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Critic's Choice: A season of sun — and mozzarella

Osteria Mozza, Obika and RivaBella are among the Los Angeles restaurants taking advantage of the varieties of the milky white cheese.

By S. Irene Virbila

Los Angeles Times

June 8, 2013

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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