Palermo Ristorante Italiano
1858 N. Vermont Avenue
Los Angeles CA 90027
A family-style Italian restaurant in the heart of Los Feliz, Palermo’s conjures up images of an old-school wedding reception dinner. You almost expect to see pastel Jordan almonds tied up in a little white net in the middle of the table when the hostess seats your party.
Diners can order a small or full-size main course. Even when I order a small portion of Chicken Diane, I have leftovers for lunch the next day. The menu offers five different chicken dinners and five veal dishes. They all come with addictive garlic bread that’s not too crispy or soggy, choice of salad or soup, and a side of spaghetti.
Pasta dishes include miniature and full-size gnocchi, tortellini, manicotti stuffed with spinach and ricotta cheese and, of course, spaghetti with meat sauce.
Their Sicilian pizza is filling, with a deep crispy crust. It’s a little on the greasy side, but tasty. The vegetarian-friendly Nino pizza has zucchini, onions, tomatoes and three kinds of cheese. Other veggie fare includes Eggplant Parmigiana and Lasagna Mariana. The waitstaff is efficient and friendly. I’ve never had a problem getting drink refills or making changes to my order.
Palermo has a full bar and a good wine selection. Once a month, the restaurant conducts a wine-tasting class featuring both popular and hard to find California produced wines. Top off your meal with spumoni or tortoni (vanilla rum ice cream with nuts). On the way out, you can even pick up a pack of Stella D’oro Anisette toast from the mini-store by the cashier. Dinners cost $13 to $17.75. Closed Tuesdays.
4201 W. Olive Ave.
Burbank, CA 91505
Ciao Cristina, housed in an attractive red building that resembles a country farmhouse, is located close to Warner Brothers Studio Lot in Burbank. Well, you may or may not spot your favorite actor enjoying some Pastisso Alla Bolognese, but the authentic Northern Italian cuisine is the real star of the show here. The menu features light fare like panini, risotto, pasta Aglio e Olio (garlic and olive oil), and Petto Di Pollo Alla Milanese (lightly breaded chicken breast with grilled vegetables). While not exactly a dieter’s delight, the menu is a departure from the usual heavy sauces and meats of traditional Southern Italian cuisine. Servers are attentive, but it may take awhile for your meal to arrive. Ciao Cristina is better for a leisurely dinner than a quick “gulp and go” meal. Even the menu states that there’s 15 minutes prep time for risotto. Translation: the dishes are prepared with fresh ingredients on the spot, not tossed in a microwave. Add a side dish of polenta (Italian cornmeal) or freshly-made sweet potato chips to your meal. Pizza is available by the pie or slice. Dinners cost $10-$19. There’s a full bar, and a good selection of beer and wine by the glass. A classical guitarist performs on Sunday nights from 5:00 p. m. til closing.
525 South Flower Street, Suite #120
Los Angeles, CA 90071
If you’re looking for the perfect place for a business lunch or a romantic dinner, look no further than Drago Centro. The restaurant’s luxurious dining room, with its vaulted ceiling and glass-enclosed wine tower, lends a touch of class to downtown L. A.’s arts and dining scene. Chef Celestino Drago (Il Pastaio, Drago) brings his modern spin on Italian cuisine to his newest restaurant, located in the City National Plaza. Every morsel served here is a gastronomic work of art. From appetizers like Le Animelle, a sweetbread with polenta and blackberry, to Il Risotto di Zucca, risotto made with butternut squash, fontina crème and spinach, the food here is as good to look at as it is to eat . Couples can share La Bistecca per Due (Ribeye steak for two) or leg of lamb for two. Just reading the extensive cocktail menu can make your mouth water. For example, a concoction called When in London is made with Pimm’s #1, Sapphire gin, raspberries, blackberries, cucumber and blueberries. Dinners range from $16 to $85. Online reservations are accepted through Open Table. Call the restaurant office to inquire about gift cards or private dining rooms.