OK, OK, if anyone is expecting the pomp and circumstance of Valentino, he or she is going to be sorely disappointed. Osteria Mozza is casual and very, very loud. The soundtrack is pure, old-school rock 'n' roll. But with its high energy and high spirits, the osteria is also more fun than any other Italian place in town (with the exception of Pizzeria Mozza next door).
With Silverton involved, you can expect fabulous desserts. Pastry chef Dahlia Narvaez turns out delicate little cannoli stuffed with three different ice creams. Warm bombolini fritters come with lemon mascarpone and raspberry sorbetto. Torta della nonna sets a new standard here as a fine-textured cheesecake served with a trio of honeys that go from pale to dark, each strewn with a few choice pine nuts.
Who can resist the crescent-shaped cornette stuffed with almond paste and escorted by plum compote and a tart Greek yogurt gelato? It's a good one to share, because it's very filling and rich. But my favorite is a new introduction, petite pears poached in a luscious dessert wine and served with a fabulous, bitter almond gelato.
At close to midnight on a Saturday, the room is just beginning to empty. We get up from our table, and the couple lingering over coffee in front of the windows with the neon of the Jiffy Lube sign behind could be posing for an Edward Hopper painting. I can't believe how long we've stayed, and this somehow happens every time I go to Osteria Mozza. No worries. I'm learning, along with the rest of L.A.'s Italophiles, that the night, here at least, is still young.
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Location: 6602 Melrose Ave., Los Angeles; (323) 297-0100; www.mozza-la.com.
Ambience: High-energy, high-stakes Italian from Nancy Silverton along with New York partners Mario Batali and Joe Bastianich. The decor is simple and tailored -- dark wood, white marble and, center stage, the mozzarella bar.
Service: Zealous and informed; sometimes a bit stiff.
Price: Antipasti, $12 to $20; primi (pasta), $17 to $19; secondi (main courses), $26 to $29; contorni (sides), $7; cheese plate, $12; dolci (desserts), $8 t o $12.
Best dishes: Grilled octopus; crispy pig trotter; little gem salad; mozzarella in carozza; burricotti with artichokes; tortellini e brodo; ricotta and egg raviolo; grilled orata; grilled quail; beef brasato; torta della nonna; almond cornette; poached pears with bittr almond gelato.
Wine list: Wines from regions all over Italy. Plenty of picks for both the novice and the connoisseur. Corkage fee, $20 per bottle (two bottles maximum).
Best table: The "mozzarella bar."
Details: Open 5:30 to 11 p.m. Monday through Saturday. Full bar. Valet parking, $8.50.
To see a photo gallery, go to latimes.com/food.
Rating is based on food, service and ambience, with price taken into account in relation to quality. ****: Outstanding on every level. ***: Excellent. **: Very good. *: Good. No star: Poor to satisfactory.