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The Beach Gourmet: Fritto Misto: An Italian Job

A glorious late spring/early summer evening in Santa Monica is a joy to behold, and what better way to close the day than a delightful regalement with friends at a cute and compact café at the corner of 6th Street and Colorado Avenue.  Fritto Misto literally translated means fried mixture (sounds just so much more appealing in Italian), but is commonly phrased as the appellation of a dish (a fritto misto of shrimp, parsley and onion, for example).

Although limited al fresco dining is available outside, we opted to enjoy the bright and austere qualities of the restaurant itself that boasts plenty of natural light, and just enough space to allow the diners to be comfortable, but intimate if the mood dictates.

The menu here is somewhat voluminous with an extensive “create your own pasta” section that boasts 25 pastas, including stuffed pastas and ravioli, 20 sauces and 22 add-ins, making the possible permutations enormous. I defy anyone to utter those tragic words, “There was nothing on the menu for me,” at Fritto Misto.

A Greens and Gorgonzola salad ($10.00) for the table was ordered, arrived swiftly, was well-balanced and fresh with organic baby greens, gorgonzola cheese, Roma tomatoes and toasted walnuts in a balsamic vinaigrette. For a party of six it only just crossed the finish line, but with no fuel left for the more voracious among us, a lap of honor was sadly out of the question.

The pasta choices cover the whole gamut, from a more traditional Rigatoni Siciliano (Arrabiatta sauce with seared chicken, Kalamata olives and zucchini, $12.50) and Pasta Pancetta (Italian bacon, sun-dried tomatoes, caramelized onions, garlic cream, tossed with tomato fettuccini, $12.00), to some more original and fusion-based dishes like their Atomic Pasta (two Cajun seared chicken breasts, sliced, on a bed of New Mexico chili linguini, tossed with red, green and yellow bell peppers and red onions in a chipotle chili cream sauce, $15.25) and an intriguing-sounding Mushroom Jalapeño Ravioli (fresh cilantro, fresh jalapeño, tossed in olive oil and topped with pico de gallo, $11.00).

The Mushroom Jalapeño Ravioli was so colorful that just for a second I thought I was in the midst of some kind of culinary psychedelic hallucination, with fresh tri-color pasta glistening in olive oil, and topped with bright red and green pico de gallo. This dish was as good as it was unique.  Dainty pockets of pasta filled with mushroom and hot jalapeño, freshly diced pico de gallo, a glaze of olive oil and definite overtones of cilantro resulted in an enticing juxtaposition between fresh simplicity and the zesty piquancy of the peppers. Served as a sensible portion, size-wise, I found this “Mexitalian” dish to be an excellent and tasty creation.

Among the other dishes ordered that evening was a delightful Pillows Checca (stuffed with ricotta and basil, tossed with fresh Roma tomatoes, garlic, olive oil and basil, $10.00). Again, fresh ingredients were the rule of thumb, and this choice faithfully adhered to that old Italian culinary axiom, namely, quality ingredients prepared to create simple, uncomplicated flavors. The Pillows Checca was a perfectly balanced pasta dish, with the basil and garlic whispering their presence while allowing the natural ricotta and tomato flavors to be enjoyed for their own organic qualities.

I found Fritto Misto a rather pleasant experience, with excellent value, given really good plates of pasta are available for $10-$15 each. On this occasion, with fresh bread and salad, and lively conversation as colorful as the Mushroom Jalapeño Ravioli, it made for a pleasant end to a pleasant Santa Monica day.

Fritto Misto, 601 Colorado Avenue, 310.458.2829. 

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