La Botte is named after a wine barrel, paneled with former wine casks, and is as thick with actual wine bottles as your niece’s room may be with Bratz paraphernalia. The wine list is a serious one, the kind where you feel a little like a kid whose ball has been taken away if you lack the bank balance to play around with $156 bottles of Serpico or verticals of Amarone. Antonio Mure’s cooking — hearty, wintery north Italian stuff like stuffed pheasant, taglioline with crumbles of quail sausage, fried sweetbreads with polenta, or spaghetti tossed with lentils — seems almost engineered to bring the best out of a young Brunello or a bottle of San Leonardo, a Friuli red with the muscular presence of Sassicaia. Coda alla vaccinara, the famous Roman oxtail dish, is superb, large, pillowy hunks of tail nestling into soft, yellow puddles of polenta, gooey on gooey and rich on rich — exactly what you want with a glass of Barolo if somebody else is paying. Is Mure’s cooking, which you also may have tasted at Piccolo in Venice or Wilson in Culver City, a bit severe for the sybaritic climate of Santa Monica? Perhaps. But it also may be just what we need.
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