By Grace Hiney
Just a week ago, my friend Barbara and I were happy to be dining once again at Locanda del Lago, on the Santa Monica Promenade.
In case you do not know this delightful Italian restaurant, it was started by West Hooker-Poletti in 1991 and still provides us with outstanding food thanks to West, who was born and raised in Bellagio along Lake Como in Northern Italy.
The restaurant has outdoor tables for warm pleasant days or evening dining, as well as indoor bar/dining seating and a delightful dining room that makes you feel as if you have been transported to Italy as you view walls filled with colorful scenes from Bellagio. Here, happily, you can hear your dining partner as you discuss the menu.
The two-sided menu offers a side devoted solely to cocktails, wines and beers. This happily gives diners many choices with selections of artisanal cocktails (even low-calorie ones), imported and domestic beers, sparkling wines and a large array of wines by the glass or bottle, along with a listing of six non-alcoholic beverages.
Appetizers and small plates start off the menu. We selected Vitello Tonnato, a house specialty from Bellagio, as a shared starter, with its free-range veal ($15). The roasted and chilled bits of veal along with Genoa tuna-caper aioli and micro greens were delightful and perfect to share.
Other selections included steamed mussels with grilled crostini ($14) and Italian Chef Daniele’s housemade burrata with his signature burrata cheese served with a choice of Prosciutto di Parma ($16) or vine-ripened tomatoes ($15).
There is also an appealing Antipasto Misto, featuring a variety of cheeses and cured meats that you may order as three selections ($15) or five ($22). And of course, we also very much enjoyed the delicious homemade focaccia bread. In addition, there are soups and salads along with six thin- crusted pizzas, three of which are vegetarian.
While the risottos and pastas all sounded entrancing, especially the seafood risotto with black mussels, Manila clams, tiger shrimp and jumbo prawn in a seafood broth ($29), the lobster risottto was recommended by Caesar, our waiter. And he was right! Topped with delicious scallops and chunks of perfect lobster, all with superb rice, this was an outstanding meal ($38).
Three other crustacean specialties included a lobster panzanella with a chilled one-pound lobster ($32), a one-pound lobster pizza ($34), and a Dungeness crab tagliolini pasta ($36).
Barbara selected one of the seven main course items, an osso buco all-natural Niman Ranch veal shank. The delicious shank came with a saffron-Parmesan risotto and a gremolata garnish made of minced parsley, lemon peel and garlic ($39).
Additional dishes included the Euro burger and French fries ($18), the roasted whitefish with roasted artichoke and grilled asparagus ($26) and a roasted half all-natural chicken with lemon sauce and Parmesan-roasted potatoes ($25).
Desserts include the housemade Italian gelati, sorbetti, flourless chocolate cake, tart lime pie and tiramisù of ladyfingers, espresso, vanilla-mascarpone cream with cappuccino sauce. Prices for dessert vary from $10 to $12.
We enjoyed every bite of the tart lime pie with pistachio ice cream. My cup of decaf coffee was quite perfect.
Hours are Monday through Thursday 11:45 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. an Friday 11:45 a.m. to 10 p.m. Weekends the restaurant opens for brunch at 10:45.
For more information, visit http://www.lagosantamonica.com.