Speranza is a little known Silver Lake treasure named not for Oscar Wilde's scribbler mother (whose pen name was Esperanza), but for a Milan restaurant loved by Jens Hommert, the German-born architect who, along with his Vietnamese partner Hieu Dam, owns the place. Speranza passes for a no-account dive on account of its no-frills cooking, no-tablecloth dining and no liquor license. But in fact it's a food lover's recession dream, for exactly the reasons cited above.

The other day I order my usual – clams with fresh pasta (the sauce is garlic, oil and hot peppers) when the waitress suggested I may want to try the dried pasta instead, even though the fresh is $4 extra. She claimed that the De Cecco linguine used by the restaurant goes better with the dish. I love Speranza's fettucini, made every day by a man named Mr. Tree, but the waitress's comment set me thinking about the fresh versus dried quandary, and I invited Hommert to sit down with me and discuss the issues.

“There are certain traditions as with red and white wine,” Mr. Tree noted, “fish goes better with dried, because the dried has no egg in it to compete with the flavor, whereas fresh pasta enriches the flavor in meat dishes.” In Milan, where Hommert lived for three years, people have long debates over this issue. Here, not so much. “We don't tell customers what to order. You can't tell an American 'no.'”

The waitress was both right and wrong. The harder texture of the noodle went better with the dish, but I happened to like the taste of Mr. Tree's work, and so next time will go back to that and happily pay the extra $4. And one more Speranza fact it seems right to mention in this context: the restaurant serves squid ink pasta.

Speranza: 2547 Hyperion Ave., Los Angeles; (323) 644-1918.

LA Weekly