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Could 30 under $30 be next?

June 06, 2007|Leslee Komaiko

RESTAURANT wine prices have gotten crazy.

If you flip through wine lists, it's easy to feel drowned by a sea of bottles priced up into the triple digits. But help has arrived by way of some catchy wine lists that feature 50 under $50 or 50 under $60 or 100 under $60 -- you get the picture.

At Pizzeria Mozza, all 50 of its wines are priced at less than $50. The couple-month-old wine bistro 750ml in South Pasadena has a 50-under-$50 list too. Westside Italian restaurant Il Grano recently reorganized its hefty roster, with 100 wines that cost less than $60. Opus Restaurant in L.A. now highlights 50 wines under $60.

And it's not just the prices that are appealing. Mozza managing partner David Rosoff created a list that steers clear of the big four in Italian wines: Chianti, Brunello, Barbaresco and Barolo, which all will be represented at Mozza's sister osteria slated to open this summer. "There have got to be people who must think I'm out of my mind for not having Chianti or Barolo on the wine list," he says.

Instead, he focused on wines that aren't as well known outside of the boot, ones that "give more of a local feel." For example, the 2004 Pigato Riviera Ligure di Ponente from Durin ($42), great with the anchovy pizza with tomato sauce. Or the 2004 Fiano di Avellino "Colli di Lapio" from Clelia Romano in Campania ($45), brilliant with the clam pizza.

Wine buyer Bill Fernandez created the list at 750ml, which features mostly California, Italian, French and Spanish wines, along with entries from New Zealand and Austria. Fernandez says he made "no compromises at all."

"There are so many great values, especially outside of California," he says. "Why would you want to narrow it down to a couple trendy little areas?"

At Opus, chef Josef Centeno put together the selection of 50 under $60, separate from the restaurant's more comprehensive list. "I wanted to hand pick wines that went with the food," he says, "wines from small producers, interesting varietals, and that were priced affordably." So on his list you'll find a Barbolini Lambrusco Grasparossa for $27 or a 2005 Txomin Etxaniz Txakolina from Spain for $38.

Sommelier Peter Birmingham recently reorganized and added to Il Grano's collection of wines, adding a 100-under-$60 component.

A 2004 Austrian Gruner Veltliner Konigsberg Urkristall Maurer priced at $52 is "amazingly happy with almost anything green," including chef Sal Marino's simple soup of pureed English peas or a salad of pea tendril sprouts, favas, peas and pecorino.

Il Grano's customers clearly have taken to the new format. Birmingham estimates that about 80% of their customers order from the $60-and-under list. But those feeling flush have plenty of wines to choose from. The 1990 Richebourg Domaine de la Romanee-Conti goes for $2,950. That one goes on the 800-under-$3,000 list.

Leslee Komaiko

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Small Bites

* Rustic Canyon Wine Bar and Seasonal Kitchen is now open for lunch on weekdays, serving dishes such as roasted beets, avocado and baby greens with orange avocado oil and flat-iron steak sandwich with grilled onions and herbed French fries.

1119 Wilshire Blvd., Santa Monica, (310) 393-7050. Lunch Monday through Friday, 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.

* Tuesday specials: On Tuesday nights this summer, Table 8 offers Tuesdays@Table8 with 50% off wine by the bottle and a $50, five-course prix fixe rotating menu with dishes such as seared yellowtail with tomatoes, roasted asparagus and parmesan aioli. Whist restaurant at the Viceroy hotel offers Taste of Tuesdays, a poolside menu of $5 small bites such as grilled elk with foie gras cherry butter.

Table 8, 7661 Melrose Ave., Los Angeles, (323) 782-8258.

Whist at the Viceroy, 1819 Ocean Ave., Santa Monica, (310) 260-7511.

* In late June, Jar chef Suzanne Tracht will open Tracht's in Long Beach. The casual bistro, open for lunch and dinner, will serve signature Jar dishes, including chopped sirloin with fried egg and green peppercorn sauce as well as new selections.

Tracht's, Renaissance Long Beach Hotel, 111 E. Ocean Blvd., Long Beach, (562) 437-5900.

* Pace restaurant in Laurel Canyon and Simon LA in West Hollywood are now open for brunch on Sunday. The Pace menu includes Grand Marnier French toast with whipped mascarpone cheese and berries. At Simon LA's Rock 'n' Roll brunch, chef Kerry Simon serves up dishes such as wood-roasted breakfast pizza with burrata cheese, Canadian bacon, onions and two eggs to the patio tunes of rock DJ Kelly Cole.

Pace, 2100 Laurel Canyon Blvd., Los Angeles, (323) 654-8583. Sundays, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Simon LA, 8555 Beverly Blvd., West Hollywood, (310) 358-3979. Sundays, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

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