At Fraîche, sommelier Thierry Perez and chef Jason Travi reinvented the Los Angeles wine bar as a casual-destination restaurant, a busy, open dining room where the bottles came from Southern France and the food hewed closer to decent bistro fare than to the snack-and-nibble small plates usually associated with promiscuous wine consumption. Riva, their new place in a formerly cursed location just off the Santa Monica Promenade, translates Fraîche’s grape-friendly, farmers-market-powered cooking into Italian — roasted quail and braised lamb neck, house-made testa and an aquarium’s worth of crudo, the sashimi-like Italianate raw-fish preparations whose popularity is actually spreading from the United States back into Italy. Even in a city saturated with new pizza concepts, Travi’s pies have found a niche — crusts thin and pliable as shirt cardboard, bottoms annealed shiny and black by the heat of the brick oven, and sparingly topped with things like tomato and buffalo mozzarella; fluffy little meatballs; or potatoes and Fontina cheese, a concoction that sounds as if it would be something like a crackly Mozza creation but turns out to resemble a custardy French gratin. The drinks list is well-conceived — I loved a cocktail made with cucumber and the Italian bitters called Aperol. And Riva is open every night until midnight, which is no small thing in this early-closing corner of town. 312 Wilshire Blvd., Santa Monica, (310) 451-7482 or www.rivarestaurantla.com. Open daily 11:30 a.m.-mid. Full bar. Valet parking. AMEX, Discover, MC, V. $$
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