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Crossroads Diner: At the Intersection of Hospitality & Community - L.A. Edition, Part 2

Erin Prak
Posted by Erin Prak on Oct 18, 2019

 

Returning to the scene of the criminally delicious, this month's edition of Crossroads Diner delves back into my recent Los Angeles eating and drinking spree. I would be remiss, however, if I were to continue digging into me digging into Chef Antonia Lofaso’s dishes without sharing a bit of what I unearthed doing a little digging into her background.

carpaccio

To start, I believe it is very important that everyone knows that the best meal she has ever had, straight from the proverbial horse’s mouth in this here LA Times article, was right here in good ol’ Chicago at classic Italian eatery Spiaggia. Perusing interviews and blurbs about or authored by her, you get the distinct impression of endearingly sharp wit, indomitable humanity, and distinctly Italian spirit. From her inventive take on old school Italian fare at Scopa, to her penning The Busy Mom’s Cookbook, and her motivations behind innovative and inclusive Chefletics line of chef apparel, Lofaso’s family-, community-, and globally-minded attitude in the kitchen really sets a tone. 

squash blossoms

You can pick up what she’s putting down in her menus and dishes, where she melds her worldview with worldly flavors. Not going to lie, though, when I picked up and looked over Black Market’s menu, I was... uncertain. I was struck by the array of flavors and broad selection, a hodge-podge of cultural cuisine. Could soft shell crab bao, tagliatelle bolognese, and whole tai snapper escabeche all really be executed well on the same menu? The answer is yes, and Lofaso’s approach totally appeals to my smorgasbord-loving appetite. After testing and loving the prismatic waters at Black Market, Scopa felt like a deep dive into the heart of her Italian roots. 

amberjack

The first dish we had at Scopa stirred up uncertainty, again, but it was my first time having pesce crudo, which is basically Italian sashimi and I’m always skeptical and picky about fresh fish. My mind also couldn’t quite wrap around what cherry tomatoes, finger limes, basil oil, and fennel fronds would taste like with the amberjack. Every bite was balanced buttery richness with a zippy sidekick of citrusy green notes. The entire menu is brimming with familiar and beloved Italian dishes, but with more than a little oompf from the Greco-Iberian influences of Lofaso’s Sicilian lineage. After the amberjack crudo, we noshed on the steak tartare, crispy squash blossoms, roasted romanesco, and braised pork shank campanelle. Our light dinner was plenty full of robust flavors and textures and we were not left wanting for anything other than after-dinner espresso. And, of course, to make our way to Old Lightning for liquid dessert. 

romanesco

braised pork

Antonia Lofaso’s partners in DAMA and Scopa, Pablo Moix and Steve Livigni, have created a haven for rare booze acolytes behind a shadowy, unmarked side door of Scopa. Old Lightning lives behind the restaurant, and the only way to get there is by reservation which are limited; it’s about the size - and feel - of a large living room. We wrapped up our dinner and mosied over to the host stand to check in for Old Lightning. She promptly directed us outside to wait under a lamp ensconced in the brick facade. Such intrigue. Within a few minutes, someone walked up to us and greeted us with oversized playing cards to trade in for our phones. Such plot. 

bottle wall 2

As someone who has a love-hate relationship with my phone and social media, I was more than happy for someone else to make the decision for me to put my phone away. The ambience and menu certainly lend to conversation, if for nothing but the incredible menu of vintage, rare, and deadstock spirits and champagne. We opted for an oz each of 1970’s Pikesville Rye, Old Lightning Select Blanton’s, and Booker’s 30th and Maw Maw’s Batch. The Pikesville was a little harsh for me, but I couldn’t get enough of the bananas foster bouquet of the Blanton’s. The Booker’s 30th singed my nose hairs upon first whiff, and the smoothness of Maw Maw’s Batch slid it into the winning snifter. 

bottle wall

Antonia Lofaso & company have beautifully and effectively tapped into the ability of food and drink to transport you to a memory or trigger an appetite for wanderlust. Mark Twain once said, “Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one's lifetime.” You don’t need a passport to experience a different culture; you just need to step outside of your comfort zone. For a taste of what it’s like to live in a different corner of the world, take your date night to Italy with The Chopping Block's Date Night: An Evening in Italy, stroll on over for our Street Food class that explores Asian and Latin ingredients, or try your hand at Dumplings Around the World

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Topics: Los Angeles, Travel

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