Mora Italiano is a cozy little Italian throwback to the glamour days of Federico Fellini, Marcello Mastroianni and the dawn of the paparazzi, located in the heart of Encino on Ventura Boulevard. It will transport you to the mod era of Edie Sedgwick and Mary Quant.
Self-described as an open love letter to Italy of the 1960s, the restaurant's candlelit walls are plastered with iconic Vogue and Life magazine photos of celebrities, bustling midcentury Roman stradas and Milanese fashion, all celebrating the sweet life in a romantic two-room setting.
With no valet and no shortage of parking, it’s a hidden neighborhood secret that offers a satisfying range of classic Italian shared plates prepared by former Superba chef Mindy Oh.
For fennel lovers, there’s an antipasto that combines raw fennel, prosciutto and creamy burrata with baby greens, drizzled with olive oil and balsamic glaze, resulting in a fresh and crunchy finish. Another option is the pan-seared scallops with heirloom polenta, braised shallots, pickled Fresno chili and cultivated mushrooms.
A current special on the menu, bottarga pasta is a delightfully briny transition to the shrimp or charcuterie pizza, a paper-thin crust sprinkled with La Querencia prosciutto, nduja salami, fior di latte mozzarella and basil.
Secondi courses include branzino, center-cut filet mignon and New Zealand lollipop lamb chops with house-fermented giardiniera and braised root vegetables that highlight Oh’s passion for fresh local ingredients. Sides include charred broccolini with garlic confit and Calabrian chili, Parmesan braised Weiser Farms potatoes and grilled eggplant.
The star of the show and arguably a big draw to the intimate setting, is Mora’s accomplished level-three sommelier, Fernando Trivisonno, who not only hand-picks the rotating list of 50 wines from around the world but also personally greets and tends to every guest as if they were an old friend.
Attentive on every level of service and with an intuitive knowledge of the grape, the Argentine-born-to-Italian-parents Trivisonno offers guests and those with developed wine palates tastes and suggested pairings that help round out the dinner selections for a satisfying intermezzo.
For the perfect La Dolce Vita evening, match a glass of pinot grigio from the sommelier’s collection or the Zibibbo Bianco Secco with Oh’s shrimp fra diavolo and then catch a showing of the Fellini-esque Oscar nominee Roma. Saluti a te!
Mora Italiano, 17499 Ventura Blvd., Encino; (818) 386-0278, moraitaliano.com.