Last week, both LA Times’ Jonathan Gold and LA Weekly’s Besha Rodell released their takes on The Ponte, the Italian restaurant by Scott Conant and restaurateur Stephane Bombet. The restaurant space that was formerly Terrine has largely remained the same with a few interior modifications, with B. Rod explaining, “the tables now have cloths; the chairs are more Roman cafe, less rustic California picnic. Perhaps more important, Stephane Bombet is still the owner, and Kris Morningstar is no longer the chef.”
That’s because Conant, a chef with restaurants across the country, has imparted a menu of Italian hits that are executed by former Scarpetta LA chef Freddy Vargas. While the Goldster says “The Ponte isn’t going to blow your mind” and Besha states “nothing is being reinvented at the Ponte,” they both agree that you’re in for a good time, especially when Conant’s signature pasta is involved.
Says J. Gold:
Does it mean anything in particular when a chef is identified with the most basic dish in the Italian repertoire? It is awfully good spaghetti, made with fresh plum tomatoes cooked down for 45 minutes, and tossed with grated Parmesan cheese and a slug of good butter right at the end. It is swirled into a column and served in a modest-sized bowl. It is a little soft for some tastes, but it does that magical thing where it is impossible to tell where the pasta ends and the sauce begins. There are strong, clear hints of chile, garlic and fresh basil, which apparently come from a splash of infused olive oil, and a subtle touch of creaminess from the butter. [LAT]
And B. Rod:
Of course, there's the spaghetti pomodoro, the dish for which Conant is most famous. It's a thing of simple beauty, a swirling pile of al dente noodles and bright red sauce. [LAW]
Both critics praise Ryan Wainwright’s reliably delicious, Italian-leaning cocktails; bemoan the sky-high prices; and agree that The Ponte is a safe restaurant with “familiar flavors.” The Weekly critic sums it up best:
The Ponte is a crowd-pleaser, a collection of things we already know people will like. Angelenos love a good patio (and this is an undeniably great one), we like Negronis, we missed Conant's spaghetti. We're absolute suckers for Italian food, whether it makes sense or not. Does it feel like a bit of a safe gamble? Sure. And I'd be lying if I said I don't miss the audaciousness of Terrine's early days. But taken on its own merits, outside of the context of Terrine and our current Italian glut, the Ponte is undoubtedly a very good restaurant. Sometimes you've just got to bet on a sure thing. [LAW]
Besha gives the restaurant three stars out of five.