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Restaurant review: Andre Guerrero's Maximiliano is simply good

Andre Guerrero keeps Maximiliano in Highland Park simply good with no-frills Italian American cooking.

January 12, 2012|By S. Irene Virbila | Los Angeles Times Restaurant Critic

Reserve a table, and, unlike a number of restaurants I could name, it's generally ready when you arrive. The bare tabletops and hard surfaces mean the noise level can be high yet not so punishing that you can't visit with friends.

A handful of main courses (all less than $20) round out the menu. There's a fine pork chop cooked sous-vide, very moist, and served with Tuscan kale, sweet potatoes and a red wine jus sweetened with figs. Pan-roasted chicken in Marsala is bite-by-bite delicious, with sauteed garlic spinach and fingerling potatoes. And salmon piccata makes even this overused fish something special.

You can order extra sides too, like the wonderful roasted heirloom Italian squashes with honey, five-spice and Sicilian sea salt, or a classic baked eggplant with mozzarella, ricotta and tomato. Baked fennel with bacon and Gruyère, though, is the kind of thing you'd expect at a ski resort in the Alps — too heavy for winter in L.A.

Maximiliano has a sweet little wine list, mostly Italian, with a nice choice of wines by the glass or quartino. And if you like to try different wines, the quartino is the way to go. You could start with a Giacosa Arneis from Piedmont for $10 or Ca' Donini's Pinot Grigio from the Veneto, then move on to red, such as Planeta's La Segreto from Sicily at $11 or Villa Cafaggio's Chianti Classico Riserva for $12. The bar also has several beers from Pasadena's Craftsman Brewing Co. on tap for $6.

And for dessert? Pastry chef Jan Purdy makes her own spumoni in a cardboard cylinder and cuts it in half to serve, redefining the tricolor ice cream for the PacoJet Age. She makes olive oil ice cream too, fruit or citrus sorbets ($3 a scoop!) and a dense ricotta cheesecake.

Small wonder why the hipster couple at the end of the bar have been here all night, flirting and trying wines. Or why the silver-haired foursome has lingered over cheesecake and coffee. Guerrero has hit the sweet spot with Maximiliano's familiar Italian-American menu, appealing setting and accessible prices. Soon to become a fixture on York Boulevard.

Rating: one-and-a-half stars

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: 5930 York Blvd., Los Angeles; (323) 739-6125,

Price: Starters, $4 to $9; vegetables, $6 to $7; pizza, $11 to $16; pasta, $11 to $15; plates, $16 to $18. Corkage fee, $15 per bottle.  

Details: Open 5 to 11 p.m. Monday to Thursday, 5 p.m. to midnight Friday and Saturday and 5 to 10 p.m. Sunday.

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