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Special Restaurant Issue | Carbo-loading

Escape from South Beach

(Scene 7) Because you really can't live by protein alone. No matter what everyone says.

June 20, 2004|S. Irene Virbila

When you're longing for carbs, scoop up the gorgeous crusty loaves studded with olives or covered with caramelized onions at La Brea Bakery (after more than 15 years still L.A.'s most beguiling bake shop). Don't forget the olives and extraordinary cheeses at the original store next door to Mark Peel and Nancy Silverton's Campanile. Silverton is the genie behind the artisan breads and morning pastries. Try the homemade doughnuts (available only on Saturday).

Or fling yourself onto a plate of "Bluesberry" flapjacks at the funky Griddle Cafe in Hollywood. I dare you to finish the three huge, fluffy pancakes loaded with blueberries and topped with a mountain of blueberry sour cream. Another perk here: The coffee is French-pressed to order.

How better to break away from protein than with a thin-crusted Neapolitan-style pizza, a little burnt at the edges from the wood-burning oven, at Antica Pizzeria in Marina del Rey. Not only does owner Peppe Miele hail from the Naples area, he's also the first U.S. member of Associazione Vera Pizza Napoletana. His margherita is artful in its simplicity--just chopped tomatoes, pools of melted mozzarella and a few sprigs of basil.

Pizza bianca, an occasional special at Angelini Osteria in Los Angeles, is topped with mozzarella, cherry tomatoes and arugula, a surefire temptation. Angelini also is a great place for a pasta fix. Nobody makes a better carbonara or amatriciana than Gino Angelini. He cures his own guanciale (pork jowl), which gives the sauce its sweet pork taste.

There's something so elementally satisfying about spaghetti cacio pepe at Enoteca Drago, Celestino Drago's new wine bar and ristorante in Beverly Hills. The very plain spaghetti (Latini brand from the Marche region) tossed with good Pecorino and lots of freshly ground black pepper outshines more elaborate dishes.

Don Dickman isn't Italian, but he can cook pasta like a Tuscan grandmother. At Rocca, his Santa Monica restaurant, he consistently goes for the gutsy and rustic in a menu that changes daily. His ravioli stuffed with braised pork cheeks are tender little packets with a single bite of rich pork inside, sauced in only a little broth and Parmigiano-Reggiano. But the real killer is his potato gnocchi, which have the consistency of burrata cloaked in a luscious oxtail ragu.

Nicola Mastronardi, who heads the kitchen at Vincenti in Brentwood, is something of a specialist in pastas and risotto, varying the rice dish with the seasons. Right now, he's making it with beets, lobster, calamari and roasted bell peppers. Soon he'll be cooking with fresh shrimp, zucchini and gold zucchini blossoms. Whatever the ingredients, he lets the rice sing.

Your carb-binge transgressions will be minor if you stick to plain wonton at Wonton Time, the Alhambra branch of a Hong Kong-based chain. Their ethereal shrimp filling is covered with ultra-thin sheets of pasta--not even a misdemeanor.

In the Little Tokyo West area of Sawtelle, no foodstuffs are worthier than the handmade noodles at Fukawa. The sliver of a cafe, with simple bleached wood tables, makes luscious udon as springy as the tapioca balls in a boba drink.

With contributions from Linda Burum.

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