I almost never eat at chain restaurants, so I'm always surprised when I walk by one and see how busy it almost always is. But then when I do eat at a place like P.F. Changs or Buca di Beppo's, I can kind of see why. All snobbery and noise level consideratiosn aside, the food is quite good.
Rosti hypes itself as an authentic Tuscan restaurant. To be fair, I haven't eaten much authentic Italian food, but I'm sure that this isn't what everyone raves about when they talk about real Italian food. The food at Rosti is bland and uninspired, with the possible exception of their signature dishes, the roasted chicken and rosemary potatoes, both of which I have not tried because I hate roasted chicken and roasted potatoes.
To elaborate a bit on why Rosti's food is overhyped--mostly by the restaurant itself--I'll tell you about the dishes I've had there. The tomato, basil, and mozarella salad is the first loser. Smack in the middle of August, the tomatoes weren't the greatest quality. When the Santa Monica Farmer's market teems with delicious heirlooms just blocks away, there is no excuse for any restaurant to serve subpar tomatoes, especially in the middle of tomato season, unless they all decide to make a run on the market one week and exhaust the supply. Also, the mozarella wasn't very flavorful. Sadly, most Americans think of mozarella as a very bland cheese with no other purpose than to adhere toppings to pizza, but true mozarella has a deliciously rich, creamy flavor. A salad that highlights tomatoes and mozarella should use nothing less than the highest quality tomatoes and mozarella.
The other dish I've tried was probably doomed from the moment I ordered it since it came from the healthy section of the menu, but still, it's not hard to make a tasty, healthy piece of fish. All you need is some olive oil, lemon juice, sea salt, fresh ground black pepper, and an oven--ingredients that any restaurant has on hand. If I, a slightly above average home cook, know this, any restaurant should. Instead, Rosti tries to use butter to flavor the fish, while trying to skimp on the butter in order to be healthy, and serves it up with a side of uninspired vegetables. If this is what's labelled as healthy, it's no wonder so much of our population is overweight.
Rosti gets points for having vegan soups, but I'm going to assume that vegans don't have a terribly difficult time at Italian restaurants anyway. Please correct me if I'm wrong.
In short, if you're on Montana and jonesing for Italian, skip Rosti and go to Spumoni instead.
931 Montana Ave
Santa Monica, CA 90403