Eatalian Café West: Now Reopened
D. Gonzalez The 46 slice at Eatalian Cafe West
Many of us who write about food hear the plea: "Please don't write about [insert favorite restaurant/bakery/seller of obscure charcuterie here]. They are crowded enough." They point to places like Eatalian Café, in the Harbor Gateway area of Gardena, that, after well-deserved praise in publications including L.A. Times and Westways, became jam-packed with patrons drawn in by their made on-site fresh pasta dishes and brick oven pizzas. What most didn't realize was that Eatalian Café's owner Antonio Pellini had another, much smaller, Eatalian Café on the western edge of Gardena that he closed to focus on getting things to run smoothly in increasingly popular eastern location.
Having been to the larger Eatalian Café location recently, we are pleased to confirm that Pellini's calculation has paid off. Although the house is still packed on most nights, the service is friendly and efficient. And as of November of last year, Pellini decided to re-open the west Eatalian Café location under the leadership of the former pizzaiolo of the larger location, Davide Molinari, and his wife Victoria Vaughn. We decided to explore the relaunched menu, which has both familiar and new dishes, to see if this location has been able to transport the big Italian flavors into the smaller location.
D. Gonzalez The Lunch Crowd at Eatalian Cafe West
"We wanted to create a straight to the point Italian place," Vaughn explained as she acknowledged the crowds that still flock to the larger location and difference between the two, "But some people only have an hour, half an hour for lunch and now they can come here." And already tables are filling up with the workers in the area, from firefighters next to rocket scientists.
They source many of their ingredients from the larger location: the pizza and bread doughs, fresh pasta and gelato are delivered daily. However, these efficiencies and the drive for quicker service have not come at the cost of craftsmanship. Molinari is from Modena, which in the Emilia-Romagna region of Northern Italy. He explained to us that this region is home to balsamic vinegar, parmigiano reggiano and prosciutto di parma in addition to the name plates of Ferrari, Lamborghini and Ducati.
No dish exemplifies the regional pride that drives this café more than the panino Emiliana. Although most know the grilled version of panini, the Emiliana is done in the traditional panino imbottito style, a bread roll with a filling. Here the bread roll is a fresh baked ciabatta and the filling is a juicy patty of spicy Italian sausage, melted fresh mozzarella and grilled sweet onions.
D. Gonzalez Panino Emiliana at Eatalian Café West
When it arrives to the table, it seems like an imposing dish, so large that its edges hang off the plate. However the still warm bread proves to be rather pliable and the fillings cling to each other inside. Before we even take the first bite, Molinari comes by asking if we want some olive oil from Academia Barilla for dipping, which adds just the right flavor and lubrication to allow us to consume this dish almost as quickly as it arrived.