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A tanned Westlake Village crowd in typical Southern California winter attire (sequinned tank tops, shorts, stilletos) turned out for the soft opening of Bellini Osteria Bar and Lounge last night. Young waiters dished out samplings of creamy polenta with parmesan cheese; burrata drizzled with balsamic vinaigrette; margharita pizza; meatballs doused in marinara; and tuna tartare. Bellini, located in a strip mall off the 101 freeway, joins a handful of high-end Italian restaurants in the Westlake Village area.

Executive chef Gianluca Sarti, formerly of Il Fornaio Beverly Hills, describes Bellini as classic Italian with a twist. “The twist is in the presentation.” Sarti will introduce recipes from his hometown of Bologna, Italy, and hopes restaurant-goers will appreciate their house-made pastas and plating efforts. The restaurant opens to the public today for lunch and dinner, with a planned happy hour every night from 4-7 p.m., and double happy hours on the weekend. A black and white subtitled Sophia Loren movie projected on a wall of the spacious enclosed patio as an impromptu dance was formed. Maybe this will convince owners John Spina and Maurizio La Rosa to keep the DJ on staff.

Bellini Osteria Bar & Lounge: 951 S. Westlake Blvd., Suite 102, Westlake Village; (805) 947-8482.

Ossobuco; Credit: Celia Soudry

Ossobuco; Credit: Celia Soudry

Fusilli with lobster, organic cherry tomato and fresh green peas.; Credit: Celia Soudry

Fusilli with lobster, organic cherry tomato and fresh green peas.; Credit: Celia Soudry

Meatball samples; Credit: Celia Soudry

Meatball samples; Credit: Celia Soudry

Polenta; Credit: Celia Soudry

Polenta; Credit: Celia Soudry

LA Weekly