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The Beach Gourmet: Anna’s: Classic Italian Dinners

Established in 1969, Anna’s Italian Restaurant, with its tricolor awning and very continental frontage, is now something of a landmark on the Westside.  Oftentimes I have heard people say, “Oh yes, it’s just east of Anna’s,” when referring to a nearby location.

Now owned by Andy and Tony, two Italian gentlemen who possess a “kinder side of Tony Soprano” type of demeanor, Anna’s still serves genuine, home-style Italian dishes, and a friend and I recently paid a visit to this very popular Westside kitchen.

Upon entering I was immediately warmed by an ambience of inviting hospitality, and although we had to wait in line for a few minutes for a table, our host, I believe his name was Tony, always carried a welcoming smile and was unruffled by the busyness of that Saturday evening.

Among the most unique attributes of Anna’s are the cutesy caricatures of the staff adorning the walls, and it wasn’t long before I recognized the beaming face in one of the pictures as one of the waiters darting to and fro.

Along with the seasoned airline posters of Italy, the Mediterranean décor and red and white tablecloths, these inimitable drawings made for a genuinely unique Italian ambience in West Los Angeles.

Italian food is diverse and varied, with influences whose origins can be traced to numerous parts of the globe, from Turkey and Rome to the Middle East and China, and Anna’s menu reflects this diversity with a selection that is traditional, and extensive, without being overbearing.

For the antipasto selection, I gravitated to the Calamari Salad (cooked & chilled squid in garlic, olive oil, basil, apple cider vinegar, bell peppers and spices on lettuce, $8.95) while my guest chose the Pomodoro Tricolore (plum tomato with avocado and fresh unseasoned mozzarella on lettuce, $11.95).

The main course selection covers the whole gamut of pasta, veal, chicken, seafood and pizza, and thoughtfully a good selection of vegetarian dishes, including a rather enticing-sounding linguine al pesto Genovese, $15.50. But, for me, the Parmigiana (breaded and baked chicken breast served with pasta and vegetables, $16.00) was tempting enough, and my friend played fowl too with a choice of their Capriccio (stuffed chicken breast with spinach in a creamy tarragon sauce, $19.50).

Okay, California is known the world over for the plenteous portions served in its restaurants, but when our salads arrived at the table all four of our eyes almost popped out of their sockets to, shall we say, add to the visual quality of the already magnificent- looking plates of food. Yes, these portions are very, very generous, and one of the salads could easily be split between two people as a main course, such were their size.

These salads however were very good, and my calamari superb. Whole small squid, succulent and juicy with only a hint of garlic, and the apple cider vinegar giving quite a pleasant tang that was invigorating to the palate.

After enjoying about one-third of the salads, we had them boxed and bagged to go, while we waited for the entrees. (Waste not, want not!)

The service here was efficient and reliable, and after about 10 minutes or so our server, a Polish lady called Ivana (well, it is the European Union now) arrived with our dishes.

Super-hot plates, penne, zucchini, a delightful marinara sauce and a touch of parmesan made this subtly seasoned piece of breaded and baked chicken tasty and satisfying, but my guest’s choice was really something. Tender, with a very lightly creamed spinach stuffing, this Capriccio was exquisitely prepared, with a rich and flavorful tarragon sauce perfectly complimenting the chicken. Home-style Italian cooking at its best, just a’like a’mamma used to make, I’m sure.

I liked Anna’s a lot, and I give it an especially high mark for value.

All we really needed to round off the evening was to have a close shave with a young, trendily dressed Latin guy riding his Vespa on the sidewalk, smiling, and saying “ciao!”

Anna’s, 10929 W. Pico Blvd., WLA, 310.474.0102

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