>The twinkling lights around the patio and the warm glow coming from inside Il Pastaio beckon everyone to come inside this bustling little trattoria in the heart of Beverly Hills. I’m glad I heeded the call. It takes either patience to stand in line at the door (usually for half an hour or more), or planning (by reserving a few weeks in advance at Open Table) to secure a seat at one of the tiny tables, all literally 6 inches away from each other. This is definitely not the place to have a private conversation, unless you want it to be leaked out to the table next to you or a tabloid.

The hostess was fabulous, holding a table for half an hour during the busy lunchtime rush for a prior reservation (traffic in this area is very congested around lunchtime, so plan on lots of extra time to arrive and park*). The service was very efficient and friendly without being overbearing; whenever the waiter was not in sight the numerous busboys filled in instantly.

The food is the main attraction here since the owner is the famous Drago; the twist here is that this is his trattoria, so prices here are about half of the dishes in his signature restaurant, but made with the same high quality ingredients. From the carpaccio di tonno (tuna instead of beef) with whole caper berries, and the shrimp and papaya salad, to the squid ink risotto (yes it is supposed to be black) and the ravioli with spinach and ricotta. Everything was perfectly seasoned, presented, fresh, and expertly cooked. Since the tables were so close, I can say that the prosciutto and the shellfish plates also looked good (but I can not say for sure since I did not taste my neighbor’s plates).

Il Pastaio is definitely worth the wait and the planning. When you go, try to save room for dessert and an espresso so you can linger awhile watching the street scene; it may not be Rome, but it’s a nice facsimile.

*There is free 2 hour covered parking in the city lot on Canon one block northwest of the restaurant.