My strategy for trying popular restaurants, of the kind that need reservations weeks in advance, is to show up for lunch on a Monday. Early. At Cecconi’s at noon on a Monday, both dining rooms absolutely empty, the hostess still scanned her computer when alerted we didn’t have a reservation and then swiftly sat us on the patio. A very reliable source had told me that Cecconi’s pizza was very good and, in my never-ending quest, I was hellbent on trying it.
Cecconi’s was built on the ashes of Morton’s, on the corner of Melrose and Robertson, a beautiful and large space that looks nothing like the former Hollywood spot. The crowd, though, is the same: Hollywood insiders and celebrities, with prices to match.
The name comes with cachet – Cecconi’s reigned supreme in London for about 20 years, introducing contemporary Italian fare to the Brits. After it closed down, Soho House bought it and revamped it, making it even more glamorous and then proceeded to open outposts in LA and Miami.
But back to the pizza. The menu, organized in sections such as Carpaccio and Tartare, Charcoal Grill, Wood Burning Oven amongst more conventional headings, is focussed on stylish Italian food, well executed, with a few concessions to the LA crowd, such as quinoa. The chef, Andrea Cavaliere, was executive chef at the London branch and, before then, honed his trade at Neal Street Restaurant, one of the first places to ever promote fresh and local food. And the excellent choice of ingredients shows here in LA.
The basic pizza I ordered is Italian size, about 10/12 inches, with a crust properly charred in the wood burning oven, not too thin but not too thick either, well served by a nice tomato sauce and fresh buffalo mozzarella. So far, Eatalian Cafe in Gardena still serves the best, but Cecconi’s is on a par with Djelina’s. Which says a lot.
The restaurant is lavish, with marble used with abandon and a decor not exactly contemporary but very well thought out in all its details. There is a large private room and the website prominently indicates it caters to meetings and private functions.
Desserts are conventional – tiramisu, panna cotta and the like with a few nods to creativity such as a Campari sorbet. The ice-cream tastes house made and the hazelnut one, with whole roasted hazelnuts hidden in the scoop, was actually very good.
If you are not on a budget or you wish to splurge on a night out mixing with the famous and the beautiful, Cecconi’s is your place. If it’s just good pizza you are after, I am spending the week-end trying different options for my home oven, to improve on what I have been making so far. Although I am aware it’s impossible to replicate the taste of wood burning, I recently came across a couple of ideas I want to toy with. So, stay tuned.
8764 Melrose Avenue
West Hollywood, CA 90069