The kitchen is in the front, so this seems at first glance to be a typical counter-order pizzeria. Past that, however, is an elegant dining room done in vigorous Mediterranean blue and white, including the ceiling panels. Folk ballads bounce merrily along. There is a homely yet refined feel to this Italian/Austrian/French joint.
If being nice was all it took to make a restaurant notable, quintets of stars would rain down on this humble establishment, due to Adrian and his wife; Lucia in particular is amazingly sweet and gracious, making one feel like an honored guest.
Gratifyingly, her pleasant greetings are backed by really solid food. Toasted rolls, buttered and freshly herbed, come blazing from the oven. The Mista Italiana salad is small but beams with freshly picked greens, black olives, tomato, slivers of green pepper, in a zippy house Italian dressing.
In the interest of I-always-try-this-first simplicity, the Chicken Parmesan is pounded flat, breaded and fried absolutely perfectly, with a veneer of sauce and a half-circle of melting cheese. The spaghettini is thick with melted parmesan, which leaves it sticky but addictive. I always say yes to an offer of extra parmesan, but this was splendid as is and I completely forgot about it.
The pizza feels like eating in Mama's kitchen, assuming Mama has an accent and wants you to eat, bambino, eat, because you're too skinny, why you no eat? The homemade dough is bready and crunchy. The Adrian's Special is freshness itself, with pepperoni, Canadian bacon, sausage thinly cut from the link, fresh mushrooms, and white onion, all shuffled atop a sweet, tart red sauce.
What else to try... Austrian Chicken Schnitzel? Of course, and it's a specialty. There's also seafood, and some write-home dishes like scallopine di pollo sautéed in lemon or marsala wine with mushrooms.
There's an expansive parking lot in back, shared by a liquor store, Zig's, a battered little Chinese joint, and the alleyways of Vanowen and White Oak; accessible but rundown.
( Categories: Cuisines (by Region), Italian, French, Pizza, The Valley )
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