Chef and restaurateur Casey Lane is on fire in L.A. with his growing food empire, which includes the Tasting Kitchen, Veranda and Breva. But his crown jewel may be Viale dei Romani, located in the new Kimpton La Peer Hotel in West Hollywood’s design district.
A fresh take on Southern Italian cuisine, the menu blends touches of France, Spain, the Middle East and North Africa in an elegantly casual blue and gold setting, designed by Parts & Labor. Giant original paintings by Australian artist James Peter Henry (who also happens to be the best server on the floor) set a bold tone in the dining room.
Lang has brought in the talents of master sommelier and former Tasting Kitchen general manager François Renaud, a Los Angeles restaurant superstar in his own right, to run the ship and curate an inspired wine selection.
The crudo menu alone — not including the Washington state oysters — boasts seven options, such as Santa Barbara uni with Thai basil and smoked olive oil, and cured mackerel with burnt lemon and yuzu oil. The suzuki is served with lemon and an Arbequina olive oil and pairs beautifully with the ceccina, a delicate chickpea flour crepe served with a choice of tuna tartar or avocado salad.
The jamon iberico is aged for five years and made from black Iberian pigs that have lived exclusively on acorns in Spain. The result is a mellow, melt-in-your-mouth blissful experience with barely a hint of salt and a slight oak nut essence. Forgo the crostini and absorb the ham in its purest form, maybe with just a drizzle of the house Spanish olive oil.
Pastas include a mean rigatoni all’Amatriciana with guanciale, and tagliatelle with rabbit, sweetbreads, vin santo, mushrooms and sage. The tagliarini has a subtle heat to it and is made with squid, serrano chilies, Ojai lemons and a crunchy sprinkling of breadcrumbs. Another pescatarian option is the casarecce, a delightful combination of halibut, cured tomatoes, lemon fumet and fennel pollen.
And speaking of fish, no menu seems to be complete without an octopus selection these days, so executive chef Brian Bornemann offers a wood-grilled version with warm potato salad, oil cured olives and preserved lemon served on top of a bright saffron aioli. Carnivores can enjoy a 10-ounce aged Manhattan steak with dandelion greens or the wood-roasted chicken and aprium tagine for two with the ceccina, minted yogurt, mostarda and salsa verde.
The vegan chocolate sorbet is dark and rich, a challenging rival to the similar dessert down the road at Gracias Madre.
Renaud sets a classic, unrushed and comfortable European tone at Viale dei Romani, in a sexy environment that sparks conversation and makes you lose track of time as you savor an icy Cucumber Fizz made of gin, cucumber, cava vinegar and prosecco.
Viale dei Romani, 627 N. La Peer Drive, West Hollywood; (213) 296-3038, vialedeiromani.com.