It was bound to happen - rising from the wooden planks of the Santa Monica Pier, surrounded by Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. and carnival food staples (hot dogs! fast-food pizza!), the first Italian restaurant has popped up on the horizon, with an executive chef with serious gastronomical cred, Giacomo Pettinari. Even though Al Mare, a 279-seat ristorante, has been feeding the masses of tourists and locals alike through the holidays, its official ribbon-cutting was actually only held recently, on March 12.
Co-owners Paolo Simeone and Franco Sorgi, who have already seen success with Trastevere on the Third Street Promenade and La Piazza at the Grove, spent more than two years completing the buildout of Al Mare, which is designed by local architect David Hibbert. The 9,000-square-foot Italian eatery now stands three stories tall, with second-floor balcony terraces and a rooftop deck boasting one of the best views on the Westside.
The space where Al Mare stands has an interesting history, which doesn't involve fine dining or Italian anything. Quite the contrary, it was empty for more than 10 years, and before that housed Arcadia Nightclub, which hosted hip-hop nights, comedy appearances, swing bands and popular acts, and before that was the home of club Ash Grove.
Al Mare is nothing like its predecessors. It serves house-made butternut squash pasta, homemade butter churned with local milk from Organic Pastures in Fresno, and focaccia baked every morning by Pettinari and his team. Unsurprising for this executive chef, who most recently worked at Piero Selvaggio's much-lauded Valentino.
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The full bar serves up wines from around the world, from Argentina to Italy, and cocktail specials such as the jalapeño margarita and the Al Mare, made with Grey Goose, Zardetto prosecco and lemon sorbet. General manager Marco Tencanera, from La Piazza, created the wine list and is working on a new cocktail list with in-house mixologist Rashid M. Green; they plan to unveil it shortly.
At last, grown-ups and parents with sophisticated palates can sit down for a nice meal after a day full of sightseeing, rides and games - instead of settling for a funnel cake and cotton candy.