Let Friday, October 20th, forever be known as "The Day I Died and Went to White Truffle Heaven."
There are two kinds of people in this world: those who categorize people, and those who don't. As one of the categorizers, I think of people in two categories: those who love truffles, and can justify spending nearly three digits for a sprinkling of them, and those who don't, and can't, and won't. For those in the second category, you may want to stop reading.
When Brian asked me where I wanted to eat to celebrate my birthday this year, only one restaurant popped into my mind: Angelini Osteria. Not just because Angelini is one of the best Italian restaurants in Los Angeles, but because my birthday falls at the peak of white truffle season. White truffles, of course, are best served in their natural environment, over Northern Italian food. Or over anything really...
[If you didn't know there were two kinds of truffles, white and black, or if you thought I was talking about chocolate, here's a quick little primer. White truffles are generally considered superior in taste to black truffles, and because they are rarer and cannot be cultivated, they're also much more expensive]
So when our very gracious waitress handed us the specials menu, my eyes lit up when I saw fresh white truffles served over pizza, agnolotti, tagliatelle, risotto, scrambled eggs, and a few other dishes I'm now forgetting. And when the table next to us snickered... $85 for a pizza! how big is it?!... I just sat quietly and placed them in the above-mentioned don't/can't/won't category.
Two things about Angelini's truffle specials: disappointingly, they shave the truffles back in the kitchen, not in front of you at your table. They seem to be missing some free advertising, as the scent and spectacle of live truffle shaving is rather spectacular (not as spectacular as live lobster sashimi, but close). However, they more than make up for that by giving not a sprinkling, not a shaving, but a generous drowning of fresh white truffle flakes. We picked the agnolotti special and got more truffles than I ever expected...
If you're a truffle-lover, you know the smell is amazing. Even just truffle oil or truffle cheese or truffle butter smells amazing. But having a plate of them freshly shaved is borderline overwhelming... in the most wonderful way. Just lean in slightly, take a deep inhale, and you could nearly pass out from the musky, heady aroma that somehow graduates from your nasal passages directly into your brain. I don't know if there's a science behind this, but they seem to spark a near-instant serotonin release, the result being a woozy, giddy, I-think-I-need-a-cigarette sort of feeling.
After finishing off the plate of agnolotti, Brian and I looked at each other and giggled. "Do you want to get another one?" he asked. "Don't you think that's a little obscene?" I responded, secretly hoping he would say no. So we asked for the menu again, scrolled down the choices, and settled on risotto. And we got even more truffles than the first time...
So how did it taste? Words cannot describe... either you get it, or you don't. Things like "lick the plate" and "bathe in it" come to mind.
If you decide to embark on this adventure yourself, I'd recommend going for the absolute simplest dish possible. While the agnolotti was delicious, the cheese-filled pasta just barely stole some attention away from the main attraction, whereas the risotto pushed the truffle flavour into full view. Were I to make the choice again, I'd probably go with the scrambled eggs.
Yes, we ate other things besides white truffles, but does that really matter? For those of you who fall into the "yes, it does matter category," here you go...
First of all, we had a fantastic red wine: Nebbiolo, which hails from the same region as white truffles, the Piedmont region of Italy. Angelini has a fantastic collection of Italian wines, with some of the best served by the glass, at very reasonable prices.
Brian had a huge and delicious Bistecca alla Fiorentina, which is a porterhouse, Florentine style. At nearly 40 ounces, this is not a steak for the faint of heart or small of stomach (Brian is a champion eater, and even he took home more than half of it).
I had the swordfish special, which was served over a bed of steamed broccoli rabe. The broccoli rabe was bitter, as it tends to be, and not my favorite. I'd probably substitute it for another vegetable if I order this again. The swordfish, however, was outstanding, a thick steak grilled to perfection, garnished with pesto olive oil and dried cranberries.
And now, I've run out of words. Can't stop thinking about the truffles...
7313 Beverly Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90036