Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Enzo & Angela

It is often said that all the greatest discoveries are spontaneous, and so it was tonight, when a simple invitation to have dinner with my mom and my sister gave my palette a long needed feast.

The restaurant we went to is on the second floor of one of those small neat plazas with the ubiquitous sushi place and three very eager valet guys, smiling and trading jokes as they drive your car (a little too cavalierly) into the underground parking lot. The moment I walked in, I knew I was somewhere special. Maybe it was the white table cloths, crisp and fresh as if just laundered. Maybe the soft lighting or the enticing smells coming from the kitchen, or the low hum of content voices and the quiet clinking of glasses and utensils... I was too tired and too tense after a very full day at work to really notice the details all at once -- they permeated my consciousness gradually and I felt some of the tension leaving my shoulders. I was late, as usual, and my mom and E. had already ordered wine, which, seeing my face, they pushed in front of me and made me take a sip. I never did find out what the wine was called, but it was fantastic and, more importantly, it woke up my taste buds. It made me sit up and take notice. I wasn't even hungry the minute before, but after a sip of the wine, I was perusing the menu with renewed interest.

Our waiter was my favorite kind of waiter -- the kind you would love to invite to sit down with you and have a bite to eat himself. Maybe if there hadn't been other people there and we weren't going to talk about "girly things" (as my husband phrases it), I would have made him sit and have a glass of wine. The poor guy was as unobtrusive as we would let him be (which, if you know anything about my mother, was not much). We made him, positively made him linger at our table, and he told us stories of the restaurant, the food, the wine and Enzo, who is the Chef and who is from around Naples (there were paintings, beautiful paintings, of Positano and the Amalfi Coast on the walls that made me want to take the next plane over the pond). I haven't enjoyed a restaurant experience quite like this for such a long time. It was a great pleasure to be in the company of the wonderful people who run Enzo and Angela.

I had thin, tender pieces of chicken breast lightly sweetened with plum-colored port sauce and garnished with a few hot, crisp roast potatoes and fragrant stems of broccoli. Even describing it makes my mouth water for it again. Mom ordered chicken ravioli that were so completely differed from the thick, gooey ravioli that one sees at Italian restaurants, that the other ravioli would have just been ashamed to stand up next to its cousins. With barely a hint of sauce to enhance the flavor, these little al dente pockets held perfectly spiced chicken (yes, I stole one from my mom, what?).

My sister's dish, however, completely transcended the ... well, it just transcended, trust me. In prosaic terms, it would be called risotto with Maine scallops (Maine scallops are cooked fully, they sear the sea scallops, ok?), shrimp and crab, but you guys, it was out of this world. I don't know what Enzo put in the risotto to make it so fragrant, so beautiful for the palette, the flavors merging in such complex unity... Angela, whoever you are, my dear, you are one lucky woman. If I had a husband who could cook like this, I don't know if I would ever let him out of the house.

But wait, oh, wait. We had dessert too! The portions were actually medium sized and allowed us a leeetle room to splurge. We got slightly tipsy off of some lovely port and tasted a heavenly Frutti di Bosco, which the menu describes as "layers of short pastry filled with Chantilly cream covered with blueberries, blackberries, raspberries and strawberries." No, no no no. Can these words really give you any idea of the thin layers of moist, sweet pastry paired with the light coolness of Chantilly cream and finished off with a tzing of fresh fruit? It is a linguistic travesty.

I am already plotting my return. How soon is it polite to come back? Is two days enough of a wait? Maybe next time, I will have the Risotto with porcini mushrooms and a hint of fresh tomatoes, and I will deny the existence of calories and order the Torta di Ricotta & Cioccolato (home made ricotta cake made with a hint of dark chocolate bits, fresh ricotta and mascarpone in a flaky pastry base, served "just" warm). I think tonight, I am going to dream of home-made bits of sweet, flaky things together with hints of cream and fruit and oh my goodness, I need to stop, I just ate for goodness' sakes.

Enzo and Angela
11701 Wilshire Blvd # 12
Los Angeles, CA 90025
(310) 477-3880


Anonymous said...

Sounds like a delightful culinary excursion! One can never have too many of those. :)

Ari (Baking and Books)

Irene said...

It was! I actually went back and the second visit did not disappoint. I tried the papardelle with truffle oil. Oh, my. And instead of the port, I had a lovely moscato (I refuse to say "muscat" pronounced like "musket"). Sigh... when can I go again? :)