite "in" these days. It was wonderful. I had the equally good prosciutto di Parma con melone--the melon tasted like a childhood memory. I would have ordered the mussels or something with eggplant, but I promised Len I would order food he would actually taste.
We split the egg and fresh ricotta raviolo in brown butter--a large raviolo with a whole egg nested in ricotta. This is a pretty impressive presentation and I marvel that it was done with the neither the pasta nor the egg yolk breaking, but I'm not sure I'd bother a second time. There were a number of pasta dishes I would like to try instead. For the main course, Len had the pan roasted pork loin and I had the crisp duck al mattone. His pork was fantastic. The duck skin was indeed crisp and wonderful, but I'm not sure I liked the duck flesh as much as I would have liked the striped bass or the grilled orata, neither of which Len would want to try. Next time. Whenever that is.
We didn't do dessert. We were too full from dinner and nothing appealed to me. I might be convinced to go by for coffee and dessert some time, just as I would like to try Pizzeria Mozza some night.
It was definitely worth the wait and I'd go back, but I wish Mario Batali and Nancy Silverton would turn down the noise. The room has lots of hard surfaces, which makes everything bounce around and contributes to the cacophony. I like quiet conversation with dinner, which was one of the big draws of the old Paul's Cafe in Sherman Oaks (in addition to its great food and low prices.)
Osteria Mozza is located on the southwest corner of Highland and Melrose Avenues in Hollywood. Pizzeria Mozza is located one door south on Highland. Reservations are definitely needed for the Osteria, but I don't think they are taken for the Pizzeria.