Sunday, October 10, 2010

Georgio's Cucina: A Pop-Up in the Valley

I flew to LA this weekend and had great plans to take advantage of dineLA Restaurant Week (reservations at Ortolan and illusions of more prix-fixe grandeur). Unsurprisingly, my flight was delayed...and then delayed further. Forty-five minutes into the delay, we came to terms with the fact that we were going to have to cancel our reservation, and I put Ortolan back onto my wish list. (It worked out for the best, as I was greeted by a fantastic throw-together, home-cooked meal of veal with chanterelles and salad with purple basil.)
I did, however, take advantage of an exciting development -- a pop-up restaurant had come to the valley (could it be the valley's first?). Georgio's Cucina is a two-month West Coast venture by New York-based chef, Gary Robins. It is in a strip mall off of a relatively foodie-rich part of Ventura Blvd (home to Sushi Nozawa, Asanebo, and Laurel Tavern), and the restaurant itself was an old school pizzeria complete with deep-red leather booths and a dark woody interior. I kind of loved the setting just for being so unpolished (and so valley) and it made the dining experience all about the food, which was fine because everything we had was delicious.
The meal began well with fabulous olive bread (care of La Brea Bakery) and citrus-y Arbequina olive oil (we asked for seconds...and thirds). We tried the house sangria (made simply with fruit and wine due to liquor license restrictions), which was pleasant and nicely infused with blood orange.
For starters, we ordered two different crudos -- they have a variety of flatbreads and an assortment of appetizers including duck polpette (meatballs) and grilled octopus. The crudos: first, the "capesante," which was sea scallop with pomegranate, basil, and toasted hazelnuts in a flavorful broth. The scallop was the most buttery and tender that I have ever tasted.
The second crudo was a thai snapper accompanied by japanese horseradish (I think this would be wasabi, and while I LOVED the dish, I could not detect a hint of the horseradish), yuzu and green apple. This dish was unique and supremely tasty.
For my entrée I ordered the pappardelle with braised duck in a porcini fennel broth topped off with aged pecorino. It was a perfect cozy-feeling Fall meal with a scent of tarragon and maybe a touch of five-spice. We also ordered the pumpkin gnocchi with sage brown butter, walnuts and pecorino -- this is a fairly common pairing but it was done exquisitely. The gnocchi were made without any potato, and they appeared to have been sautéed on the outside to give it a little crust. They were perfectly fluffy and creamy on the inside (some declared this the best dish of the night). Our final entrée selection was the porchetta served with polenta and broccoli rabe. Another great dish. The highlight: the most beautifully crisp skin I've ever tasted.
We couldn't leave without trying a dessert, so we all split the flourless chocolate cake. I really enjoyed it, some wanted it to be more dense. It tasted like a chocolate mousse with a crispy top crust -- what is there to complain about?
I really enjoyed Georgio's (also, our server was lovely, and to top it off we could actually hear one another speaking) and I hope hope hope that Gary Robins decides to take up permanent residence in the 818.


  1. Looks Fantastic was thinking about going saw your blog on Google, and now can't wait.

  2. Oh great! Thanks so much. Hope you have a great meal there.

  3. Great presentation! loved the sequence until the final emptiness.

  4. Me too, Auntie Ann! I love that last photo.. ha! (BTW, Ann, do you get to be the "others" or "dining companion" in these blog posts? When will my turn come? O when?)

    As for the potato-free gnocchi, how did they make them? I've made gnocchi before, and if there's no potato, isn't it just flour dumplings or something? Do tell!

  5. The valley has come a long way! Thanks for covering the food scene.

  6. Jan - I think they made them by using the squash to fill the role of the potato. So they probably did egg, squash and flour, they were very light and airy.

    Zoe - I know! It's a big step for the valley!