VIDEO: An Italian Food Tour In The Heart Of Los Angeles

Enjoying spumoni push-pops in front of the historic IAMLA building.

Enjoying spumoni push-pops in front of the historic IAMLA building.

Lately, I’ve been missing many aspects of my past trip to Europe… and especially the robust flavors of the simple yet divine food I found in Italy. So the Taste of Italy, held this past weekend in downtown L.A., came at the perfect timing. It was the Italian mini-vacation I needed, right here in Los Angeles!

I covered the event two years ago, and was excited to see what had changed or remained the same since. What didn’t change was the lively atmosphere full of live entertainment and merriment, I’ll tell you that much!

Of the multitude of authentic Italian restaurants and wineries serving and pouring throughout the night, there were a few that really stood out to me. What makes a bite of food special for me at an event is a combination of the taste, originality, balance of flavors and textures, and– last but not least– the service. (It also helps if the item looks pretty on the plate, as it makes the eager food photographer in me very happy!)

Garganelli pasta with pork sausage and fennel pollen

Garganelli pasta with pork sausage and fennel pollen

A couple dishes I really enjoyed were served at the joint booth by Italian restaurants Celestino and Drago Centro, with brothers Calogero and Celestino Drago personally serving guests. They served garganelli pasta with pork sausage and fennel pollen, and plated it right out of a giant, hollowed out cheese wheel (also featured in the video below). The panzanella salad they also served with a smile was refreshing, and a good counterbalance to the flavors and textures in the pasta dish.

Drago Brothers Chefs

The Drago brothers, Celestino and Calogero

Another standout was The Jonathan Club, which served tiramisu and cannoli-inspired donuts that were absolutely scrumptious, and really tasted like their respective classic dessert inspirations. They even included tiny droppers to inject the accompanying espresso or the cherry sauce into the donuts for an interactive experience. They also served spumoni push-pops with pistachio and cherry swirls, which were just as fun as they were tasty (also featured in the video below). Loved the innovative twist on those classic Italian flavors!

Cannoli Tiramisu Donuts Jonathan Club

Tiramisu and cannoli donuts

Di Stefano Cheese served a creamy burrata topped with a smooth pesto sauce, nutty pumpkin seeds and a soft square of focaccia bread to sop up all that goodness. It was one blissful bite! Other dishes served throughout the night included onsite oven-fired pizza, gnocchi with mushrooms, and plenty of cold seafood dishes.

To wash it all down, we sipped on top quality Barolo red wine, long known amongst Italians as the “King of Wines.” I learned that the wine originates from the Piedmont region of northern Italy, and is traditionally made from the native Nebbiolo grape, which is quite thick-skinned and tannic. There was also plenty of Italian coffee on hand, along with cannoli, gelato, and even amaro, which is an Italian digestif.

Barolo Wine

The famed Barolo, also known as “King of All Wines”

With all the hearty food and drink, I found samples of Eden’s Savory Sap to be quite refreshing. It is an elixir made from plants and roots, and I tried their Turmeric-Almond-Rose and Sage-Rosehip-Elderflower flavors in soda water. They tasted like a healthier, aromatic and elevated version of your typical soda, with almost none of the sweetness. I could see them mixed into cocktails as well.

And now, I present you with the best bites in action, right here in this one-minute video packed with Taste of Italy highlights:

Spumoni push-pops and more at Taste of Italy 2014!

Spumoni push-pops and more at Taste of Italy 2014!

It’s also important to note that the annual event is held in support of the Italian American Museum of Los Angeles, to help raise funds to preserve Italian American history for future generations.

The Taste of Italy was as close as I’ll get in a while to physically being back in Italy, but it definitely transported me back mentally and filled me with nostalgia… all while infusing the event with an innovative L.A. twist. Until next time… ciao!


Weekend Fun: Taste of Italy Coming to L.A.

Taste of Italy Los Angeles

Looking for something fun to do with family or friends this Saturday? The 6th annual Taste of Italy is coming to downtown L.A. and it looks like it’s going to be another fantastic night.

I covered the event back in 2012 for Neon Tommy, and it was a wonderful time! It almost felt like I was back in the streets of Florence at night, under the lights.

This year, participating restaurants will include Valentino, Drago Centro, Locanda Del Lago, Il Fornaio, GROM and Celestino. I’ve tried a few of these restaurants, such as Celestino, located in Pasadena. It had the most authentic Italian food I’ve had outside of Italy, and the service made me feel like I was dining at a warm and inviting Italian home.

In fact, I tried Chef Calogero Drago’s food at the L.A. Zoo’s Beastly Ball media preview first, then again at a special dinner with my good friend and fellow blogger Rachael. They had the most sumptuous, delicate pappardelle pasta (with pheasant and morels) I’ve ever had! I’ve also been to the other talented Drago brother’s restaurant, Drago Centro, for DineLA Week and even did a Tastemade video there:

Copyright Tanaya Ghosh 2014

Here’s a video throwback to Drago Centro’s DineLA week menu!

Bottom line: these are some quality Italian places serving up some of their best bites. Wineries that will be pouring include Casa Torelli, Le Vigne, Mazzocco, Ventura Limoncello and more. Proceeds from the event will support the Italian American Museum’s exhibitions and the preservation of the Italian Hall (the building in which the Museum is located).

The event, filled with authentic Italian food, drink and entertainment will be held at the Italian American Museum of Los Angeles (424 N Main St. Los Angeles, CA 90012) this Saturday, October 11 from 5 to 10 p.m.

Tickets start at $55 and include tastings from more than 50 of L.A.’s top Italian restaurants, over 100 wines, plus live entertainment and cooking demos in the heart of downtown L.A. If I can’t make it back to Italy anytime soon, I can at least get my Italian staycation fix at this great event right here in the City of Angels! (More on my trip to Italy and other travel adventures to come soon, by the way…)

For event information and tickets, check out the Taste of Italy website. See you there… because after all, as the Italian saying goes, ‘Chi mangia bene, vive bene‘ (one who eats well, lives well)!