There aren’t a lot of places to choose from in this little block of restaurants and bars in Playa Del Rey, but Café Pinguini is where you want to dine when your staying nearby. In fact, the food is so astounding that you will want to drive here from any part of Los Angeles, just to be able to indulge in great Italian cuisine.
Both owners Tony and Enrico are from Rome, and worked in the restaurant business in Santa Monica at Café Del Fini for many years. Café Penguini has been in operation since 1997, and they have managed to keep the food very authentic, and most of their recipes are what you would get in an Osteria in Rome. My guess is that lots of customers come here whether they live around the block or in any part of Los Angeles, the food is that good, and so worth the drive!
My fantastic waiter Meo, gave me some nice samplings of wine, and made my lunch extra special with his gorgeous Italian accent.
Here are the wines that I tried:
Pinot Grigio, Pasqua 2012 Veneto, very fruity and effervescent as you might expect a Pinot Grigio to be, nicely paired with Antipasti Caldi Insalata di Mare. Simple, direct, will not take away from the nice dressing.
Chardonnay, Battaglini 2009 Russian River, try this wine with the Smoked Mozzarella con Shitake, it will blend nicely with the woodsy mushrooms.
Sauvignon Blanc, Scarbolo 2011 Friuli, I would give this wine a swirl with the Trio di Bruschetta, perfect nuances of flavors makes this combo work.
Pinot Noir Coeur de Terre 2011 Willamette Valley, Cabernet Sauvignon, Maddalena 2009 Paso Robles, well this is a no brainer with the Filetto al Porto, Italian wine with this glorious recipe.
Montepulciano, d’ Abruzzo, La Murola 2012 Abruzzo, there are so many ways to pair this one, my favorite was with the Fettuccine Bolognese.
Antipasti Caldi Insalata di Mare, warm clams, mussels, shrimp and calamari with extra virgin olive oil and lemon. This dish has so much integrity, perfectly balanced elements with the freshest seafood around, what more could you want.
Smoked Mozzarella con Shitake, slices of smoked mozzarella broiled and topped with sautéed shitake mushrooms. This is a great way to get your appetite on board for the rest of the meal. Smoky, meaty mushrooms really define this dish.
Trio di Bruschetta, assortment of bruschetta, the pepper bruschetta was my favorite, but each one has a lot of gusto.
Ravioli in Brodo, four cheese raviolis, ground Italian sausage in savory chicken broth. What a fine accomplishment this soup is. The ravioli pops in your mouth while the sausage is very savory with its fennel infused flavor.
Pizze, Prosciutto Funghi, tomato sauce, mushrooms, mozzarella and prosciutto. The crust is very thin and crisp and with the prosciutto, it’s just the perfect accompaniment to this nice light pizza.
Filetto al Porto, Filet mignon topped with mushrooms sautéed in a port wine sauce with leeks. The sauce is so luscious, the port characteristics are like velvet, and each bite has a different story to tell.
Veal Scaloppine ai Funghi, Medallions of veal or chicken sautéed with mushroom sauce. This too is an amazing accomplishment; the veal is paper thin and so tender it just melts in your mouth.
Sea Bass with Capers, the beauty of this dish is how it disappears in your palate, its buttery consistency is like nothing you’ve ever tasted, its just that good.
Fettuccine Bolognese, flat noodles with delicate ground veal and tomato sauce. The noodles are cooked aldente and the sauce just adheres to it. The little pieces of meat add to the overall texture of this superb pasta experience.
Fettuccine Contadina, fettuccine pasta with green peas, mushrooms, pancetta in a light creamy sauce. Given the choice I would eat this lively pasta every time. It’s creamy, with pleasant pork overtones from the pancetta. Plus it has all the colors of the Italian flag, what more could you want.
Risotto ai Funghi: risotto with mixed wild mushrooms, humble, unassuming, but just the right amount of everything, a great staple in my eating experience.
I had the opportunity to talk to Enrico’s lovely wife Charmaine, who is from Jamaica, she and Enrico were sharing a casual lunch. She shared with me that a bunch of celebrities dine there. They are the ones who love the non-Hollywood vibe and slow easy dining that Café Penguini offers. From Phil Jackson former Lakers coach to Paul McCartney’s sister, whose offices are across the street, there is lots of celebrity action.
There is a great patio with umbrellas to keep the sun away. The dining rooms are very Roman, with muted beige colors. There are also Italian replica art pieces on every wall, with nice soft Jazz music piped in.
My desire when eating Italian food is to be romanced with elegant ingredients and not to be over whelmed by too much of it. I love the fact that you are taken to another part of the world, transported via your taste buds, with all the lasting gorgeous flavor in every bite. Just like I remember when I traveled to Italy, there is not enough time to imbibe on all the wonderment that this Country has to offer.
Café Penguini is another slice of paradise with no exorbitant plane fairs! Just save your money and drive to Playa Del Rey for this Italian taste treat. Skip the mundane wanna be style Italian restaurants in the greater Los Angeles area and instead, take a lovely walk on the beach and then cozy up to the best Italian meal your going to have in a very long time!
6935 Pacific Av., Playa Del Rey
Los Angeles, CA. 90293