Thursday, May 11, 2006
L.A.'s toughest dining reservation
Guest blogger Kathy recently visited the refurbished Getty Villa. Here's her report.
There's no dropping into the Getty Villa. I made reservations in January for a May visit. Although major pre-planning is required, once you show your tickets at the gate the rest of the visit is effortless. Evidence of the reported $275 million renovation is all-around: from the 3-story parking garage topped by grass to the garage's oil rubbed bronze finished elevators complete with spot lighting to the completely rearranged galleries to the new Café. Forget the sweet, smallish Getty Café of before -- in its place is a vast heated patio and dining room in the most contemporary of glass and concrete structures a striking contrast to the recreated, ancient Roman villa which it overlooks. Ordering and payment is done inside at the counter; pleasant servers deliver drinks and food to the table and continue to hover nearby. The menu is very familiar, California-style Italian with small plates (piattino), salads, pressed sandwiches, pizzas and six piatto principale. The Mediterranean theme seems appropriate; I'm glad they didn't go super authentic and serve the ancient Roman delicacy of peacock tongue. (Credit the comprehensive audio tour for that appetizing fact.) Jenny and I shared the fresh pasta with herb sauce and market veggies.The pea shoot tendrils stood out; the homemade pasta was a bit too al dente and so oddly shaped it was hard to eat. We also split the grilled chicken and green olive salad, dotted with chopped celery and served in tangy vinaigrette. I wish the cook had plucked some sprigs from the perfectly planted herb garden to add more flavor. Pluses included the focaccia accompanied by virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar for dipping on each table.The pricey crystal stemware immensely improved the basic Italian Pinot Grigio. There's also the world's most elaborate espresso cart where I started my visit with frothy cappuccino and intensely chocolate biscotti with hazelnuts. Despite the overcast, the many gas heaters keep the temperature just right outside. Dining here is extremely pleasant and relaxing. With the villa as backdrop and the ocean beyond, it's one of those it's-hard-to-believe-I'm-really-in-Los Angeles experiences, as long as you remember to plan ahead. --Kathy A. McDonald
The Getty Villa Cafe
17985 Pacific Coast Highway
at 10:16 PM