Wednesday, November 09, 2011

No. 208: Brunching at Cecconi's (West Hollywood)

Cecconi's Exterior @ Daytime
When I first received the invite to try out Cecconi's Ricotta Pancakes, I'll concede my first reaction was an indifferent "Ok, well good for them." I mean, I love ricotta pancakes and their airy-light, creamy-rich and slightly chewy texture, but they are kinda all over town.

However, upon closer inspection of PR pitch and realizing that these are actually cheese-stuffed pancakes with "ricotta oozing out," my curiosity got piqued and so I went there for a hosted sampling with The Minty and Dishing Up Delights.

Of course, this blogger meetup turned out to be more than just a pancake tasting . . . it was a boozy brunch feast that left all of us rolling in satisfaction.
Assorted Cicchetti
Our meal started out with an assortment of Cecconi's cicchetti, traditionally Italian snacky bites though here 2-3 orders would be substantial enough for a meal, especially given how hearty they were (such as Cubano-esque porchetta & fontina sliders, quail eggs with tonnata sauce and marinara-smothered, goat cheese-stuffed squash blossoms.)
Gnocchi w Romano, Gorgonzola
But being carb-fiend that I am, my favorite small plate was definitely the gnocchi [alla] romana with gorgonzola. The fluffy, oversized dumplings went wonderfully with the stretchy, rich and ever-so-mildly-bluey cheese sauce, the baked-on sage added a nice aroma to boot. And actually I think it's a smart move to keep this at a manageable cicchetti size, 'cause as indulgent as these things were, I don't think I can handle even a primi portion of it.
Brunchy cocktails
At the risk of sounding like a Semi-Ho, it wouldn't be a proper brunch without a some libations. But unlike Semi-Ho, our cocktails were actually respectable sippers - all leaning on the breezy and refreshing side, such as classic Moscow Mule and Queen's Park Swizzle. I opted for a more modern Rye whiskey-based Peach Smash, a simple-yet-effective summery cocktail that's equal-parts spicy, spritzy and fruity [without being too sweet.] Alas, with peaches going outta season looks like I'll have to wait till next year to re-embrace this particular drink.
Potato Rosti w Duck Egg, Black Truffle
Next up came our savory entrees; while I did enjoy my wood-baked frittata with pancetta & mushrooms, the clear standout is definitely their potato rösti topped with a sunny-side-up duck egg and black truffle shavings. It's a seductress of a morning dish that tempts all the senses, with its more-orange-than-yellow yolk, intoxicating truffle perfume, and clearly audible crisp with each cut & bite of the rösti. You can only imagine how it feels & tastes . . .
Ricotta-Stuffed Pancakes w Blueberry Sauce
And then, the dish we were all looking forward to - the ricotta-filled hotcakes with blueberry compote. Consider my curiosity & palate thoroughly satisfied . . . these were amazing-tasting lovechildren of cheese blintzes and ricotta pancakes. In fact, I'd even say they one-upped their parents, since I've never cared much for blintzes (too much cheese for the thin crepey pancake) and as tasty as standard ricotta pancakes are, the back of my mind is always wondering "Ok, where is the actual cheese?" The compote here is solid stuff too, vibrant with blueberry flavor and adorned with lots of succulent berries too!
Dessert Sampler
Finally, even though we thought we just had dessert with the hotcakes, the Chef sent out a sweets sampler platter with all sorts of fun bite-sized sugary treats. Since I'm already on a ricotta kick, I loved the mini canoli and light-than-usual cheesecake best. (Tip: I was also informed that this can be ordered as an off-the-menu special.) Oh, if only people can hand these out instead of waxy, bland, [not so] fun-sized candies during Halloween . . .
Cecconi's Patio @ Brunchtime
But all in all, color me a convert of brunch @ Cecconi's. The price is a tad upscale, but the premium is well worth it particularly for a special occasion brunch. The food was solid and the service impeccable (not just for us blogger folks, I've been observing our dining neighbors too...) and the patio setting, surrounded by high hedges and topped with a frosted skylight, made for a great respite from its noisy, urban surroundings.

And you can definitely count on me to return for that gnocchi, rösti and hotcake!

What Do Others Say?
- In a two-star review, LA Times' S. Irene Virbila noted that "with the possibility of half-portions, thin-crusted pizza and moderate prices, I'm betting this user-friendly Italian will have legs."
- Gayot declared it a top 10 Italian & celeb-spotting restaurant for 2011, adding that "far from the molecular-minded trends of today's dining scene, Cecconi's feels classic and timeless."
- In the write-up to accompany its now-expired deal, Gilt City L.A. says it "is one of the city’s most glamorous Italian restaurants, reprising the original Cecconi’s London that hosted royalty throughout the ’80s. The L.A. version caters to more modern aristocracy."
- Deep End Dining got an alien autopsy/squid ink extraction experience here, then enjoyed a "truly exceptional" squid ink risotto with clams.

8764 Melrose Avenue
West Hollywood, CA 90069
(310) 432-2000


gourmetpigs said...

Mm i havent their ricotta hotcakes in.. 2 yrs now? I loved them too. Time to go back.

Esi said...

The ricotta hotcakes are worth a trip back. Such a fun afternoon!

Vixen said...

oh my gawd, that looks good! How were the prices??? Do I need to break open my piggy bank???

Anonymous said...

I must say that I am appalled at the staff at Cecconi's. I am a proud, gay woman, who had reservations there with my girlfriend. We are both very attractive, caucasian executives. We were harassed from the moment we walked in the door. We were shoved at a table in a corner, when the entire restaurant was available. The hostess kept shooting over dirty looks, an African-American woman. She even went so far as to come over and ask if we were expecting anybody else. When we replied no, we are all that we need, she laughed and walked away. Then she was whispering to her co-worker, very loudly, that we were Di...I can't repeat such a word. When we left, we asked her why she had to berate us, and she declared loudly, 'My religion does not support your kind!' My partner started to cry, and we ran out. In this day and age, how dare anybody frown upon our love. Shame on this establishment as 70% of Hollywood are just like us!


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