Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Traverse through Italy at A1 Cucina Italiana (Beverly Hills)

The old Il Buco space on Robertson Blvd, owned by Giacomino Drago, is now A1 Cucina Italiana, a restaurant celebrating rustic dishes from various regions of Italy. The restaurant is named after Italy's first highway, Autostrada 1, and run by LA restaurant veteran Danilo Terribili and chef Freddy Escobar who has worked for him at other restaurants including Alto Palato. (Terribili is a photographer too and the restaurant is decorated with his works.)

Danilo Terribili and Freddy Escobar
For appetizers, creamy DiStefano burrata is served with eggplant, onions, tomato, and fennel pollen ragu ($13) - both excellent and unusual (for LA). A1 doesn't shy away from spicy flavors as evidenced by the sauteed squid with caramelized onions and cannelini beans. Similarly, the Coste Pizza with swiss chard, mozzarella, pine nuts, and guanciale are also topped with calabrian hot peppers ($15).

A1 has some pretty unique offerings that you can find in the daily special menu. There's porchetta on Saturdays, oxtail stew on Tuesdays, and veal kidneys on Sundays. If you like tripe, you really have to go on a Monday and get their Trippa alla Romana (stewed beef tripe, tomato, herbs, and pecorino, $17) - the picture below shows half of the regular portion as your waiter would actually divide and serve the dishes on your individual plates
If you normally don't like tripe because it's chewy, all the more reason to try this stew, as the tripe was soft.

My staple order at Italian restaurants is the pappardelle with lamb ragu. At A1 this is done Neapolitan style with the lamb cooked for hours then shredded ($16) - again, the picture below shows half the portion

Swiss chard ravioli in sage butter sauce
Don't miss the meat entrees here either, like the sauteed lamb chops, roasted shallots, oyster mushrooms ($23)
The lamb chops might have been one of the ones I've had recently. They were perfectly cooked and amazingly tender.

For dessert, you have to try the Zuppa Inglese. This is a dessert I have not seen anywhere else before, but if you like tiramisu you will love this. Although the name meant "English soup" the dessert is actually a homemade pan di spagna with Alchermes liqueur (a hard-to-find Italian herbal/spice liqueur), cream, and chocolate ($9)
The cake had been soaked with the alchermes then layered with the cream and chocolate in between. I really liked the spice notes from the liqueur. Apparently Italians make this cake for their kids' birthdays all the time. Lucky them.

You can get good wines for under $10 a glass here including a Negroamaro from Puglia for $8. They also have a couple of nice beers and pairing suggestions (they suggest Allagash Dubbel with the pappardelle). The location being what it is, A1 is not a place you would randomly walk into, but their daily special menu would keep me coming back. I still have to try the veal kidney, for one, and I'm already looking forward to a Monday night with a bowl of trippa alla Romana and a zuppa Inglese to finish.

Read SIV's LA Times review of A1.

 A1 Cucina Italiana
107 N Robertson Blvd
 Beverly Hills, CA 90211
(310) 657-1345
A1 Cucina Italiana on Urbanspoon

Disclosure: this meal was hosted


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