Il Moro: Corporate LA Meets a Little Bit of Italy

Published November, 2005

In the Scene Magazine

It is hard to judge a restaurant by its cover in Los Angeles. Most buildings in this city are devoid of unique character. Among the numerous stucco facades of West L.A. sit large scale office buildings which tend to be both dominating and bland. Generally, the only thing edible to be had within a large corporate structure is the grown-up version of your elementary school lunch.

However, a fairly upscale northern Italian trattoria has found an unlikely home within the corporate walls of an office building in West L.A. After a walk down the hallway of corporate America, you find an elegantly modern dining room.

The dining room of Il Moro has a sleek and simple décor. A smoothly rounded natural wood bar separates an open kitchen from the dining room. You can watch the cooks hustle and bustle to the sound of cheesy Italian pop music. Trendier-than-thou exposed ceilings sit high above the dining room. Swank and sleek, Il Moro attracts a mixed crowd of sophisticated business folk and younger, hip diners.

I had heard good things about the food at Il Moro. There isn’t much in the way of Italian or Mediterranean cuisine in West LA and Il Moro certainly has the monopoly. I am not a picky eater, although finding food that actually wows the pants off of me is a different story, especially when it comes to Italian fare. Having spent considerable time traveling in Italy, I have tasted, studied and loved the distinct flavors of the north, south and middle of the country. Therefore, I came to Il Moro with low expectations. Nothing against the restaurant, it is just one of my food related idiosyncrasies! I am a very tough judge of Italian food. I find it must be both sexy and comforting, a requirement that often fails to yield a strong product.

Gaetano Foiana and Elio de Santo opened Il Moro in 1994 aiming to bring Angelenos just that: comforting, authentic Northern Italian cuisine with a sensual elegance; less rustic, more presentation.

We started with a Caesar salad and an insalata di gamberi e pollo. The former was simple and nicely tossed with an anchovy-heavy Caesar dressing, which impressed me but disappointed those who shy away from the saltier sea creatures. The insalata was a mix of shrimp and smoked chicken with Belgian endive, arugula and balsamic-walnuts in a yogurt vinaigrette. It was slightly underdressed leaving the vegetation a little dry on the palate. However, it was an interesting and refreshing mix of flavors.

It was hard to choose a bottle of wine. We were all meat eaters, so we knew we wanted a full bodied red. The impressive wine list is chock full of primarily inexpensive to moderately priced Italian and local reds and whites (although they also provide French, Spanish and Chilean wines for those who require more variety). We went with a nicely rounded Valpolicella. It went splendidly with our meat dishes without ripping the seams of our wallets.

To start I ordered the trancio di tonno, a blue fin tuna carpaccio with warm toast and lemony avocado mouse. Although we could not fit additional appetizers in our bellies, one could order fritto misto (fried seafood medley of calamari and shrimp), the traditional prosciutto di Parma with a modern twist of fig chutney, roasted red peppers and arugula, or lobster crepes with mozzarella leek sauce.

When it came time to order my entrée I was sold on the pasta. I have a very difficult time shunning any pumpkin or squash filled pasta so I had to go for the homemade pumpkin mousse filled tortelloni special with a chicken and veal Bolognese. This dish blew me away. It was reminiscent of the wonderful pumpkin filled tortellini one might find in Ferrara, its place of origin. The piping hot ragu did not obscure the delicate and slightly sweet tortelloni. It was served a la carte in a carved out pumpkin. Festive and delicious!

The service was spotty at points and impersonal. Although we never lacked anything we absolutely needed, our server should have been more attentive to our needs, especially when it came to our quickly draining wine glasses.

Although I would have loved to try any of the other numerous homemade pastas, such as bucatini mare nostro (long tube pasta with wild tuna ragu, Italian white anchovies, broccoli and heirloom tomatoes) or the tortelloni d’aragosta (filled with lobster and shrimp in a saffron sauce), my dining companion also ordered the picchiatelli al ragu. I guess great minds think alike! The short, tender pasta is sauteed with a Bolognese sauce.

We also tried the costiccine d’agnello, the free range New Zealand lamb chops served alongside roasted country style potatoes, eggplant marmalade and asparagus spears in a pinot noir thyme sauce. The lamb was simple but bold in flavor, due to the pinot noir braising sauce. The asparagus, however, was fibrous and slightly overcooked. Like most Italian bistros, Il Moro also has chicken, veal and fish dishes.

For dessert, we dug our weary forks into a pear tart and a tiramisu. The pear tart had a buttery and flaky crust and the pears were moist and sweet. The tiramisu was as good as anything I had tried in Italy. It was moist and not too sweet. A large portion big enough for two or even three people, it is smooth and creamy and not overly saturated in either coffee or alcohol.

Il Moro is a perfect place to relax after a difficult work week, if you can tolerate a walk through the halls of an office building to get there. Prices are moderate, ranging from $8.75 for salad to $29.95 for beef.

11400 W Olympic Blvd, Los Angeles, 9064
Mon-Fri 11:30am-3:00pm lunch
Mon-Thurs 5:00pm- 10:00pm dinner
Fri-Sat 5:00pm-10:30pm dinner