1) Santa Monica: Today Sher files thinkage on two star newbie Hostaria del Piccolo deciding that "The food here — pizza, pasta and more — really tastes like Italy, comforting and familiar. Normale, as an Italian would say...Waiters are comfortable in their own skins...With its plain decor, wood-clad walls and rustic wooden tables, the restaurant reminds me of a contemporary Italian somewhere in the mountains...The Hostaria makes a big commitment to pizza with a page-long list, plus more that are pizze bianche, i.e., no tomato sauce. You can also order your pizza with a gluten-free dough made from soy, rice, corn and a little potato flour, ensuring that no one is left out of the pizza fest...Germano Minin, the chef and also a partner, is no slouch with the pastas either. They're cooked al dente, not over-sauced and served in Italian-sized portions, meant more as first courses than main courses...The word hostaria is related to hospitality. And there is something so welcoming about this Santa Monica newcomer." [LAT]
2) Mid-City: While this one was only a matter of time, here we have Gold's word on John Sedlar's newcomer, Playa. For him it's all about the maize cake Bombay Taj: "a thickish, palm-sized tortilla patted out from freshly ground nixtamal, passed across a griddle just long enough to crisp the surface while leaving the interior soft and steamy. It tastes a little like the thick, handmade tortillas you sometimes get at Central American restaurants, but the freshness of the masa makes it a little sweeter, a little more rough and ready...The surface of the Bombay Taj is smeared with a kind of masala paste, both tart and hot, and dotted with bits of chewy, pungent mango pickle and a bit of seasoned yogurt. The spicy maize cake supports three or four cubes of pork belly, cooked with duck fat to a melting softness over many hours, and crisped a moment before serving...What we're talking about here is basically a luxury-class carnitas taco." Overall, "The Playa kitchen, which is more fun than the somewhat rigorous Rivera, is Sedlar's playground, equipped with all the toys and esoteric ingredients of the modernist kitchen, but more playful." [LAW]
The Elsewhere: The Find picks Jasmine Mediterranean Restaurant, Refined Palate dines at Petrossian, kevinEats at The Hungry Cat, Food Je T'aime hits Playa, Midtown Lunch discusses Big Fat Pita, and LAmag samples Black Cat Bakery.