Today is: Friday, September 22, 2023
Panzanella Restaurant Review
Panzanella’s prime location on Ventura Boulevard makes it a place to see and be seen, with patio dining and walls of windows facing the hippest Sherman Oaks area.
A warm interior with the suggestion of an Italian villa extends to an open kitchen
where Master Chefs Jose and Arturo prepares the Italian specialties that put Panzanella in the top ten of Italian restaurants in the U.S. Add to that an
excellent selection of Italian wines, moderate prices, and an enthusiastic
staff, and it’s easy to see why Panzanella is booked up daily.
Walking into Panzanella, it is evident why the restaurant is one of the most popular in Sherman Oaks. The ambiance is comforting, the atmosphere lively, and the energy
like that of the adjacent intersection of Ventura Blvd. bustling with excitement. The restaurant’s prime location, makes it an ideal place to see and be seen.
A first choice for everything from casually elegant dinners to corporate and private parties, Panzanella’s has played host to many of the city’s most prestigious events. While this is partly due to the restaurant’s ideal atmosphere, including a private bar area, a semi private dining section, and amenities such as a full bar with talented bartenders and state of the art audio-visual equipment; part of this undoubtedly
stems from the genuine passion and excitement of Executive Chef and owner Giacomino Drago, and his long career of opening successful restaurants where
he not only served as chef but as gracious host as well. While the atmosphere is
one of the most inviting around, it is the food and the service that makes
Panzanella’s a favorite among Angelenos and visitors alike.
At Panzanella’s, Chef Giacomino finds himself focusing on bringing the traditions and treasures of his native Sicily to Los Angeles. At his first two other Italian restaurants, both in the heart of Beverly Hills, high quality Italian ingredients were the norm; throughout his many years at Panzanella, he has personally ensured that the same quality ingredients, although not as readily available, are used in his kitchen. His attention to detail, ordering many specialty products from Italy, and firmly sticking
with authentic techniques, have earned Panzanella the prestigious “Insegna del Ristorante Italiano,” an award bestowed by Italy’s president on those individuals
who, presenting authentic Italian culture abroad, are deemed
“ambassadors” of Italy’s culture and cuisine.
\Seated at our table, amid the glass windows, exposed brick walls and deep walnut panes, I first noticed the lengths to which Giacomino goes to share the best of his native country. Bottles of extra-virgin olive oil, Balsamic Vinegar sat on our table, along with a delicious olives tapenada which we eagerly sampled with the homemade variety of breads that our fantastic server, Felipe, quickly brought to us. The complexity of the olive oil was a delightful treat, as was the balance of the aged vinegar. We immediately knew we were in for an evening of the highest quality.
After fawning over the wine list, which offers one of the best selections of Italian wines I have seen, I ordered a glass of Tormaresca Chardonnay from Puglia. Connoisseurs will delight in Panzanella’s vast collection if Italian wines, especially the exclusive selection from the owner’s personal cellar, which includes several vintages of the revered Tignanello and Solaia Antinori wines. For those less inclined to indulgence,
the wine list contains an equally extensive and approachable selection of reasonably priced Italian and American wines, both by the glass and bottle.
Turning out attention to the dinner menu, which seemed almost as extensive as the wine list, I must admit I felt slightly overwhelmed. In addition to the selection of Antipasti, Insalate, Primi, and Secondi courses, a generous selection of daily specials prepared by the amazing Chefs; Arturo and Jose all looked tempting. Thankfully, our server Felipe was well versed in the intricacies of each dish, so much so that his eyes displayed vicarious delight as he described them. His list of recommendations was
long as well as varied, demonstrating Giacomino’s range of talent. Felipe excitedly recommended several appetizers that we could not miss
and which we would ultimately order.
of Palm Salad
Starting with the Specials of the day we tried the Timballo di Cariofi, a delicious Artichoke Souffle served with Foundue Sauce and Shrimp, very light and very tasty, the Insalata di Cuori di Palma; Hearts of Palm Salad with Baby Arugula, Avocado, Shaved Parmesan Cheese and Lemon Dressing, I’d truly have this salad
every single day, just the best!
Pasta Trio Sampler
We also got a Pasta Trio Sampler from the chef, it consisted of Risotto Al Nero di Seppia; Carnaroli Rice with Squid Ink, Shrimp, Scallops and Calamari, Pennette Arrabiata; penna pasta with Spicy Tomato Sauce and final the Spaghetti Natale,
A tribute to Papa Drago; latini spaghetti with BabySan Marzano Tomatoes
and Basil, what a trio, simply to die for, all homemade pastas
done the way my grandma used to do.
Still tating the Menu appetizers, we also tasted the Burrata Caprese; a buttery mozzarella cheese with organic heirloom tomatoes, basil and olive oil, also very good.
The Carpaccio di Bue, a Beef Carpaccio served with Capers and Parmesan Cheese, which the entire table loved, a plate of delicately sliced raw filet mignon circling a bed of arugula, capers and a creamy gorgonzola sauce, alongside crumbly slivers of Parmigianno Reggiano. The carpaccio slices had the consistency of silk, threatening to slip off our forks as we lifted them from the plate. The slices were fresh and exquisite, although the dish’s excellence was truly revealed with a bite that combined the
delicate meat with the parmeggiano cheese and salty capers. While alone each component of this trio was excellent, together the bite seemed to take
on certain synergy, approaching the sublime.
We also tasted the Calamari Fritti with the best arrabbiata sauce, one of the tables winners was the Prosciutto di San Daniele e Melone, the best Italian prosciutto
with cantaloupe melon – you will love this one, I guarantee you!
This sensation would continue throughout our meal, as Giacominos’s creations would demonstrate brilliance in strategically intertwining distinct flavors and textures to reach heightened sensations of taste. Then after these spectacular appetizers we had, we were truly looking forward to our Piatto Forte; our main course, which again were
all divine, and they all truly exceeded our expectations; here we go:
Grilled Dover Sole Filet
My choice was the special of the day; the Filetto di Sogliola; a Grilled Dover Sole Filet served with Artichoke Souffle and Black Truffles, I couldn’t help but feel that
this unique dish—creatively intertwining with the Artichoke Souffle, screamed
the essence of Sothern Italy.
Sautted Duck Breast
Felipe brought us a glass of Ruffino Pinot Grigio, which he thought would pair excellently with the Petto D’Anatra, a Sautted Duck Breast served with Mashed Potatoes, Asparagus and Cherry Port Wine Sauce, my guest savored the clean
bites, contemplating the genius of the classic pairing of this amazing
ingredients and the delicacy of the Duck meat.
As my date took a sip of the Chianti Classico Peppoli that we had ordered to accompany our entrées, I took a moment to contemplate our surroundings. Outside,
a constant stream of foot traffic filled the brick sidewalks, while cars and the occasional pedicab slowly rolled by. For a moment, I imagined myself in the
heart of Sicily, seated at an elegant outdoor table at a small Trattoria.
The experience, I realized, would be quite similar.
Linguine con Aragosta and Granchio (Lobster with Crab Meat)
My wandering mind was brought back to Italy when a generous dish of the Linguine con Aragosta and Granchio, was set before us. The dish—tight spiraled pasta with
a whole Lobster with Crab Meat light spicy Tomato Sauce was cooked to
perfection. The al dente spirals were firm to the bite, giving way to a
rush of flavor from the sauce caught between the spirals. I realized
I had never before tasted pasta cooked this perfectly.
Grilled Veal Chop
Finally the Braciola di Vitello the traditional Grilled Veal Chop served with vegetables and a delicious homemade roasted potato, is truly an Italian masterpiece and at Panzanella’s this is no exception. Slow cooked over the course of a day, the tender and generous portion of meat was truly done to perfection when it arrived on our table. The meat dissolved upon hitting the tongue, imparting a savory
sensation throughout the mouth.
Again, the Chef’s talent arose in intertwining distinct textures, and each bite that combined the delicious meat and the tender veal chop was absolutely sublime.
Vulcano Chocolate Souflee Cake with Vanilla Gelato
Baked Passion Fruit
Feeling at ease in the warm and by now bustling dining room and tempted by the lavish desserts of Italy, we decided to indulge in a flavorful end to our meal. We opted for four traditional Italian desserts, the Vulcano, a chocolate souflee cake-like pastry
filled with liquid hazelnut chocolate accompanied by vanilla gelato, and a crispy
fruit tart pastry shell filled with cream and fresh fruits. The Panna Cotta al Frutto
di Passione, was a decadent treat, the baked passion fruit cream melding with
the chocolate sauce is an awakening contrast, but I favored the Raspberry
tort, a perfect conclusion to a truly impressive meal.
Panna Cotta al Frutto di Passione
As we walked out on to the busy Ventura Boulevard content and full, I knew that Panzanella was a place I would delightfully return to. For being so far from his native home, Chef Giacomino Drago provides an excellent rendition of true cocina Siciliana, bringing the authenticity of a Sicily restaurant to the lucky streets of Los Angeles.
Hours: Mon.-Fri., 11:30 a.m.-3 p.m.;
Mon.-Wed., 5:30-10 p.m.;
Thu.-Sat., 5:30-11 p.m.
For map and location click Here!
For more information please visit their website at www.giacominodrago.com/panzanella.htm
Article By: Mary Adams
Photos By: Chris Marx
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