In Italy, enoteche are usually casual wine bars where you can taste the latest vintage by the glass. And because Italians would never think of drinking wine without food, you can also get a selection of wonderful local salumeria (cold cuts), cheeses and bread. And sometimes even a few cooked dishes.
With the success of Cobras & Matadors, a Cal-Spanish tapas place, and A.O.C., the wildly popular wine and cheese (and so much more) bar, the time is more than ripe for an Italian version of the small-dish craze to hit Los Angeles.
It's beginning. First came Caffe Veneto, an offshoot of Locanda Veneta. And now Enoteca Drago.
For months, Celestino Drago has been struggling to open a wine bar in the old La Scala space on Canon Drive in Beverly Hills. Finally, the construction has passed inspection and it's open.
Better late than never. And with virtually no publicity other than the formidable Drago grapevine, it's packed every night. Whether you arrive early or late, the communal table in the front window is full.
Fortunately, there's also a long convivial bar furnished with flat-screen television. Seated at bare wood tables beneath a vaulted ceiling strung with colorful glass chandeliers, everyone is the life of the party.
What's to eat? From the enoteca menu, little bites like deep-fried olives, or arancini, those delectable meat-stuffed rice balls. There's carpaccio, of course -- either beef or a mixture of monkfish and salmon -- and grilled baby octopus. You can also get small portions of pasta, including mini mushroom ravioli with foie gras and black truffle sauce. This is Beverly Hills, after all.
Fifty Italian wines are available by the taste, glass or quartino (a third of a bottle). This seems to be going over big with guys who want to impress their dates with what they just read in Wine Spectator. Do try a glass of Marsala, which you hardly ever have the opportunity to try by the glass.
What's a little confusing, though, is that there's also a full dinner menu, as if Drago is hedging his bets with the new concept. After all, he already has Il Pastaio practically next door.
But I guess he's offering what most people want: choice. If one person at the table feels like just a bite, somebody else can indulge in the Piedmontese Porterhouse for two, which is served with all the pomp and circumstance of the chef's much fancier Drago restaurant.
To each his own.
Right now, Enoteca Drago is open for lunch and dinner. As of Monday, it will also serve breakfast from 7 a.m.
Where: 410 N. Canon Drive, Beverly Hills
When: 11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. daily.
Cost: Enoteca items, $6 to $13; pizzas, $10 to $13; panini, $12 to $16; appetizers, $6 to $9; pasta dishes, $12 to $15; main courses, $18 to $34; breakfast items (starting Monday), $5 to $11.
Info: Full bar. Valet parking.
Contact: (310) 786-8236 or celestinodrago.com