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Hands down, one of the best restaurant patios in all of Southern California was Wilshire Restaurant in Santa Monica. When it first opened in doors 14 years ago, I lived around the corner and would frequently dine there. When I moved a little further east, I stopped going to Wilshire as it had become a bit more of a club scene. Wilshire finally closed and now the space is back with Fia and it is fantastic. I had found a parking spot on Wilshire Blvd in front of the restaurant. Instead of walking in the door near the valet, I followed signs down a long walk way. The walkway led me to the very large and gorgeous outdoor patio. Trees and fresh greenery fill the space and tree lights wind up the trees and hang across the open air giving the space a warm and intimate feeling.
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!
Exploring the Valle de Guadalupe in Baja California over the holidays, I was on a mission to eat at as many of the incredible restaurants. On the final evening of my visit, I went to Corazon de Tierra, a restaurant located  adjacent to the Vena Cava winery. At the head of Corazon de Tierra is the young and talented chef Diego Hernandez, a leader in the modern Mexican cooking movement, who has been awarded Latin America World's 50 Best winner for the restaurant. While I was enjoying my dinner, I learned that Chef Hernandez was in the process of opening a restaurant in Los Angeles in the old Dominick's space in West Hollywood. I waited in anticipation! The anticipation was worth it and it exceeded my expectations. Located in the former Dominick's space, Verlaine is an outdoor space with a retractable roof. The front door is covered with greens and opens to a tiled walkway that was previously a parking space.