Friday, December 10, 2010

LA: Angelino's and BJ's

After checking into UCLA's Tiverton House on Wednesday evening, I walked to Westwood Blvd - which strongly reminded me of University Ave here in Palo Alto - for some browsing and dinner.  The Yelp iPhone app pointed me in the direction of Angelino's Cafe, on Kinross Ave just off of Westwood.  Angelino's is a tiny red-brick restaurant and not very well-lit, with only three small tables inside and a couple more tables outside.  The owner, Archie (the man in white in the above picture), asked what I wanted to eat, so I asked him which pastas he recommended.  He suggested the gnocchi and ravioli, and when I picked the former, he asked "with pink sauce?"  Even though the menu says marinara or meat sauce, I decided to let Archie decide; if Yelp was any indication, I was in good hands.

I sat down and watched Archie prepare the gnocchi; given that I was the only person in the restaurant, my enormous plate of pasta and a few slices of lightly toasted baguette were ready very soon.  Simply put, the gnocchi were fantastic - tender and not doughy.  The tomato cream sauce was both flavorful and the perfect balance of richness and sharpness, and the sprinkled parmesan and basil chiffonade were a nice touch.  I really should have stopped after eating half, but just couldn't help eating until the plate was mostly empty.

My meal came to just over $10, including tax, and I obviously left a tip.  This was some of the best Italian I've ever eaten, and certainly the best value.  I'm far from being the only one who feels this way; during the time that I was eating there, quite a few regulars came in and chatted with Archie before and/or after ordering.  I also saw Archie and his one assistant handling what appeared to be sheets of fresh pasta, maybe for ravioli.  Long story short, if you are ever in Westwood or nearby, go to Angelino's!!

Dinner on Thursday night at BJ's Brewhouse wasn't as exceptional, but was memorable in other ways.  We started with shared appetizers, namely, the "Best Beginnings" plate of spinach-and-artichoke dip, mozzarella sticks, avocado egg rolls, and "Santa Fe spring rolls," of which I tried and enjoyed the avocado egg rolls most.  The table also had a few pitchers of berry-flavored cider and pale ale, enabling my first taste of cider.  I had the pulled pork sandwich (served with coleslaw and thick-cut fries).  Not amazing, but tasty.  Half of the table decided to share some deep-dish pizzas, including the cheeseburger pizza which, not surprisingly, they said tasted like a cheeseburger on top of pizza.

For dessert, we shared giant pizookies, which are huge cookies baked in pizza pans and served with ice cream on top.  Ours had four cookie flavors - chocolate, chocolate chip, peanut butter, and white chocolate macadamia nut.  Straightforward and satisfying, and definitely something I could easily make at home.