I went fully prepared to hate it. A few times over the last 16 years, friends or acquaintances managed to drag me to Fritto Misto, the popular Italian hang-out on an odd stretch of Colorado Avenue in Santa Monica and, each time, armed with my snobbery for Italian food many times removed from the real thing, I never enjoyed it. Too much sauce, too much garlic, out of proportion portions, you name it.
Authenticity is not what you would go to Fritto Misto for. Quantity, affordable prices and pasta would be the primary reasons. The concept is simple: some appetizers (fritto misto being one of them), some salads and meat entrees and a dizzying variety of pastas that can be matched with any of the myriad sauces on offer.
On my last visit a few days ago, very much against my will but in the minority who learns to shut up and go with the flow, I ordered a mixed salad with goat cheese in a balsamic vinaigrette. That’s it for you? queried the waitress. The place was invariably packed – the same colorful ceramic plates on the walls haven’t changed and neither have the plain wooden tables or the menu. Why change? People flock to it and have for nearly 20 years.
When my fellow diners’ pasta arrived, the portions were indeed gargantuan. No kidding, they could feed a family of four and certainly two hungry people. Piqued, I sampled what was on the table. The fettuccine with pancetta and the spaghetti with sausage, although being a far cry from my carbonara or sausage pasta, were pleasant enough. The pasta was neither overcooked nor over-sauced.The seasonal sweet potato ravioli in a mushroom cream sauce were actually better than they sound but for a bit too much cinnamon in the sweet potatoes which didn’t marry incredibly well with the mushrooms. Still, it made me wonder if something, or someone, in the kitchen had changed in the recent past.
So, there. I am writing about Italian food that is neither authentic nor gourmet. Either I learnt to let go of my snobbery or I have been here too long. I hope it’s the former.
601 Colorado Avenue
Santa Monica 310 458 2829