Sidewalk escape: Della Terra

Della Terra barThis is the first post from ShopEatSleep contributor Houri Parsi, a long-time friend and budding food blogger.

I discovered this new restaurant on Beverly Boulevard a couple of months ago and kept finding myself coming back, if only for the cute waiters and sophisticated owners. Eventually, I invited my friend Maya to have dinner with me there so she could write about it on her blog. But then, because I am a) an over ambitious control freak, and b) an overambitious control freak, I suggested that I write it myself as a guest blogger. So, with much ado, here is the review of one of my new favorite dining destinations in Los Angeles.

To start things off, let me tell the regular ShopEatSleep readers a little about me. Unlike this blog’s author, I am not a fan of Los Angeles. I’m from San Francisco, which makes me bougie enough to say things like, “No thanks, I only smoke in Paris…,” and, “I make it a point to go Europe once a year, and I always stop in New York on the way.” My smug preference for cities with smug dining options makes L.A. a frustrating sea of places that require an hour of research to find and 40 minutes of promising your friends on the Westside that you will give the two hours of their life back to them if they could please just meet you east of the 405.

Then…Della Terra fell into my lap. It fills the void for a spot between a welcoming sidewalk café and a fancy place where you want to match your clutch with your heels. And since I know Maya is always watching the price points for her in-this-economy readers, I should mention that it’s a classy place you can go to without breaking the bank. With the exception of the steak au poivre, which clocks in at an impressive $27, everything else on the menu safely sits between $10 and $20. And most of it is consistently good.

Della Terra tuna tartare

Tuna tartare

Our first appetizer was the tuna tartare. All I can say is that the next day when I came back to take pics of the décor, a couple sitting at the bar having just finished this app said to the bartender, “I tell everybody you have the best tuna in L.A.” (Sushi Park fans, don’t fret. I’m pretty sure she was just talking about tartares.) The tuna was fresh, light, and buttery (the small pieces of avocado didn’t hurt). I liked the greens on top and the shaved fennel. All this made it very flavorful without making me think I had to skip dessert later.

Then our friend Rosy arrived (she came from the beach at 6:00 p.m., bless her heart) and we ordered the beet salad. Everyone agreed it was a great effort on presentation. The yellow beets made it really colorful, and Maya caught on to my favorite thing about this salad: “It’s not overdressed.” Hallelujah! I cannot tell you how many times I get a fresh, vibrant salad and then hate life because I forgot to ask for dressing on the side.

Della Terra pizza

Melanzana pizza

Next came the main course. We ordered the Melanzana pizza, which was very tasty. I’ve had a couple of the pizzas here, and I would say they’re all pretty much a safe bet. The wood-fired brick oven is really the key. The Melanzana came with eggplant, broccolini, garlic and pesto. I’ve heard it’s also good with chicken added. I also like the Fresca, which comes with yummy gobs of burrata cheese. Per the waiter’s recommendation, I add prosciutto to that one when I get it.

Della Terra bread pudding

Bread pudding

The end of our meal was capped off with a bread pudding that is to die for. I’ve heard that this place actually does have other desserts, but I’m the wrong person to ask because I can never seem to look around my bread pudding tunnel vision. The pudding itself is served warm, but then there is cool and creamy dolce de leche ice cream melting down the sides. If I had my way, I’d probably have less cream and caramel because I don’t like things too fatty and sweet. Okay, I’m lying. I love this just the way it is! This is a pretty evil dessert.

Della Terra vegetables

Veggies

This is the right time, I think, to also say what I don’t like about the food. As a former vegetarian and a current dressing-on-the-side girl (see above) I don’t like vegetables that are too oily. Della Terra has a nice veggie side dish that I have gotten on other occasions, and I have to admit it’s flavorful but it’s not the light dish that I want it to be. Less oil. Fewer starchy carbs. More greens. Please take the hint, DT. Another dish to pass on? The tomato leek soup. Sometimes it’s drop dead amazing. Sometimes it tastes like water with a little corn starch and red food coloring added. Too inconsistent. Stick with the wonderful salads here.

A lot of the talk of the night was about the wine. We had our server, Lee, recommend some wine, but the little secret I shamelessly spread around is that the guy behind the bar, Renato, actually has the best record for recommending wines that both go with what we’re eating and take into account the wines that came before. That night he topped off Rosy with a glass that she just loved. She said it tasted like chocolate cake and passed it around. She was most certainly right. So much so that a debate began on whether the wine had flavors added to it to make it taste like chocolate. When Renato came back we told him that we loved it and he said it’s his new favorite, Layer Cake Primitivo.

A little Googling when I got home later taught me that Layer Cake wine is 100 percent pure, with all of its rich, fruity and chocolatey flavors coming from the earth itself. Also, they make different varietals! Della Terra had the Primitivo, which is (I’m quoting the Layer Cake site here) “according to DNA analysis genetically identical to Zinfandel.” Layer Cake also makes a Malbec, which I believe is genetically identical to awesome.

Della Terra staff

Della Terra's staff: (left to right) Renato, Lee, Michael, Gerard and Courtney

Two things I always consider when choosing where to go are the people at restaurants and their décor. My birthday restaurant was picked on the chairs alone! How does DT stack up on the people and place scale? Well, the restaurant is run by two very handsome and welcoming owners, Michael and Franco, who like to actually get to know their customers’ names, and staff of equal hospitality. And this group knows its culture: Between the owners and wait staff, they speak six languages fluently. Bravo!

And the ambiance? The space is a stylish break from the blinding SoCal sun: Dark awnings, beautiful ironwork on the doors, and brick walls with romantic skylights. When I’m sitting outside on their patio, I think that the only thing missing is the view of a sparkling river and cobblestone sidewalks. Nestled in reality on Beverly Boulevard and Spaulding Avenue, you should skip The Farm or Morel’s on your next trip to The Grove and make DT your five-minute walk destination restaurant. It’s an L.A. favorite, if only because it’s a bit of an L.A. escape.

Della Terra patio

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09 2010

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