Until a friend recommended it, I'd simply overlooked Breakin' Bread Bistro. It was my loss, because this elegant little restaurant tucked back in the corner of Gaslight Alley shopping plaza is an ideal place to celebrate a special occasion or simply dine with friends.
This is a restaurant for romantics. The dining area is L-shaped, with seven or so tables (depending on how they're arranged) along the one leg and four upholstered booths on the other. Light gray, rough-hewn wood paneling covers the walls, except above the booths, where mirrors provide an illusion that the room is larger than in actuality.
Recessed ceiling lights, casting a rose-hued glow on the room, are supplemented by white twinkle lights in decorative tree branches that occupy one corner and by candles on the tables. In addition to artwork, autographed photographs of famous (and a few not-so-famous) past diners adorn the walls. Vases of flowers on the linen-covered tables and hanging baskets in the cafe-curtained windows across the front of the restaurant add a note of color.
The menu is predominantly Italian, with some French offerings. It features lots of the classics--veal piccata, veal Marsala, linguine with clam sauce and French onion soup. Although there is fresh fish that can be very simply prepared, the more caloric items on the menu are so tempting that I prefer going to Breakin' Bread when I'm not concerned about dieting.
Sauteed artichokes, offered as an special appetizer one evening, were outstanding--very lightly breaded and cooked in white wine subtly flavored with garlic, lemon and herbs. Not so subtle is the garlic bread--warm, fluffy and flavorful--a house speciality.
Entrees come with soup or salad and potatoes or pasta and with vegetables. Both the sausage and acini di pepe (a pasta and vegetable combination) soups sampled were prepared from robust stocks and included plenty of the ingredients for which they were named. The dinner salad was ample, fresh and crisp, and the creamy-cheesy-Italian house dressing was a nice complement. Sweet-and-sour, blue cheese and vinaigrette dressings are also offered.
Potatoes Roesti, julienne-cut potatoes combined with Jarlsberg and Mozzarella cheeses, sauteed and cut into wedges, were rich but very good. The pasta (linguine) choice was offered with either garlic and olive oil or fresh marinara sauce.
All the entrees ordered were very generous. The Chicken Fresca had huge chunks of chicken that were sauteed with white wine, tomatoes, onions, mushrooms and basil, then tossed with linguine pasta. Linguine with clam sauce was judged above average.
Breakin' Bread prides itself on serving milk-fed Eastern veal, and only the top round is used for scaloppine dishes. Veal tarragon, offered as a special, was sauteed with mushrooms and served in a light, tarragon-flavored cream sauce. Veal back ribs, another special, were first char-broiled, then slow cooked in a not-too-sweet spiced peach sauce until the meat practically fell off the bone. Our only criticism was that they were rather fatty.
Beer and wines are offered. The house wine, both red and white, is B & G Partager. The restaurant also offers a Bandiera White Zinfandel and Monterey Vineyards Chardonnay by the glass, in addition to a regular wine list of 23 selections. Other beverages include coffee, cappuccino, cafe au lait and sparkling mineral water.
Desserts, except those that are frozen, are made on the premises, and everything we tasted was incredibly fresh. Recommended are the mandarin orange-strawberry-pineapple and chocolate-mocha cakes. The boysenberry-fresh ginger cheesecake was another winner.
Breakin' Bread Bistro, 12747 Ventura Blvd. (just east of Coldwater Canyon Boulevard), Studio City, (818) 761-6010. Open for dinner, Monday through Thursday from 5:30 to 9:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday from 5:30 to 11 p.m. Lot parking. Visa and Mastercard accepted. Entrees from $11.95 to $19.95.