It was like we were at my home in Tuscany. My son, Jack, was speaking Italian to our waiter and joking with him that he should support the Florence soccer team instead of Torino’s Juventus, while my daughter Isabel was eating a pizza Margherita that looked thin, crunchy and delicious, like it had been made at our local pizzeria in San Giustino Valdarno. But this was Los Angeles … my real hometown.
I love Italian restaurants wherever they are, especially excellent ones with honest food and good wines, like Angelini Osteria. We started with a crispy, lightly battered fritti misti of thinly sliced vegetables and squid. As a main course, I had a grilled swordfish steak over a bed of Swiss chard, and Jack had tagliolini with mussels, clams and shrimps in a light, brothy sauce with cherry tomatoes. A glass of a 2001 Nebbiolo and Barbera blend from Sylla Sebaste Bricco Viole went down great with the food. It was full-bodied, juicy and fruity with a jammy yet fresh character. 90 points, non-blind. I love drinking Barbera with fish. The bright fruit and good acidity along with low tannin structure makes it go wonderfully with seafood. The glass that followed, a 2004 Rapitalà Nero d'Avola-Cabernet Sauvignon Sicilia Nuhar, was less exciting but it was better than any other vintage of this wine that I had tasted recently. 86 points. It was a little rustic but showed very good fruit concentration.
I noticed in the restaurant that just about everybody was drinking wines by the glass. In Europe, very few people do. Perhaps the drinking and driving laws are less strict – at least in Italy? Or people simply drink less in Southern California. In any case, I really enjoy ordering wine by the glass, especially if I am alone with my children. And there seems to be more restaurants in the States offering good by-the-glass programs than in other parts of the world.
A restaurant’s by-the-glass offer doesn’t have to be huge. I sometimes find it irritating in restaurants with 100 wines by the glass and most come from machines, which supposedly protect the wine under inert gas. I get worried that the machines don’t work properly or that they have not been maintained correctly. I prefer a smaller selection with a couple dozen or so of reds and whites … one that changes on a daily basis and that is selected with thought and care.
Angelini Osteria obviously does that, and many restaurants are doing the same in America. It’s a better wine and food world for all of us.