Conant first came to New York's attention at l'Impero, a rather formal Italian restaurant near the UN, and then for his majestic Alto Adige-style cooking at Alto in midtown. He left both of those to start Scarpetta in the Meatpacking District - the menu was similar to l'Impero's, but it was a manly, informal place, seemingly built for export, and he did open branches in Miami and Toronto before opening in this dining room of the Montage Hotel. In Beverly Hills, Scarpetta becomes grand and formal again, like an Italian Bouchon, with headwaiters and high ceilings and sommeliers who don't introduce themselves by saying, "Hi, my name is Jeff.'' Scarpetta is not inexpensive, although there is a $24 prix-fixe lunch menu.
But here is that spaghetti again, and the beet-stuffed Northern Italian pasta called cansonsei, and a clunky ravioli stuffed with foie gras in a sticky marsala reduction. His famous polenta is on the menu, almost more cream than corn, served with his thick, woodsy wild-mushroom stew. The venison loin is cooked sous-vide to a supreme softness, and rolled in the ashes of burnt spices, which gives the burnt, savory flavor of grilling without compromising the texture of the meat. There is duck breast with parsnips, short ribs with farro and steak with Barolo and porcini - this is a meaty place, albeit one with a vegetarian menu available on request.