Today is: Sunday, July 14, 2024

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”.

                     Chef Luiz Alonzo                                       Bruno Pudu                       

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
named “best 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 the
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.

Brazilian Caipirinha                                 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
completely by tall windows and is always beautifully lit, daytime or evening.
Lago’s popular patio fronts the restaurant’s exterior, providing a lively
view of the passing Promenade scene.

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 just to
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

          Panna Cotta                                  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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