mozzarella bar

The grand mozzarella experience at Obika in Century City. (Anne Cusack / Los Angeles Times / October 13, 2010)

Come summer, I look forward to interleaving slices of mozzarella and basil leaves with slices of the first luscious red tomatoes to make a classic caprese. I'll sometimes toss hot spaghetti with diced mozzarella or bocconcini (those bite-sized balls) and raw chopped tomato for a hot-weather supper. I had a wonderful treat once in Naples, a bowl of bocconcini drizzled with gold green olive oil. I think you get the idea: Mozzarella spells summer, and some of our best Italian restaurants take advantage of imported and local varieties of the milky white cheese.

Mozzarella Bar at Osteria Mozza

For a casual supper, I like to slide onto a seat at the mozzarella bar at Osteria Mozza. The menu offers 15 items and some of the freshest mozzarella and burrata in town. I love the bufala mozzarella draped with spectacular anchovy with Meyer lemon and an herb salad. Nancy Silverton is making a caprese with bufala, cherry tomatoes and basil. She always has something new, maybe bufala with crushed lemon bagna cauda and bottarga.

6602 Melrose Ave. (at Highland), Los Angeles, (323) 297-0100, http://www.osteriamozza.com. Mozzarella bar items, $16 to $26.

Obika

The Century City shopping mall doesn't leap to mind as a dining destination. But if I'm near there, I'm sure to head to the mozzarella bar Obika. The place is a real surprise with good Italian wines by the glass and impeccable mozzarella flown in from Italy several times a week. Try a tasting of one or several types of mozzarella presented with a selection of salumi, grilled organic vegetables and pesto sauces.

Westfield Century City Shopping Center, 10250 Santa Monica Blvd., 2nd Floor, Los Angeles, (310) 556-2452, obikala.com. Also at Beverly Center, 8500 Beverly Blvd., 6th Floor Central Plaza, Los Angeles, (310) 652-2088.

RivaBella

Scamorza, a cow's milk cheese from southern Italy, belongs to the same family as mozzarella. Eaten fresh or smoked, it has a drier texture than mozzarella and is great in sandwiches or melted. But at the new RivaBella, chef-partner Gino Angelini serves the smoked version with grilled vegetables in the middle of the table for everyone to share. The smoky cheese against the slightly charred vegetables makes for a beautiful combination.

9201 Sunset Blvd., West Hollywood, (310) 278-2060, http://www.innovativedining.com/restaurants/rivabella. Scamorza with grilled vegetables, $16.

irene.virbila@latimes.com