Today is: Thursday, December 07, 2023
Locanda del Lago Restaurant Review
When Locanda del Lago opened in April 1991, the Santa Monica restaurant quickly
established a reputation as having perhaps the only menu in LA to focus on the cuisine
of Northern Italy’s Lombardy region. Today, celebrating its 15th anniversary, Lago
maintains that unique identity. Featuring specialties from Milano and Bellagio on
Lake Como, the restaurant has continued to attract an eclectic crowd of celebrities,
locals and travelers by offering exception food and service.
Lago’s comfortable, warm atmosphere and side walk patio evoke the charm of an Italian
Locanda (inn or trattoria) del Lago, (of the lake). An always-changing array of
menu choices is offered, including a “Tasting Menu” every night (in additional to
the dinner menu) that varies every few weeks depending upon the availability of
the best seasonal ingredients. “our menus are guided by Italian traditions, the
quality of ingredients, and the seasons, rather than American trends”, says co-owner
West Hooker. “A diner at Lago will find dishes, particularly on our dinner menu,
not often found at Italian restaurant in this country”.
Co-owner West Hooker and Executive Chef Davide Vedovelli, who were both born in
Milan and have lived and worked in Bellagio, preside over the popular restaurant
with General Manager Megan Sheehy, who has been with Lago since 1996. Chef Vedovelli
joined Lago in 2003 with impressive credentials as sous chef at Savini, one of Milan’s
top restaurants, and chef at Cestino, another top Milan restaurant whose reputation
for authentic Milanese cuisine was built by Vedovelli. He arrived at Lago from Italy
after 2 years as chef at Bellagio’s Trattoria San Giacomo, which was
trattoria” in LA Times feature story on Italy’s Lake Region.
I had the pleasure of having dinner there last week and I must say that I was very
pleased with the service, ambiance and the delicious food; it made me feel that
I was in Italy. I love the location of this place, right in the corner of Santa
Monica Third Street Shopping Promenade. My and my guest, both agreed that this is
best Italian restaurant in town.
Starting with the gorgeous bar, with an incredible variety of martinis, wines, and
even the Brazilian Caipirinha. My guest loved the Long Island Ice Tea, and I was
truly amazed by the wine we had; Amarone Della Calpolicella Zenato, you can’t go
wrong with this Italian wine, it was perfect for our meal.
Long Island Ice Tea
The dining room is very charming; the Lago’s ambiance complements its fine cuisine
and spirits. Shades of amber, burgundy, saffron, and green contrast with vivid white
tablecloths, and the walls are decorated with brightly colored china, painting and
artifacts depicting scenes of Bellagio. The dining area is surrounded almost
by tall windows and is always beautifully lit, daytime or evening.
patio fronts the restaurant’s exterior, providing a lively
view of the passing Promenade
Outside Dining Area
On sunny days there’s no better place in L.A. to people-watch than at
the Lago outdoor
patio, savoring a glass of Chianti.
Ahi Tuna Tartar with Avocado
Calamari, Shrimp, Mushrooms
Among the “Tasting Menu” selections available at various times are dishes representative
of the Lake Como area and great appetizers such as: Tartara
di Tonno; ahi tuna tartar
with avocado an red onion served with parmesan
croutons and baby greens in balsamic
vinaigrette, simply divine, next the famous
and typical is the Fritto Misto; a succulent
variety of seafood such as calamari,
tiger shrimp, Portobello mushrooms, lightly
fried and served with warm arrabiatta sauce and garlic aioli for dipping, we loved
this dish. Next we tried the Carpaccio Grana e Rucola, this is very light and nicely
prepared, served with very thin slices
of raw beef tenderloin with shaved parmesan
cheese, baby arugula and lemon vinaigrette, you can’t taste the raw meat, it is
just heaven for meat lovers.
Carpaccio Grana e Rucola
Gnocchi with Black Truffle
The last appetizer was so fabulous that I need the recipe, it was the Melanzane
alla Parmigiana, baked to perfection, the eggplant layered with Fresh Mozzarella,
tomato sauce, basil and herbs, what a delicious appetizer, I will go back there
try more of these great dishes.
Melanzane alla Parmigiana (Eggplant layered with fresh Mozzarella)
Our waiter was not only a gorgeous Italian man, but also very good in detailing
our meals. The special of the night was the Pescatrice alla Grilia; grilled monkfish
over sautéed chard finished with cherry tomato, pancetta, shallots vinaigrette topped
with fried leeks; great fresh flavor, that goes well with the tomatoes. I enjoyed
very much and the portion was enough to be shared.
Pescatrice alla Grilia, grilled Monkfish over sautéed Chard
Our Friendly Waiter
Amarone Zenato 2001
Chef Luiz Alonzo was in charge that night, so he stopped by to introduce himself
to us, and I assured that he was doing an excellent job for us, he also suggested
that we tried the Gnocchi Al Tartufo Nero and the night special Ravioli della casa,
all these pastas were home made and even my grandma, could not make it as delicious
as it was. The gnocchi was tossed with lobster mushrooms, in creamy black truffle
sauce, I was in heaven, and the Ravioli was very light in a spicy arrabbiata sauce,
also to die for.
Ravioli della casa in a spicy arrabbiata sauce
I ordered the Branzino alla Griglia, a whole Mediterranean striped bass, grilled
and filleted tableside, served with Grilled seasonal vegetables and garlic-balsamic
sauce, the best Branzino I have tasted in this town. So, good, that you just can’t
wait to go back and have more. Also, large enough to be shared. Please, don’t miss
this one, if you love fish, it is simply the best one in town.
Branzino alla Griglia, a whole Mediterranean striped bass
We did not have to order desserts, Chef Alonzo, surprised us with these 3 amazing
ones: Pera al Vino Cotto, pear baked in clover and cinnamon spiced wine, served
with vanilla gelato, Torta Calda di Cioccolato senza Farina, warm flourless chocolate
cake with vin Brule sauce and hazelnut gelato, and the Panna Cotta; vanilla cream
custard with fresh strawberry sauce and almond truille.
Pera al Vino Cotto, pear baked in clover and cinnamon spiced wine
Flourless Chocolate Cake
Also Lago is more widely revered for its osso buco alla Milanese, a saffron risotto-based
veal shank, with minced vegetables topped with a gremolata garnish. An award winning
wine list and suite of desserts, from gelati to the Napoleone al limone, bookend
the experience, while an attentive and knowledgeable staff provides the requisite
helping of hospitality to make any diner fell like paisano.
For map and location click Here!
For more information please visit their website at
Article By: Mary Adams
Photos By: Chris Marx
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