12 Sep Outdoor Dining at The Ponte
I have been traveling so much this year that I have had to keep a running list of Los Angeles restaurants that I want to try when I am home. So finally, I made it to The Ponte in West Hollywood, which opened in February. Replacing Terrine, owner Stephane Bombet has partnered with Chef Scott Conant to offer a casual contemporary Italian restaurant.
My first introduction to Scott Conant was at a food and wine event in Beaver Creek. I was blown away by his pasta dish. At that time, he was based in New York so when I would travel to New York, I would go to his restaurant Scarpetta. I was thrilled when he opened Scarpetta in Los Angeles and that is where I fell in love with the seasonal mushroom boscaiola with polenta that just melts in the mouth and his infamous pasta al pomodoro. I was sad when Scarpetta closed in 2016 and then Terrine closed suddenly at the end of the year as well. Two months later, Scott Conant was back, along with his Executive Chef Freddy Vargas as The Ponte opened.
One of the best parts of The Ponte is the space. The outdoor patio is one of the best in Los Angeles. Seating is centered around the large tree in the middle of the space with lights dangling from above. The interior is also lovely, with a softer and more neutral look than Terrine. But if you can, sit outside!
The cocktail program is run by Ryan Wainwright who oversees the drink progams at all of the restaurants under the Bombet Hospitality Group. The Ponte offers classic cocktails as well as modern cocktails but they all have an Italian twist with names like Marina Militare, Toscano Sour, Ospite Amaro and Vecchio Stile and Italian liqueurs. To start the night, my friend and I each ordered a cocktail. We were looking for refreshing, tart drinks and selected:
The Expat (Plantation OFTD Navy Strength Rum, Lazzaroni Amaro, pineapple, Sherry, coconut milk, lime, Angostura) – This refreshing tiki drink was a perfect way to start the meal as we sat outside in the warmth of the night.
Best in Show (Sipsmith Gin, Campari, grapefruit, St. Bermain, Italicus, lime, club soda, Prosecco) – The finish on this drink if dominated by the bitterness of the Campari, so if you like Campari, this drink is for you.
Once we finished our cocktails, we shifted to wine. Wine Director Rosemary Walker has put together a comprehensive list of wine representing various regions of Italy. I love seeing a list with all of the wonderful grapes of Italy – friulano, arneis, garganega, grecco, falanghina, vermentino, verdicchio, cortese, aglianico, dolcetto, barbera, nebbiolo, corvina, sangiovese, nerello mascalesi and more. With all of the choices, we let Rosemary pick the wines for us to enjoy with dinner and ended up starting with two sparkling wines – Cleto Chiarli Grasparossa di Castelvetio Lambrusco and Ettore Germano Rosanna Brut Nebbiolo Rose from Langhe. We then enjoyed two red wines – Guardoilvento 2014 Nerello Mascalesi from Etna Rossa and Monteverrano “Core” 2014 Aglianico from Campania.
Looking at the menu, we wanted to order everything! Everything looked so good and the famous mushroom boscaiola with polenta is on the menu under antipasti. I have to admit that I skipped it on this visit as there were so many other dishes I wanted to try.
Heirloom Tomatoes with whipped ricotta, basil vinaigrette and anchovy bread crumbs – In the middle of summer and a heatwave, juicy heirloom tomatoes and fresh light ricotta were in order. The bread crumbs add a little texture to the dish that is a nice dish to start the meal.
Wood Roasted Prawns with calamari, Venetian black rice and Calabrian chile butter – The heat from the Calabrian chile butter added a real kick to this dish. The prawns had a nice roasted flavor and the rice had a creamy texture that was cut by the spicy butter.
Grilled Octopus with butter beans, guanciale vinaigrette and concentrated tomatoes – The octopus was perfectly cooked and I loved it with the meaty vinaigrette. Big beans added some weight to the dish and there were a few olives as well that added some tanginess.
Foie Gras with polenta and corn – As soon as my friend heard the special dish of the night had foie gras in it, we had to order it. Seared foie gras sat on a bowl of polenta, fresh corn, wood mushrooms and breadcrumbs. The dish was comforting, earthy and rich.
Offering pizza from the wood-burning oven, we had to try one and went with the classic Margherita Pizza with crust that is crispy but doughy.
For pastas, we went with Chef Conant’s classic Pasta al Pomodoro. In theory this is a simple dish but the homemade pasta, fresh tomato sauce and the intense buttery taste take a simple dish to another level.
Braised Duck Agnolotti with foie gras emulsion, english peas and picked spring onions – Again, my friend heard foie gras and we had to have it. The foie gras emulsion was not overpowering and added a savory element to the delicate agnolotti.
As if we were not full enough, we were intrigued by the Braised Lamb Neck with saffron carrot puree, fregola, raisin almond gremolata and pecorino romano. The meat was tender and not gamey and overall the dish had an earthy, savory quality.