Why choose between Italian and Mexican when Highland Park's newest restaurant offers both? (2023)

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After years of running a "Mexitalian" pop-up company and working in some of the best restaurants in New York and Los Angeles, the couple behind Amiga Amore opened a physical store in Highland Park that combines their respective cultures. What started out as simple observation for Alessandro Zecca and Danielle Duran Zecca became their culinary focus, adding bulk to their pasta dough and combining their Italian and Mexican origins in different ways.

"I saw how similar it was - like ricotta and requesón were literally the same thing and how well the tomato is used in both cultures," said Duran Zecca, who serves as Executive Chef of Amiga Amore. "When we went to Rome to visit his uncle, he had the hottest green chillies and he slices them on his pizza with scissors and I was like, 'Oh I like that, tío!' Let me try!" There was so much stuff that when I started digging and researching I was like, 'Oh my god'.”

Of course, their love story revolves around food. Duran Zecca worked at Church & State and Lukshon in Los Angeles before moving to New York where she cooked at Le Bernardin and the Modern. He met Zecca, who worked in home positions in London, Sardinia and elsewhere before moving to New York. He asked her for help opening his new restaurant, and when his mother came to visit from Italy, she taught Duran Zecca how to make pasta - and in Duran Zecca's mind the similarities between their two cultures began to form: uovo in Italian, huevo in Spanish. Yeast fermentation vs. bulk fermentation. However, she missed Los Angeles and the convenient, ubiquitous Mexican food. She had her mother send her boxes of humanity and menus and longed to be home.


Why choose between Italian and Mexican when Highland Park's newest restaurant offers both? (1)

"Mexital" pop-up restaurant Amiga Amore is now a full-fledged restaurant with an expanded Mexican and Italian fusion menu by husband and wife team Alessandro Zecca and Danielle Duran Zecca.

(Stephanie Breijo/Los Angeles Times)

After returning from working in restaurants and catering in Los Angeles, they founded Amiga Amore in 2018 as a pop-up company with a short menu of about six dishes. This month they took over a former jeans repair and jewelry store and turned it into a restaurant serving their signature and new dishes, each with a touch of Mexican and Italian flavors and techniques.

The "Noprese" salad — a caprese with nopales, hibiscus salt, and homemade stracciatella — and the elote agnolotti with homemade tajin and dehydrated lime were two early fan favorites. They're on the menu, as is a seasonal huitlacoche cacio e pepe, with corn mold imported from Oaxaca and Szechuan pepper — a direct influence, says Duran Zecca, of her time at Lukshon. "As much as it's 'Mexico-Italian,' so is the places I've travelled, the places I've been, all the restaurants I've worked in and met."

New dishes include Milanese breaded pork chop with tortilla crust. Panzerotti (fried pizza); and a tonnato tostada served on cilantro-flavored deep-fried pasta instead of a tortilla. In the future, they plan to add more complex dishes and serve some of them with delicacies, such as table pours - "I just can't shake the Michelin star," says Duran Zecca.


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The brunch is scheduled to start in June and will include dishes such as chilaquiles, a delicious burrito with braised Perroni Carnitas, a large stuffed raviolo carbonara and birria benedict.

The beer and wine program, which focuses on Mexican, Italian, and Californian wines, has yet to be rolled out, but the restaurant has opened with a range of soft drinks, including pistachio horchata and an aguachile-inspired juice.

Baking was Duran Zecca's first love, so they designed baked goods like croissants and pistachios for brunch and already baked the restaurant's bread range in-house, also merging the two cultures. Even the coffee selection fits the theme, offering Italian espresso, while the coffee for Cafe de Olla is made by a small family business in Oaxaca (it also finds its way into their tiramisu).

Amiga Amore offers indoor and outdoor seating and is open Wednesday and Thursday from 5pm to 9:30pm and Friday from 5pm to 10:30pm. and Saturday from 4 p.m. to 10:30 p.m.

5668 York Blvd., Los Angeles, (323) 739-0894,amigaamorela.com

Why choose between Italian and Mexican when Highland Park's newest restaurant offers both? (3)

This month, Executive Chef Sujan Sarkar brought his modern Indian take on gastronomy to Los Angeles, offering Bollywood-inspired cocktails and reinterpretations of classics like chaat, butter chicken and nihari.

(Neil John Burger / Baar Baar)

baar baar

Downtown is now a contemporary Indian restaurant specializing in Bollywood-inspired cocktails, serving tandoori monkfish osso buco, red pepper butter chicken, sweet potato chaat, kashmiri duck tacos and more. Baar Baar first opened in New York in 2017 and launched an L.A. version this month. by chef and owner Sujan Sarkar in the former Faith & Flower area at the foot of the Watermark Tower residential complex. With cocktails inspired by Bollywood classics old and new, the drinks menu includes the sitcom-named Hera Pheri with guava chutney, mezcal and orange liqueur, and the RRR, named after the recent international hit the S.S. Rajamouli. Blockbuster - with crème de cacao, chocolate, coffee bitters and milk detergent, all prepared behind a bar almost 15 meters long. Sarkar's menu includes chaats, small plates, and larger options, such as lamb shank with nihari tiles, sunchoke salan mushroom fritters, and red pepper chutney wheels — plus a variety of other chutneys, all homemade. Baar Baar is open Tuesday to Sunday from 5 p.m. to 11 p.m.

705 W, 9th St., Los Angeles, (213) 266-8989,baarbaarla.com

kitchen design

Why choose between Italian and Mexican when Highland Park's newest restaurant offers both? (4)

New York-based herbal chain Planta just opened the first of two locations in L.A. At Planta Cocina, the pan-Latin menu features vegan tacos, plant-based queso fundido, dairy-free tres leches, and more.

(kitchen floor)

A fast-growing plant-based restaurant chain opens its first location in Los Angeles this week, making it the brand's first restaurant with a Mexican touch. Planta Cocina is the new spin-off of New York-based Planta, which was founded in 2016 and launches May 25 in Marina del Rey with a pan-Latin American menu that includes watermelon for ahi in tacos, cashew mozzarella for dairy in queso fundido, and hearts of palm for crab covers on a tostada. Some of co-founder and chef David Lee's signature (and non-Latin) dishes can also be found at the 6,000-square-foot restaurant, including Mafaldine in Salsa Verde. Udon with mushroom cream sauce and shaved truffle. Corn Cavatelli with Arbol Chili; vegan nigiri? Oaxacan-inspired pizza with pistachio cream and potato chorizo. and tofu shiitake salad wraps with lemongrass and rice noodles. Planta Cocina also features a robata section, where Lee says he wants to focus on local produce, as well as desserts like corn cakes, horchata sundaes, and passion fruit tres leches. Cocktails, wine, beer and a selection of soft drinks are available. Planta Cocina is open Monday to Wednesday from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m., Thursday and Friday from 4 p.m. to 11 p.m., Saturday from 11 a.m. until 11 p.m. and on Sunday from 11 a.m. until 10:00 p.m. A Brentwood Planta is slated to open in July, also plant-based but with a clear focus on cuisine.

4625 Admiralty Way, Suite 104, Marina del Rey, (310) 362-7730,plantarestaurants.com


Espelette, a new restaurant at Waldorf Astoria Beverly Hills, is located in southern France, Spain, Italy and beyond. Chef Steve Benjamin, who is also the hotel's Culinary Director, features the restaurant's eponymous pepper on the menu, found in dishes like tuna carpaccio with sun-dried tomatoes or caviar with scrambled eggs and sour cream. Other dishes include Dover sole, seared lamb chops, beef tartare, whole artichokes with mustard vinaigrette, roast chicken in toum sauce and pappardelle carbonara, as well as a selection of wood-grilled steaks and seafood. The wine program focuses on the winemakers of the Bay of Biscay region. Located in the former Jean Georges room on the ground floor, Espelette is open daily for breakfast from 7am to 11am. and for dinner Tuesday through Saturday from 5:30 p.m. to 10:00 p.m.

9850 Wilshire Blvd., Beverly Hills, (310) 860-6666,waldorfastoriabeverlyhills.com/dining/espelette

Broad Street Oyster Co.

One of Los Angeles' premier seafood restaurants is expanding and its next stop is the end of the Huntington Beach Pier. Malibu's Broad Street Oyster Co. -- with offices in Grand Central Market, Smorgasburg L.A., Santa Barbara and soon in San Francisco -- has been bringing their lobster rolls, seared clams, oysters, fish and chips, natural wines and more to Ruby's dining area for nearly 30 years dinner Founder Chris Tompkins' modern take on a classic California fish shack is slated to open in Surf City this summer and will accommodate more than 100 guests.

1 Main St., Suite 1, Huntington Beach,broadstreetoyster.com

Why choose between Italian and Mexican when Highland Park's newest restaurant offers both? (5)

Some of the area's best oysters, lobster rolls, fried clams and other seafood bites are coming to Huntington Beach this summer.

(Liam Brown / Broad Street Oyster Co.)

CVT Soft Serve at home

For years, CVT Soft Serve fans have had to follow owner Joe Nicchi and his three coffee and cream trucks around Los Angeles to sample his nostalgic candy. Starting this month, fans can simply drive to a grocery store to pick it up in their own freezer. Jeff Bezos became CVT's first retail customer when he installed a machine specifically to deliver Nicchis products, but the new walk-in freezers at Gelson -- and other planned locations -- will not require a machine. Nicchi worked with food scientists to recreate the taste of his favorite ice cream truck product. It took years, but they finally made it. "I said, 'Guys, we need to make this mom L.A. friendly,'" he said. "It's all natural - even the stabilizers are natural." Special machines that blow air into the soft product are used to fill it into the casings, which then, after the product has softened a bit, is compressed and consumed without utensils can be. CVT is just as famous for its chocolate, vanilla, and swirl soft serve made with California dairy as it is for its politics, influencers — or anyone else who offers free soft serve in exchange for a social media post or some other form of non-soft serve requests – to charge fees. Currency exchange - twice the price of the item; don't ask for free soft ice cream cases.


Reboots of a good plant

After its temporary winter closure, Silver Lake's plant-based Mexican restaurant De Buena Planta is back with a new focus. The project by the team behind Butcher's Daughter, now called De Buena Planta Garden Club + Mezcaleria, is more of a bar than a restaurant, with new cocktails by Dave Purcell (NoMad, Winston House) as well as a "garden club" element that gives visitors the The greenery around the terrace allows for shopping. The two worlds come together in cocktails with herbs grown on the terrace, such as the Green Goddess, with gin with celery, poblano, lime and dill. The menu is more limited but still focuses on vegetarian and vegan dishes, like quesadillas with Oaxaca cheese and squash blossoms on homemade blue corn tortillas. La Casita, the on-site bar, serves as the concept's mezcalería. De Buena Planta Garden Club + Mezcaleria is open on Thursdays and Fridays from 4pm. to midnight and Saturday and Sunday from 12 p.m. to midnight. La Casita is open from Thursday to Sunday from 18:00. too late".

2815 W. Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles,debuenaplanta.us

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