Germano Minin, the chef and also a partner, is no slouch with the pastas either. They're cooked al dente, not over-sauced and served in Italian-sized portions, meant more as first courses than main courses. I liked pappardelle with a rich roasted tomato sauce, nuggets of mozzarella and eggplant scented with sweet basil. Tagliatelle is sauced in a fine beef ragù, and agnolotti get a lovely filling of ricotta and speck (smoked ham). Chicken lasagna made with fontina cheese is not too rich, a lighter variation on the usual meat sauce.
The handful of main courses are basic but very decent — a chicken breast stuffed with ricotta and fresh spinach, grilled lamb loin with arugula, a fish of the day — and an excellent Milanese orecchia di elefante, which would be a pounded, breaded and sauteed veal chop as big as an elephant's ear.
Desserts are kind of fun too. Panzarotti are basically ravioli with an apple stuffing and a vanilla cinnamon sauce for dipping. Pear carpaccio is cut so each thin slice is pear-shaped and comes with a mound of chocolate pudding in the middle. You can also get a couple of sweet pizzas, but I wouldn't recommend it.
The word hostaria is related to hospitality. And there is something so welcoming about this Santa Monica newcomer: The groups of friends relaxing over dinner, the clutch of locals hanging in the bar with their aperitivi — or glasses of wine. It's open all afternoon and easygoing enough that you can stop in for a pizza or pasta and basta, or a Milanese and a salad. Just what the doctor ordered.
Hostaria del Piccolo
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
Location: 606 Broadway, Santa Monica, (310) 393-6633; hostariadelpiccolo.com
Price: Pizze, $12 to $18, antipasti, $10 to $24; salads, $10 to $12; pasta, $16 to $18; meat and fish, $18 to $24; desserts, $8 to $10.
Details: Open 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday to Thursday, 11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday; open for brunch 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Full bar. Corkage, $15. Valet parking, $5, from 6 p.m.