These days my dining experiences seem to be centered around the Century City Mall which, for someone who doesn’t shop often and abhors malls, is rather unusual. This time it was a birthday we were celebrating at Toscanova, Agostino Sciandri’s newish outpost. Having achieved fame and money with Ago on Melrose, I assume he decided to replicate the formula within the Westfield Mall, in an airy and welcoming space which also has a patio that offers a view of the….mall.
It is not a bad formula – a solid Italian menu with plenty of crowd pleasers, a wood fire oven that spits out very respectable pizzas and some interesting specials. As at Ago’s, at Toscanova one can also rely on being surrounded by groups of authentic Italians enjoying their dining experience, not a bad sign in itself if not for the fact that Italians living abroad crave their basic staples and don’t really go for adventure. So, if the food is good, one can also be sure it is predictable. No matter, if it is honest, well executed Italian fare you are looking for, Toscanova is for you. It helps that service is attentive and fast and that it’s quiet enough to carry on a conversation.
Besides the pizzas, the pastas are a very good bet. Most of the pasta is handmade and sauced as the Italian gods intended (i.e. not swimming in the damn thing). Out of curiosity, I asked whether the lobster pasta special they were offering that night could be made using the gluten-free macaroni I saw on the menu, usually served with a vegetable sauce. Apparently it wasn’t a problem and, although a touch under-seasoned, the pasta was tasty, with half a lobster lying next to it, the other half chopped up with fresh tomatoes and not a hint of cream.
Other highlights at the table were the tender short ribs brasato, although the mashed potatoes could have stood a bit more parmesan or salt (is this the only kitchen that fears salt?) and the marinated tuna salad – a tuna filet marinated in oil and vinegar and served in chunks over frisee, olives and tomatoes. Very refreshing. The fried calamari we ordered for the table were crunchy and light and the caprese benefited from excellent mozzarella if not tasty tomatoes. But tomato season is over and we should know better than to order boring choices anyway.
The wine lists spans the entire Italian boot, like the menu and I am afraid to admit none of us tried the desserts, we were so satiated. Next on my list is the new Santa Monica Mall that is supposed to have an amazing food court. At this rate, I might even start checking the stores out.
10250 Santa Monica Boulevard
Century City Tel 310 551 0499