Bite of the Beast at Locanda del Lago
photo courtesy of Locanda del Lago
Since Locanda del Lago’s opening in April 1991, the restaurant has established a reputation for producing authentic cuisine from Northern Italy’s Lombardy region. Lago is the proud recipient of the Marchio Qualita “Q”, a prestigious award given following a rigorous selection process to a select few restaurants for specializing in authentic, regional Italian cuisine. Lago’s comfortable, warm atmosphere and sidewalk patio mimic the charm of an Italian “locanda” (inn or trattoria) “del lago” (of the lake).
Lago utilizes locally sourced ingredients, uses “green” practices when possible and promotes sustainability as a business and community leader. In addition to the regular menu, Lago offers a “Chef’s Seasonal Menu” available every night featuring the most flavorful, organic ingredients from the nearby Santa Monica Farmers’ Market in conjunction with all-natural, free-range & hormone-free proteins.
photo courtesy of Locanda del Lago
The last Thursday of every month, LAGO hosts a communal meal featuring whole animal roasts and traditional, rustic dishes entitled ”Morso della Bestia” (Bite of the Beast). This dinner series features the choice animal paired with wines and seasonal ingredients from the farmers’ market. It was at one of these dinners that I, along with my friend Manik in tow, attended. The featured animal for February was Durham Ranch wild boar. Durham Wild Boar is all natural and feral from Texas, trapped in the wild and processed exclusively under the Durham Ranch label.
Herb marinated & roasted wild boar loin – bed of endive & fresh horseradish
Off to a fresh and sumptuous start, there was hardly a piece of green left on anyone’s plate – my own especially. I was even pleased that my friend Manik cleaned his plate and only just stopped himself from asking for seconds.
Going on the urging of the hostess, I passed over all of the more sweet-favoring cocktails to try a one-of-a-kind cocktail inspired by the traditional antipasto Caprese salad. I’ll admit, I was skeptical – but it turned out to be one of the most innovative and invigorating cocktails I’ve ever had the pleasure of consuming. It was herbaceous with just a hint of natural sweetness from the tomato. It was like drinking a garden and snacking on fresh made cheese. Really gorgeous, do not skip!
Housemade spaghetti with beer braised wild boar ragú
My favorite dish of the evening, and one so simple! Firstly, I do not know if there will ever be a time in my life when I will be able to perfect homemade spaghetti. Oh, I make my own pasta sure enough, but one bite of this and you know this was made by someone who has been doing it for decades. I can only guess what the noodles are seasoned with, but my assumption is salt, black pepper and a good Parmesan cheese. There could not possibly be more than that, and yet I wanted a punch bowl filled with it, tossed with these tender morsels of beer-braised wild boar.
Piatto de Mezzo
Risotto with housemade wild boar sausage, leek & sage
With that perfect al dente bite Arborio rice and a creamy sauce, this dish harmonized rich textures with savory hunks of boar sausage – and what better pairs with sausage than sage and leeks? Another home-run that left us wanting more.
Oppale 32 Beer
An Italian beer described as “very hoppy ale, top-fermented and fermented in the bottle.” The bouquet is described as having notes of caramel and toffee with hints of herbs and fruity ripe pineapple. Manik really enjoyed it.
Chef Gianfranco Minuz
At this point in the evening, Chef came out to personally dish up our last savory. Gianfranco Minuz was raised in Portogruaro in Northern Italy. Minuz grew up learning how to process and cure salami and prosciutto from his father, a butcher; while his mother’s expertise in the kitchen sparked his desire in cooking professionally. At age fifteen, Gianfranco attended the regional culinary school and following commencement, he immediately began working at a string of Michelin-starred restaurants and under the tutelage of the renowned Gulatiero Marchesi, considered to be the founder of modern Italian cuisine. Chef earned his own Michelin star with his Pasadena based restaurant, Trattoria Tre Venezie, where he ran the kitchen for ten years before transitioning to Santa Monica for new ventures. One bite and you can taste the illustrious career of Chef Minuz!
Wild boar shoulder with braised savoy cabbage & chardonnay sauce
While I will never be a fan of cooked cabbage, I enjoyed the heartiness of this dish, paired wonderfully with a wedge of grilled polenta. The chardonnay sauce was lip-smacking delectable. A perfect bite for a chilled February evening.
Housemade hazelnut meringue cookie and chocolate mousse
I was so stuffed, though, that I could only take a couple of bites of the airy and rich mousse!
There is a distinct image of ostentatious and pomp I conjure up when I think about dining options straddling Third Street Promenade. Locanda del Lago breaks all of those rules and prejudices with its airy, inviting European rustic charm and open kitchen; the vibe reads “welcome to our family” loud and clear. Bite of the Beast is a brilliant way to spend a Thursday evening, and I encourage you will grab your favorite dining partner and give it a go.
Upcoming Morso della Bestia Dinners:
March (03/26): Porchetta ~ Durazo Farm Suckling Pig
April (04/23): Agnello ~ Niman Ranch Lamb
May (05/28): Halibut
five course menu: 55
free-flowing house wine: +18
premium wine pairing: +28
(not including tax or gratuity)
For more information: Bite of the Beast | Locanda del Lago