Il Moro Ristorante Review - Give Me Moro!

(Los Angeles, CA) September 16, 2008 - Tuesday evening – 6:38pm to be exact, meaning I made it from West Hollywood to West LA in a record 24 minutes during rush-hour traffic. As I turned off Olympic onto the tiny street of Purdue, I spotted an empty meter directly across from the restaurant, and after carefully reading (and re-reading) the collection of signs, I realized that after 6pm, I no longer needed to sacrifice my precious laundry quarters to the parking monster!

Il Moro's front entrance on Purdue

As I sat in my tiny black Jetta, I slowly reviewed the questions I prepared, recounting the eloquent sentence structures I created in order to sound as sophisticated and professional as possible. Last minute, I decided to add a touch of Clinique lip-gloss for extra oomph and then headed to LA’s finest Italian treasure. Though I had been to Il Moro plenty of times, met the managers and owners, and shared some of my greatest experiences at this very destination, I couldn’t help but feel the faint flutter of butterflies forming in my stomach. Perhaps it was the remains of lunch at Organic To Go, but more likely, it was nerves… for this time, as I entered Il Moro Ristorante, I was not just a loyal patron; I was a journalist about to embark upon my first assignment for LA Splash Magazine.

I have always known that on Tuesdays, Il Moro hosts wine tasting, so it was no surprise that the place was packed. Young professionals were gathered by the bar, chatting excitedly over glasses of Greco di Tufo, Essenza de Primitivo, Vigna Marziacanale and other varieties of the night’s featured Vinosia wine; an elderly group was huddled in the front corner laughing and smiling more broadly with each sip of wine; and individuals all around were savoring their gourmet (and complimentary) hors d’oeuvres and the evening’s relaxation.

Il Moro's Gastrobar with drinks and complimentary hors d’oeuvres

Then I spotted it… the picturesque, marble “Gastrobar” bursting with delicious Italian finger-foods. I felt especially lucky this night, since all of my favorites were there: grilled salmon or chicken skewers with bell peppers, red onions and mushrooms, all so juicy that each bite melts effortlessly off the skewers into your mouth; mushrooms, endives and tomatoes stuffed with tuna salad; sautéed shrimp skewers paired with chunks of red bell peppers and full spring onions in a light marinara sauce; and, of course, the infamous Italian trio – buffalo mozzarella, green olives and cherry tomatoes.

Clockwise from top left is grilled eggplant topped with Italian trio skewers, fresh fruit, sautéed shrimp skewers and grilled chicken skewers

Other complimentary delicacies include: freshly baked swordfish with onions (so rich in flavor, but a little fishy for my liking); perfectly moist polenta topped with succulent, juicy shrimp; spoons of sweet shrimp salsa with some secret ingredient that leaves your mouth with a kick of spiciness; and fresh fruit, as well as many other gourmet indulgences that vary daily.

Spoons of sweet shrimp and spicy salsa (front) along with fresh fruit (left) and deliciously baked swordfish (right)

Amidst stuffing my face, Elio de Santo, a co-owner, began approaching me. It had been sixteen months since I last dined at Il Moro, yet Elio greeted me with a passionate welcome, including a kiss on each cheek and a huge hug – truly representative of Il Moro’s essence.

According to Elio, owning a restaurant is not just about business; it’s about passion – passion for food, passion for feelings, and most importantly, passion for sharing life with those you treasure the most. Prior to Il Moro’s opening fifteen years ago, Elio and co-owner, Gaetano Foiani, envisioned a place that combined modern, sophisticated aesthetics with authentic Italian culture that all individuals could enjoy, therefore creating a family connected by the most valued passions of Italy.

From front to back some hors d’oeuvres include tuna salad filled pastries, grilled zucchini topped with Italian trio skewers, rich polenta topped with savory shrimp and grilled salmon skewers among others

The first step to accomplishing this social network was Il Moro’s Gastrobar, on top of which is displayed the elaborate delicacies of Head Chef, Davide Ghizzoni, and behind of which is concealed over 200 kinds of decadent wines and unique cocktails. In fact, Angeleno Magazine’s Summer Cocktail Tour recently voted Il Moro’s signature drink, “Moroangeleno,” the #1 drink in LA!

To see the “Moroangeleno” cocktail recipe, click here.

Bartender preparing specialty cocktails at the Gastrobar

As Il Moro developed a repertoire of loyal, satisfied family members, it added a series of social events. As mentioned, there are sophisticated nights of wine tastings, intellectual art exhibits, relaxing Jazz performers and always a comfortable, light atmosphere. The past two Wednesdays (September 10th and 17th) and next Wednesday (September 24th), Leo Bulgarini hosts exquisite, gelato tasting that pairs 100% homemade Italian ice cream (taught to Leo by a third-generation gelato maker in Rome) with rich cheeses and liqueurs that treat your taste buds to a rollercoaster of flavor in each bite. I received a special introduction to four of Leo’s creations: first, a sweet fig gelato drizzled with dessert liqueur and to be eaten simultaneously with melted drunken goat cheese; second, to “cleanse the palate,” was a vanilla gelato mixed with balsamic vinaigrette (sounds counter-intuitive since I always think of balsamic with salad, but this was actually my favorite gelato combination); third, a tart, yet fresh peach gelato paired with rich feta cheese; lastly, sweet pistachio gelato, with home-roasted and freshly ground Sicilian pistachios, sprinkled with dessert liqueur that provides the most satisfying close to a meal that I’ve ever tasted!

Tyra Banks enjoyed her gelato tasting last week and Eva Mendes relished in the unique art showcased at the last reception. Elio loves that Il Moro is hidden in West LA, away from paparazzi and Hollywood lights, because it allows “people [to] come and find their own comfort, their niche,” which is apparent in the case of Larry David, Mel Brooks and Secretary of State, Christopher Warner, all of whom practically are family since they visit so frequently. Elio and Mel often speak in Italian to each other, which further illustrates the comfortable atmosphere that Il Moro offers its guests.

Freshly baked swordfish with sautéed onions

As you can see, I am not the only one to fall in love with Il Moro Ristorante. This Italian gem has been transforming lives for fifteen years and will continue to do so for many more. With its homemade pastas, savory prosciutto and meats, rustic sauces and elaborate offerings, it’s impossible to yell, “Give me Moro!”

Two men indulging in gourmet finger foods

Hours of Operation:
Lunch: Monday – Friday, 11:3am-3pm
Happy Hour: Monday – Friday, 5-7pm
* Complimentary Italian finger foods, 200 kinds of wine and specialty cocktails *
Dinner: Monday – Thursday, 5-10pm
      Friday – Saturday, 5-10:30pm
      Sunday, 4:30-9:30pm
Late Night: Friday – Saturday, 10pm-midnight

To see menus and wine lists, click here.

Special Events:
Tuesday, 6-8pm: Wine tasting of the best wines from around the world
Friday, 8pm-midnight: Live Jazz music
Sunday, 5-8pm: Art reception

Contact Information:
11400 West Olympic Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90064
(Entrance & Valet Parking On Purdue)

Phone: (310) 575-3530
Fax: (310) 473-3223
Email: [email protected]

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