Saturday, December 4, 2010

Up On the Hill With the Swells

Palos Verdes looms over us flatlanders with beautiful homes, smart malls and expensively-dressed people. How do I know this? We had lunch up there yesterday.

I've long been a fan of Robert Bell, a local chef-restaurant owner (with partner Michael Franks.) Their mother ship is undoubtedly Chez Melange with the attached bistro pub Bouzy. Bell tells the press that he had an Italian grandmother and one of his childhood's greatest pleasures was Sunday dinner at her house. Thus his newest restaurant Mama Terano. Remembering those days, he's doing a Sunday Family Supper, serving the food family-style (passed bowls and platters.)

Well, yesterday was Friday, not Sunday so let us move on. It's a split room - tables and a counter to your left, booths to your right. There's an outside patio for better weather. They have two kitchens, too -- cold prep and hot stove.

I ordered a smal Caesar salad ($5) a small salumi plate ($8) and we shared a small serving of mozzarella marinara ($7.) Richie ordered chicken cacciatore which came with a split, grilled artichoke and sauteed mushrooms on the side ($13.)

The Caesar was crisply fresh, the dressing didn't overpower. Both of us were startled to see that the mozzarella marinara came shaped like golf balls (but bigger) instead of the flat slabs we're used to. They were served on a folded dish towel on a plate with the marinara on the side in a cup. I took one, bit into it and got a shower of mozzarella juice down my front. Then I got it about the presentation on a dish towel!

Bell's trademark is a sort of sly wink and a nod at quirky foods. The salumi came on a cutting board; four slightly rolled pieces of prosciutto, six or eight rounds of dry sausage, a nice chunk of mozzarella and six rustic-looking green olives. I say "rustic" because several had a long, thin stem attached.

They weren't olives. Three of them were caper berries (the larger version of capers) and the rest were dwarf peaches in truffle oil! The peaches hadn't formed a pit; one just bites right into their very firm flesh.

Dessert was equally off-beat. They're served in a French water glass (500 kg?) and contain deliberate surprises in taste and texture for your tongue. I had the Nightcap "Coppetta" (It. for "cup") which had: maple ginger gelato, candied pecans (some in maple candy clumps) chocolate espresso sauce and biscotti. It was very good, but there was a lot of it. I mentally tried to invent an ice cream take-home box, but was unsuccessful.

Richie? he scraped his spoon against the glass to get the last drops of his New York Coppetta of chocolate and vanilla gelatos, cheesecake, cherry sauce and almonds.

We drank water; the tab was $47.19 and we added a 20% tip. Mama Terano, 815 Deep Valley Drive, Rolling Hills Estates 310-377-5757 - Sunday reservations a must; not really necessary the rest of the time.

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