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FIRST IMPRESSIONS

Armani Well-Suited to Bev Hills

July 04, 1993|LAURIE OCHOA

You know there's something different about the restaurant you've just walked into by the clothes on the customers. They're all dressed up--carefully tailored suits, dresses, heels--to eat from a menu that is basically pasta and grilled food. Where is the California-casual look that predominates in even our best restaurants? And why are the buttons on that waiter's jacket more stylish than anything in your closet? When Giorgio Armani opens a restaurant, fashion anxiety sets in.

At his other Southern California restaurant, attached to the Armani store in the South Coast Plaza, mall shoppers sometimes wander in for pizza wearing shorts and jeans. At this newest store/restaurant in Beverly Hills, there is no pizza and nobody casually wanders in. The restaurant is hidden on the third floor of the boutique, discreetly located behind a frosted wall of glass.

Of course the tiny dining room looks good, done in the muted palette of colors that made Armani famous.

There are the expected carpaccios, which change daily; the ubiquitous grilled chicken, this one flattened Tuscany-style. But much of the food, especially the pasta ( rotelle ai carciofi , for instance, pasta draped around mascarpone and a nugget of artichoke heart, with a drizzle of cream sauce), is rich, pale and elegant in the way of so much Milan-style cooking . . . and of Armani's own designs.

* Emporio Armani Restaurant, 9533 Brighton Way, Beverly Hills, (310) 271-9940. Pasta and entrees $9.95-$23.95.

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