Question: Italian restaurants are all well and good, but what I’m looking for is an old-fashioned Italian-American restaurant, with the red sauce and the plastic grapes and the three-generation families eating pasta on Sunday nights. Any ideas?
—Susan, Sherman Oaks
Answer: There is a need for great Italian-American family restaurants, but not much of a supply — especially in Los Angeles, a city that never had much of an Italian-American population to begin with. (Since Little Joe’s closed, the closest non-pizza Italian-American restaurant I really like is Luigi’s, in Bakersfield.) That’s why the wholly synthetic Buca di Beppo chain is so popular.
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Actually, the place that’s been fascinating me lately is the Iranian-American family restaurant Green Cottage, a converted pie shop that does have the long tables, and the bilingual multigenerational families, and the sassy waitresses, and the twinkly lights, and the lounge singer who knows all the verses to both “That’s Amore” and “Volare.” The massive plates hold more than any one person could possibly consume. It is all so very American, as American as apple pie. Except that the food that everybody is overeating happens to be lamb kebabs and koobideh and the sticky pomegranate-chicken stew called fesenjan; crispy-rice tah-dig piled with lima-bean stew, and vast mounds of saffron-gilded rice flavored with barberries or dill; sweet rosewater ices spiked with noodles; saffron-pistachio ice cream for dessert. You can have your Old Country nostalgia; I’ll take mine — with an Alka-Seltzer chaser, please. Green Cottage, 20022 Ventura Blvd., Woodland Hills, (818) 888-8815. Got a burning culinary question? Try us: firstname.lastname@example.org.