For a town with myriad world-class restaurants and a stretch of beach that is gorgeous, accessible, and fronts a fairly large portion of urban acreage, Los Angeles has surprisingly few good options for beachfront dining. So few, in fact, that when we want to eat near the water, we stop first at Joan's on Third with a picnic basket. Sure, you can get your leftover food twisted up into aluminum swans at Gladstone's, but that's mostly because you didn't want to eat it in the first place. (Sam Nazarian, are you reading this?)
But then we discovered Piccolo, the impossibly quaint Italian trattoria at 5 Dudley in Venice. It's a frisbee-throw from the beach, just a few feet up from the Venice boardwalk, and its street vendors and rollerbladers and ad hoc musicians, its stands spilling cheap sunglasses and sand toys and Star Wars figurines, make you feel like you're properly on vacation, in some hybrid universe between the original Venice and our sandy, oft-graffitied lowlands named for it.
Piccolo serves beautiful food, which, despite the restaurant's wishes, keeps getting rated quite highly on the Zagat survey. Can you get better Italian in this town? Yes. But you will not be eating it with sand in your sneakers, or the marine layer drifting in under your patio chair.
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Chef Roberto Ivan might send out rabbit, rolled with caramelized Treviso radicchio; or lamb carpaccio, seared and thinly sliced, with shimeshi mushrooms and truffle oil; or this plate of duck prosciutto (imported from Italy and cured in-house), dressed with a bit of gorgonzola cream. And for dessert, an amaretto semifreddo and an espresso, while you sit outside under the warmth of the heat lamps, listening to the faint opera from inside the restaurant, the sun drowning in the Pacific, the bikers and tourists and street vendors disappearing into the dark.
Piccolo Ristorante: 5 Dudley Ave., Venice, (310) 314-3222, piccolovenice.com.