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Ever since Antica Pizza left the Marina, I’ve been in Napoletana pizza withdrawal. The nearest VPN (certified Napoletana pizza made with ingredients and methods approved by the association from Naples) was Settebello in Pasadena. I just couldn’t convince myself that the drive through down town traffic and then into Pasadena for pizza was worth it. I was thrilled when I saw that Settebello was going to come to the Marina in the same (newly rebuilt and redesigned) center that used to be Antica’s home.

Settebello opened a few weeks ago and the space both inside and outside is comfortable and casual. Servers are young and helpful, even though the fine details of orders and specials haven’t yet been refined. One one occasion I was asked if I wanted peppers and Parmesan, on another not, whereas I was asked how many slices I wanted my pizza cut into, but on another occasion not. I also heard the chef explaining to the bartender what chard was and how it was spelled as he described one of the specials.

The pizza that is the litmus test for a truly great Napoletana Pizza is the DOC Margherita, made with Crushed Tomatoes, Fresh Buffalo Mozzarella, Basil, Parmigiano Reggiano, Extra Virgin Olive Oil for $14, this 12 inch pizza is the classically simple staple for purists. This was a very good version, but it wasn’t as good as Antica’s. The flavor of the tomatoes needed a bit more zing (adding red peppers helped) and the crust, although perfectly thin and chewy, needed a touch more salt. Sinceย  I was not asked how many slices I wanted on this order, it was cut into four huge slices. The pizzas here are meant to be eaten with a knife and fork, so keep that in mind if you are used to thicker crusts that you can hold in your hands.

I came back for another visit and since the signature pizza the Settebello, I ordered it and got Crushed Tomatoes, Pancetta, Wood Oven Sausage, Roasted Mushrooms, Toasted Pine Nuts, Mozzarella, Basil, Extra Virgin Olive Oil for $14. In this case the lack of salt in the crust worked well since the pancetta and sausage both had enough to create a great balance of flavor. This signature offering was great, a hearty yet refined combination of meat, cheese, mushrooms and the interesting crunch of roasted pine nuts. Whereas I easily ate the Margherita in one sitting, two slices of the Settebello (this was cut into six) was plenty for my lunch.

I don’t often eat pizza (you will see this makes only my 7th pizza post on this blog) but having VPN Settebello close by means that when I do get a craving, I won’t have to make a trek to Pasadena ๐Ÿ™‚

Life has a way of bringing people and places back into your life, and Flores is bringing people back to the former Sawtelle Kitchen space. It has also brought back the owner to the building that used to show his father’s art. Everything in this place has evolved, from the clean design to the fresh flavors on the menu. It’s still a casual neighborhood place, but that is about the only thing that has remained from its former incarnation.

I came for lunch and was impressed with the airy patio spaces, the larger outdoor space has a warming fire pit for cooler evenings. They’ve only been open for about a month, but there were already “regulars”, an excellent sign for a new place.

I had the beef brisket sandwich which came with a side salad for $14. The beef was tender and moist with nice earthy flavor, but the meat was not heated through and the cold fat (which you can see in the picture) detracted from this otherwise great sandwich. I ended up taking out the slices of meat and cutting away all the fat before putting the sandwich back together to eat. I told my waitress that the temperature was a bit off and she relayed the information to the chef, Rob, who came out later with a complimentary dessert and an apology. He explained that it was the first day they were serving this sandwich so the staff had not gotten it perfect yet. This kind of honesty and service only made me want to go back (which I did later in the week).

The side salad added a nice light counterpoint to the rich meat and I was glad there was a knife since the leaves were left intact.

On a dinner time visit with a friend, the menu had so many wonderful dishes we wanted to try them all. Arriving at about 7:30 pm, they were already out of the softshell crab sandwich, the deviled eggs with crispy pig’s ear, and the branzino special! That helped us narrow down our choices, but we learned later that the chef actually sent out for more eggs later that night to make more of the deviled eggs ๐Ÿ™‚

We shared everything, so we started with the kanpachi ceviche young thai cocunut, lime and grapefruit for $14. The neighboring table said that she could have eaten three orders of this, and we agreed that this could have been a meal with a bigger portion. The flesh of the fish was so firm and fresh that the citrus flavors that ringed the bowl were all that was needed to bring out the best of the fish.

I ordered the kale salad with anchovy, radish, and fennel for $12 because I love kale and white anchovies, but I found this dish a bit too heavily coated with Parmesan.

The grilled prawns with cajun spice and lemon aioli for $16 were some of the best prawns I’ve eaten in the past year. The lemon aioli was so thick and rich, it was almost like lemon curd. I found the prawns delightful with just a squeeze of lemon. The cajun spice was not overpowering or too subtle, and the prawns were just barely done so they were still succulent. Like the ceviche, I could have made a meal of two orders of this dish.

The beet and stone fruit salad with pistachios, citrus, and sumac for $10 was a perfect summer salad with local ingredients that could convert a non salad eater.

The chicken liver bruschette with beetroot, cherries and bacon for $12 was a hearty luxurious serving. The cherries added a new slightly tart and slightly sweet highlight to the rich chicken liver, so if you like chicken liver, this version will make you smile.

The chef came by and offered a complimentary dessert (even though we had already ordered two desserts). This is the lemon Posset, with almond and cognac for $10. The Meyer lemon rind and the alcohol (not cooked off, so this dessert is only for those over 21) added zest to the granita and made this dessert a fairly light way to end a meal.

The macaron ice cream sandwich with strawberries was made with vanilla ice cream (you can see the flecks of vanilla in the photo) and if you love macarons or ice cream, this dessert combines both with some strawberries for color and texture. It’s a pretty big sandwich, so you might want to consider sharing.

My favorite dessert was the fresh fruit with yogurt espuma and vinegar caramel for $12. I ordered this to try vinegar caramel and now I am hopelessly addicted. I think I would eat the vinegar caramel by the spoonful if they sold it by the jar! For those of you scratching your heads wondering what vinegar caramel tastes like, imagine a slightly tart caramel, like a thick passion fruit flavored sauce.

It’s great having places close enough to walk to in the neighborhood, but it’s even better when it’s a fantastic food destination like Flores.

Flores on Urbanspoon

Happy Bastille Day!

If you’re in Paris this week-end the Girls Guide to Paris (men can click on it too:) will give you all the events happening in the capital.

The good thing about living close to the beach but not AT the beach is that I don’t have to suffer the throngs of people who descend on the week-ends, I don’t have to deal with cars blocking my driveway (“for just a minute”), and I can enjoy virtually marine layer free blue sunny days. Can you tell that I am glad I no longer live at the beach? All this being said, it’s still fun to GO to the beach. Just like it’s fun to rent a convertible even though you may not enjoy owning one (yes, I’ve been there and done that too).

So when friends came in from out of town who also used to live at the beach, we went to the beach! Venice’s Abbot Kinney was a funky artsy area before all the high end hipsters, but the “revitalization” has added some great places to eat in addition to what used to be the only good place to eat, Joe’s.

Feed Body & Soul has a beautiful facade, a covered patio, and that rarity that makes it worthy of a visit even on Summer week-ends, an adjacent valet parking lot.

We sat on the patio and since we all wanted to taste everything, we decided to literally taste three dishes by each eating a third of a plate and passing it on to the next person.

The crabcakes with a habernero sauce on a bed of organic greens with avocado was not as spicy as it sounds, but rather a lightly spiced salad that highlighted fresh crab. If you are a crabcake lover, you will be pleased with this choice.

The sesame crusted seared ahi with micro greens, wheatberries and a wasabi sauce was done perfectly rare. If you don’t like tuna tartare or tuna sashimi, do not order this, but if you do, this is a whole grain version of a dish you might find in a sushi restaurant. The wasabi sauce was quite spicy, so be forewarned.

My favorite dish was the one I ordered, the wild salmon on a bed of quinoa with spinach and a pea shoot sauce. The fish was perfectly cooked, the greens and grains moist and tasty, and I would have definitely eaten all of this dish without sharing!

The portions were not huge and our total for the three of us including tax and tip was about $90 without drinks, but for the atmosphere and the food, this is definitely worth the price for the quality of ingredients.

We went across the street for dessert at N’Ice Cream. They make their gelatos and sorbets fresh every day from ingredients that are organic in other countries but have not been certified as organic in the US. If you love creamy gelato, this is the place to go in Venice. In Hermosa, I prefer Paciugo, but for a place closer to me and with excellent flavors, this is a great find. Prices are about the same starting at $4 for a single serving. I chose the pistachio, a very creamy version made with imported Italian pistachios.

One friend got the maple and it tasted as fresh and creamy as my pistachio.

The third person of our trio chose the chocolate which was soooo chocolaty that I my one bite taste was enough to satiate me!

Maybe next time we’ll rent a convertible when we go to the beach ๐Ÿ™‚

Feed Body & Soul on Urbanspoon

N'ice Cream on Urbanspoon

I like my red meat very rare or raw (yes, I love steak tartare), so for me to eat a burger, I have to trust the source of the meat. Even with the plethora of burger places in Los Angeles, very few casual places serve grass fed meat and even fewer are burger places.

Short Order in the Farmer’s Market not only grinds their own meat from grass fed whole steers, but they use local, organic and artisanal products on their menu. The buns are as important as the burger, and you can rest assured that they bake their own bread since Nancy Silverton (La Brea Bakery) is one of the partners.

If you want a classic lunch combo, you can pair your burger with a milkshake or a beer starting at $6, or you can order wine by the glass starting at $10, but with 90+ degree heat and humidity, I opted for a herbal crimson berry iced tea for $3.50. It was slightly tart blend, and perfect if you want to quench your thirst without any added sugar.

The Commando is literally a “naked” beef burger for $8, but I “dressed” it a bit by adding raw onions. It was perfectly juicy and seasoned, so if you’re a purist, this burger is the one to order. I loved getting a rare burger and not having to worry about the quality and safety of the ground meat! If you want to be more gourmet, you can opt for truffle mayo for $2 or a chipotle BBQ sauce for .75 more.

Besides beef, they have tuna, portobello and free range turkey burgers, along with salads, home made sausages, and sandwiches made with pork belly, so no matter how you want to eat, you will find something on the menu to fit your appetite. I was intrigued by the grass fed lamb, feta, salsa verde and wild arugula burger for $14, so I ordered it on another visit.

The seasoning that was so perfect on the Commando burger made this burger too salty with the feta cheese, but aside from that, this was a good alternative for a red meat burger even though it is a bit pricey.

Thrice cooked fries for $3 were ok, not especially crisp or addictive, but decent. They offer sweet potato fries with cinnamon and thyme for $5 but with the classic Commando, I wanted classic fries.

The wood grilled asparagus with almond basil pesto for $7 was wonderful as a side dish, but I could have easily made a meal of three plates of this!

For a quick lunch in the Farmer’s Market, Short Order has good food ethics and enough options for everyone, so I’m keeping it on my short list of burger places:)

Short Order on Urbanspoon

 

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