Vito’s on Ocean Park is a classic Italian restaurant with a distinctly Dino-esque quality, seasoned professional servers, a superbly stocked bar and wine cellar, and at lunchtimes the ambience is distinctly “man for all seasons.” On my recent visit, the diners included the solitary barfly, the couple chatting gaily during their noontime rendezvous and a swathe of busy business types wheeling and dealing, all the while savoring Italian food of a caliber rarely enjoyed outside of Italy.
Upon arrival, my guest and I waited just a few short minutes at the bar while the reserved luscious leather booth was prepped (reservations are advised). We chatted and admired the class A personality of the “easy on the eye” barmaid (female bar person, to be politically correct) as she juggled with drinks and conjured up cocktails with a skill that only experience can hone.
Our booth was spacious and commodious, the bread was fresh, the menu thoughtful and the daily specials were verbally presented in a manner reminiscent of a time when being a waiter was a career and an art (no Tom Cruise wannabees here!).
We both agreed to a small Caesar to start. My guest opted for the Vitello Alla Piccata (slices of veal sautéed in white wine, lemon and butter with a pasta side, $23.50) for the main, and I chose one of the aforementioned lunch specials, Australian Sea Bass with lemon and white wine sauce with capers accompanied with a vegetable medley ($22.95).
Our salads arrived in no time, and they were classic Caesar, crisp, fresh lettuce, crunchy croutons, fresh Parmesan and an almost perfect dressing. The salads made for a splendid start to the proceedings.
We enjoyed several minutes of lively conversation before our waiter arrived with the main courses and performed some nifty tableside showmanship with the pepper grinder and wished us an enjoyable meal.
My sea bass was a medium-sized cut, grilled tender and ladled with one of the most delightful sauces ever to touch these taste buds. Flavorful and light, the taste was simple and perfectly balanced, with the ingredients combining to create the perfect compliment to the delicately prepared fish. If this was a signature dish, then the penmanship was beautiful. The medley of vegetables was well-sized and al dente.
My guest told me that his veal was very, very good: generous slivers of finely cut meat complimented by a rich sauce and pasta marinara.
On this occasion we deserted dessert (although their tiramisu is timeless), and I closed the curtains with a good, robust espresso.
If your penchant is for a genuine, Old World Italian restaurant experience, pay a visit to Vito, Roberto and Giovanna Somma and enjoy what is quite simply great food prepared with passion.
Vito’s, 2807 Ocean Park Blvd., 310.450.4999.