Sunday, April 20, 2008

Mio Babbo's

(310) 208-5117
1076 Gayley Ave
Westwood, CA 90024

Adequately Fed: $15
House Salad with Italian Dressing**
Spaghetti Pomodoro***
Veal Piccata*****
(Out of Five Stars)

After reading the chapter on meat in Harold McGee's On Food and Cooking explaining the science of cooking, I felt compelled to order a veal entree. McGee writes that meat gains flavor from life, meaning older animals with exercise and varied diets produce more flavorful cuts. Veal is on the opposite end of this spectrum. Calves are deprived of movement, fed a fatty milk diet and slaughtered young to maintain supple flesh. I'm not going to enter into the morality of eating baby cows, but foodies should be able to appreciate an especially tender cut of veal.

A short walk from UCLA, Mio Babbo's is an unassuming restaurant small in size with a decor of simple elegance. The interior looks like a restaurant from the twenties. Private booths separate several tables in the small restaurant. My waiter and busboy were helpful and attentive, although the design of the tables allows for a great deal of intimacy with your dining mates.

Each entree comes with a salad or soup. My first course came quickly, dressing on the side, a delight compared to the soggy lettuce of some restaurant salads. The greens were topped with olives and chick peas, straightforward but a little different. Italian dressing was slightly bland for my tastes, but I like my sour foods on the tart side. Soon after the salads, the pasta and veal came. The simple tomato sauce over the spaghetti had a complexity that belied more complex herbs that I couldn't readily identify. Although it was tomato heavy, it was not overly acidic. While the pasta was decent, the veal really exemplified Mio Babbo's. Its lemon and white wine sauce enhanced the natural flavor of the meat and the layer of spaghetti below made a great companion.

Overall, I enjoyed this meal and rate this restaurant solidly. Every time I walk by, I take a glance at the daily special on the board in the window. Maybe next time, I'll have that instead.

Recommendation: I don't know if I would make it a point to visit, but I would come if I were in the mood for convenient, unassuming Italian.

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