Tortelloni d'Aragosta: lobster tortelloni in a creamy saffron sauce
I enjoyed my experience at Il Moro so much that I don't really want to tell anyone about it lest it become popular or crowded. However, I'd be deluding myself if I thought I had that much influence over the dining population of the world's sixth largest city. I can still get a table at Kiriko, after all, and I've done plenty of raving about it. So if you want to be let in on what appears to be a well-kept secret, keep reading.
Though we made reservations (it was a weekend, after all) we probably didn't need them--the restaurant is much larger than the average LA restaurant and has plenty of tables. Finding the door was difficult--we actually never found it, but instead ventured up a long delivery driveway and crept in through the patio. (Hint: try the Purdue side of the restaurant.) We asked for a quiet table, and despite being nobodies (as far as they knew) we were given what I felt was the best table in the restaurant--on the outdoor patio, in a corner.
Complimentary bread and black olive tapenade arrived at our table shortly after we sat down. The bread was moist and chewy, and though I don't usually like black olive tapenade because I think it tastes like the tin can the olives probably came in, this one had a bit more flavor than usual.
Il Moro's patio is impressively secluded--you'll have no idea that you're only yards away from noisy Olympic Boulevard. The greenery, water, and twinkling lights, combined with the ample space between tables and heating poles, make this the best outdoor dining I've ever experienced.
Garga del Moro
I started with the Garga del Moro salad. At $10, it seemed a little pricey, but the quality and variety of the ingredients and the lovely presentation made it worthwhile. The salad consisted of watercress leaves, hearts of palm, diced tomatoes, toasted pine nuts, avocado, and shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano. The zesty lemon balsamic dressing really wasn't zesty, but I liked how its mild flavor didn't detract from the flavor of the ingredients. The tomatoes were mealy, which is pretty common, unfortunately. Here's a brief public service announcement in that regard: do not refrigerate your tomatoes! Ever! It destroys their flavor and texture. I was fairly full after the bread and salad.
The fritto misto consisted of fried calamari and shrimp. The calamari were a tad chewy, and their batter was so salty that I could only eat a few pieces. Tomato sauce and aioli both went well with the crispy creatures, but couldn't tone down the saltiness. My friend had a different take--he thought it was addictive and polished off the whole plate, though he prefers Fritto Misto's version.
I've learned that gnocchi has as many variations as pad Thai. These gnocchi were on the chewy side, but not gooey like the frozen gnocchi from Trader Joe's. According to the menu, they were supposed to contain spinach, but didn't, perhaps due to the recent e. coli scare. Each piece was worth at least two bites. The tomato sauce tasted very fresh and had a slightly chunky texture from the bits of tomato, basil, and garlic, which created a nice contrast to the smoothness of the potato.
The lobster tortelloni (lead photo) came in a cream sauce that wasn’t overwhelming but had a unique flavor. It didn’t taste as rich as it sounded, which was a good thing--this dish could have easily been too heavy.
Pasta entrees range from $12 - $18, and meat dishes from $20 - $65, depending on what's being offered. The menu is seasonal, so don't get your heart set on anything you see here or on their online menu. The menu is also fairly short, and not particularly friendly to vegetarians or those who can't eat shellfish.
Our waitress did a good job of helping us pick wines to match our meals. Don't hesitate to ask for a recommendation or a taste of an unfamiliar wine. We ended up with a chardonnay and a merlot. Maybe she recommended them because they are safe wines for two people who clearly couldn't decipher the whole wine list (I am only familiar with California wines, for the most part), but they did match nicely with the food. My merlot was served in a huge glass that was perfect for enjoying the wine's aroma. Wines by the glass are very reasonably priced and range from about $6-9.
Choccolatissimo con pairfait al caffe
I was very skeptical of a chocolate and coffee dessert accompanied by apricot. I really wanted to be pleasantly surprised though, so I took the risk. The reward was worth it--the apricot came in the form of a light sauce that wasn't too apricoty, but was just tangy enough to temper the sweetness of the chocolate. The chocolate part of the dessert had both the density of flourless chocolate cake and the lightness of a souflee and was still super hot in the center, just the way I like it. The dessert was a tad expensive at $9.50, but worth every bite. Most desserts are $8 - $9. If sweet's not your thing, try the cheese plate. The dessert menu also includes a good selection of dessert wines, ports, and coffees.
A great way to check out Il Moro would be to try their wine tastings on Tuesdays from 6:00-8:00 for $25 per person. Wine tastings feature a single winery, and they serve a variety of appetizers that the enterprising eater can probably manage to make a meal out of.
The waitresses we interacted with seemed to have European accents. I'm not sure if they were real or contrived--we do live in a city of actors, after all--but it was a nice touch either way and didn't come off as cheesy at all. The service was excellent--we never had too many plates on the table or had to wait too long for a dish, and everyone we interacted with was polite, helpful, and friendly.
11400 Olympic Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90064
Il Moro Website