Emilio's, the stalwart Italian at the corner of Highland and Melrose avenues, is no more. With its new name, Emi, and executive chef and partner Enrico Glaudo, longtime chef at Primi in West L.A., it was hoped the place would seem more hip. It didn't take. So now there's been yet another name change, this time to L'Angolo--which means "the corner" in Italian.
The restaurant looks brighter now, with natural light flooding in the large windows. The walls are hung with huge bright paintings on the theme of apples. And the bar in the center is framed by several dining areas to create an attractive space.
L'Angolo's menu has left old-fashioned Italian cuisine behind, too. At Primi, I liked Glaudo's cooking before he updated it with trendy dishes and startling combinations of ingredients. Here, he's going even further out on the limb. A special of slipper lobster tails wrapped in prosciutto strives for too much effect with the presentation. He's got asparagus stalks protruding from the lobster tails, a look that's decidedly odd. And, as part of a calamari salad, he threads calamari bodies onto asparagus, too. I don't know whether to laugh or to cry. But crespelle, or crepes, stuffed with a duck forcemeat, a dish Glaudo used to make at Primi, gets a straightforward presentation and tastes just fine.
I wish the chef wouldn't try so hard to make an impression, and concentrate more on cooking the classic northern Italian cuisine he knows so well. In fact, the best strategy at L'Angolo is to steer clear of any of the more innovative dishes, such as duck magret topped with cooked strawberries, in a strawberry sauce. Or the pork chop with clams, which I had when the place was still called Emi, along with panna cotta topped with morel mushrooms and strawberry sauce. (No, I am not kidding.) Stick with plainer dishes like risotto with porcini or the grilled veal chop with mushrooms.
The wine list includes the 1995 Tignanello at a very good price. You might want to finish the bottle with one of the imported Italian cheeses, such as Crotonese (a sheep's milk cheese aged in a wicker basket), a ripe Taleggio or a little Gorgonzola; your choice of three is just $6, which is a nice way to end a meal at the new Italian place at the corner.
L'Angolo, 6602 Melrose Ave., Los Angeles; (213) 935-4922. Open Monday through Saturday for dinner; lunch on Thursday and Friday. Valet parking. Dinner appetizers $5 to $9; pastas and risottos $8.50 to $12; main courses $12 to $19.