La Pergola's attractive dining room
I chose La Pergola because Zagat recommended it and I needed a place with "normal" food to take my parents to. The restaurant looks dingy from the outside with a dirty old awning and a neon red sign, which is probably why I'd never considered eating there before, though I've driven past it many times. Its outside appearance is deceiving, because the interior is bright, cheery, and uniquely decorated with Italian ceramics.
Ravioli del Giardino
If the cheery decor wasn't enough to make me like the place instantly, the service really sealed the deal. The waiter, who may have also been the manager judging by his demeanor, was impressively patient with my parents' ordering indecisiveness and with explaining menu items and unfamiliar terms. My mom always has to ask the server, "What is that like?" before she feels comfortable ordering anything, even if the dish is already described on the menu.
Since my parents were hungry, I didn't hassle them with photographing their food, so you'll just hear about my dishes. I ordered the ravioli del giardino, a dish so good that I will probably never manage to try anything else on the menu in all the return visits I hope to make. The pasta tasted fresh and homemade and was filled with a puree of vegetables that somehow managed to taste like cheese. The creamy sauce was incredibly rich and I'm sure the dish contained many more calories than I normally eat in an entire day, but it was worth every bite.
For dessert, my dad ordered the house special. Tartufo is the Italian word for "truffle." In this case, it's also a dessert consisting of a ball of chocolate hazelnut ice cream with a chocolate coating and a maraschino cherry in the center. Though it didn't sound all that exciting to me, it was actually very flavorful. I only wished that I had been the one to order it!
The plum sorbet was a disappointment after the excellent pasta and tartufo. For $7, it tasted nearly identical to a cherry popsicle, which wasn't quite the flavor revelation I was anticipating. The plum lacked the sour tang of the plum slushes I like to order from boba tea shops. Of course, there are sour plums and there are sweet plums, so a sweet plum sorbet is perfectly valid even if I didn't enjoy it.
Windowside seating with a view of the patio and Ventura Boulevard
We arrived early on a Sunday evening and were the only ones in the restaurant for a while, which I found puzzling considering how nice the restaurant was and how excellent the food and service were. As the restaurant filled up more and more the closer it got to 7:30, it proved to be yet another popular destination for the Sherman Oaks senior crowd (which apparently is a significant part of the neighborhood's demographic, judging by my other dining experiences in the area). Arrive early and maybe you'll get to have the place to yourself, too. Don't let the blah signage deter you--this restaurant is a great find.
15005 Ventura Blvd.
Sherman Oaks, CA 91403
Map of La Pergola
La Pergola Website