In Redondo Beach: the cooking of the Venetian Lagoon
That's exactly Veneto native Angelo Calderan's idea and he's worked hard to make this new restaurant feel like an hostaria from the watery Venetian lagoon. From the outside, it looks sleek and contemporary with huge windows looking onto Pacific Coast Highway. He's got the al fresco angle covered with an outdoor patio in front outfitted with heat lamps. Inside, Venetian carnival masks and framed prints and paintings make Hostaria Piave feel as if it’s been part of the neighborhood for years.
At the long communal table, a toddler sleeps in his mother’s arms while she nibbles on the day’s antipasto del Laguna, a selection of little bites from the sea.
A longtime manager of Ca' del Sole in Toluca Lake, Calderan intends to keep his menu rigorously regional. At Hostaria Piave (named for the river that flows from the Alps to the Venetian Lagoon), he wants to "present the everyday dishes that you would find at the family table in the small islands of the Venetian lagoon and the near countryside.”
That means sauteed bay shrimp with garlic and parsley on soft white polenta or seared scallop with cannellini beans and crispy speck to start. There's also a soulful soup of borlotti beans and mussels, and if the kitchen hasn't run out, fresh sardines with breacrumbs, garlic, and olive oil.
Pastas are unusual, too. Gnocchi comes with duck leg braised in red wine. Risotto with radicchio is cooked with Amarone wine from the Veneto. Prices are reasonable and any of the first courses can be ordered as a main course by adding $5.
Main courses might include braised cuttlefish in tomato sauce and peas with soft polenta or roasted pork shank with golden apple. And for anybody who just wants something simple, a whole roasted chicken with lemon, garlic, and rosemary. It's worth noting that main courses are all under $20.
And I like the restaurant's motto: chi ben beve, ben mangia — who drinks well, eats well. Can't argue with that.
Hostaria Piave, 231 Pacific Coast Highway, Redondo Beach; (310) 374-1000; hostariapiave.com. Open for lunch Monday to Saturday 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and for dinner Monday to Thursday 5 to 10 p.m. and Friday and Saturday 5 to 10:30 p.m.
-- S. Irene Virbila
Photos: Gondolas lined up in Venice; credit: Nancy Hoyt Belcher.