Drago, best Italian in the Mile, inside and on the outdoor patio

| March 4, 2020 | 0 Comments

ENTRANCE, through the patio on Fairfax Avenue.

The weather in Los Angeles has been all over the temperature map recently, but we’ve had enough unseasonably warm days that it was with great anticipation that I headed to Drago Ristorante, the Sicilian-leaning eatery in the Petersen Museum, to try dinner on their new patio. At least that was my hope. In fact, even surrounded by heaters, it was too chilly and the warm glow from the interior beckoned through the windows and won me over. Indoor eating again.

There aren’t too many patio options in the Miracle Mile, so the arrival of a spacious outdoor space is a welcome addition to the neighborhood. The restaurant and terrace are hidden from Fairfax traffic behind the museum’s decorative metallic ribbons. Red exterior walls form a bright backdrop to the casual, modern patio design — white tables and umbrellas, charcoal chairs, and leafy greenery scattered about.

I can imagine spending a balmy summer evening there with a glass of Italian red and a bowl of wild boar pasta or a leisurely lunch munching a prosciutto and mozzarella pizza, Aperol spritz in hand.

Sadly, that experience will have to wait. Happily, the food is the best Italian in the Mile, no matter where you sit. The Drago brothers, Celestino, Tanino, Calogero and Giacomino, learned their love of cooking with fresh ingredients while growing up on the family farm in Sicily where what ended up on the table was often what was grown in the garden, including the ever-present olive oil, pressed from olives plucked from their trees.

The menu at Drago Ristorante reflects the rugged island terrain of their youth — lots of seafood, lots of bold flavors with capers and olives, sage and chili flakes. The white-tablecloth restaurant does keep things light, however — sauces kiss the pasta, rather than bludgeon them.

There are numerous starters and salads — $14 burrata and eggplant, $18 roasted veal in tomato sauce, a $16 salad with apples, bacon, candied walnuts and mixed greens. They also offer what might be the best octopus I’ve ever had. Pan roasted, the tentacles were beautifully seasoned and extremely tender. The $14 dish was anchored by a flavorful celery root puree. I could eat this every day and die happy.

Pasta, though, is the centerpiece of the menu — homemade and always al dente, the eight dishes featured on the current menu include a $28 spaghetti with shrimp, calamari, bay scallops, mussels, and clams in a light tomato sauce, $22 tagliolini with sea urchin and lemon, and $18.50 ravioli filled with braised short ribs in prosciutto sauce. The $18 fusilli in a prosciutto and vodka sauce was exceptional. Perfectly cooked little corkscrews of pasta were enhanced by the ham-flavored, liquor-enriched red sauce. The $22 giant rigatoni with cherry tomato, shrimp and Thai chili was rightfully recommended by our server. Each bite yielded distinct bursts of fresh tomato, sweet crustacean and the barest touch of heat.

There are the usual soups (bean and pasta, minestrone, each $9), and well-executed thin-crusted pizzas ($14.50 to $16.50). Mains swing from $32 seared ahi tuna puttanesca to $32 pork chops with marsala apple sauce. $28 chicken breast is served crusted with fine bread crumbs and black truffles, accompanied by a fragrant truffle sauce and haricots verts.

The aroma was spectacular, and the chicken was juicy and flavorful, although the texture hints that the poultry spent a tad too long in its brine.

Do finish with one of their nine $10 desserts. Why resist walnut semifreddo or profiteroles with hazelnut gelato and hot chocolate sauce?

Drago Ristorante, 6060 Wilshire Blvd. (in the Petersen Automotive Museum), 323-800-2244.

ON THE MENU with Helene Seifer

Contact Helene at onthemenu@larchmontchronicle.com

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Category: Entertainment

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