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BEACH GOURMET: Spumoni Italian Restaurant: Delizioso!

Spumoni is an Italian ice cream dessert, consisting of a layer of whipped cream, sometimes flavored with rum, and sandwiched between two layers of ice cream. It is also a compact Italian café situated on Montana Avenue, one of a small chain of five such establishments located in Southern California.

Spumoni is small, bright and very Mediterranean, with some delightful light and attractive pastel-toned artwork adorning its walls. Although limited al fresco dining is available outside, my guest and I chose to enjoy this compact eating space from within.

We took a cozy little table next to the window and within seconds were being attended to by a jovial little chap named Pablo, who dutifully furnished us with menus and then scurried off to collect our drinks of water and iced tea.

The menu is unabashed Italian, and includes a host of classic pastas, pizzas and desserts, including Penne Arrabbiata (small tube pasta with red chili peppers, fresh mushrooms, garlic and oregano in marinara sauce, $10.95) and Linguine Pescatore (thin noodle pasta with calamari, mussels, manila clams and jumbo shrimp prepared with garlic, white wine and extra virgin olive oil in marinara sauce, $15.95). There is a choice of 14 pizzas from $14.95, with the standard “make your own pizza” option offering such exotic toppings as prosciutto and smoked salmon.

Our orders for lunch were simple and classic: Spumoni Salad (mixed baby lettuce with Roma tomatoes and gorgonzola crumbles, $7.95), Eggplant Parmigiana (sliced eggplant baked with tomato sauce and melted mozzarella cheese, $12.95) and Scampi Arrabbiata (jumbo tiger shrimp sautéed with garlic, red chili peppers and oregano in a marinara sauce, $16.95).

The service was rapid and we hardly had time to complete a thorough analysis of the psychological and physiological side effects of painkillers (just four or five minutes) before our shared salad was duly served to us by Pablo and his constant companion, namely a pleasant smile.

With a light vinaigrette-style dressing glistening the lettuce to an attractive shine, juicy Roma tomatoes and some tasty sprinklings of gorgonzola, this split portion was the perfect size for a lunch, leaving plenty of room for the entrees.

Again, timing was impeccable with the arrival of our entrees, served hot, and delightfully presented with sensible portions that were still plenty satisfying.

My Scampi Arrabbiata was an excellent, simply prepared Italian dish that allowed the natural flavors of the 1/2 dozen jumbo tiger shrimp and marinara sauce to flourish while being complimented by the garlic, peppers and especially the oregano. Accompanied by perfectly cooked tube pasta and the side of French beans, zucchini and carrots, this was a palate-pleasing plate and excellent value to boot.

My guest’s Eggplant Parmigiana was of an equally high standard, with soft eggplant and marinara sauce coupling perfectly as the melted mozzarella provided the required richness. My guest, with her Italian heritage, commented that it took her back to Brooklyn and her grandmother’s home cooking, certainly a qualified nod of approval.

To round off the proceedings I ordered an espresso, and Pablo pleasantly surprised us by also delivering a complimentary Cannoli. This heavenly gift was superb. Light and tasty, and adorned with chocolate morsels, it was a classic conclusion to a classic Italian kitchen experience on a classic Santa Monica Sunday.

Spumoni Italian Restaurant, 713 Montana Avenue, 310.393.2944.

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