In the quiet northwestern suburb of Westlake Village, right on the LA-Ventura County border, sits North 101 North Eatery & Bar, where masterful taste and a modern, yet homey ambiance could very well be the spark that ignites the area into a culinary hotspot. 101 North is the brainchild of Executive Chef Anthony Alaimo, whose years in legendary eateries across the US, Europe and Asia not only earned him a prestigious Michelin star, but inspired a level of creativity, execution and attention to detail that few can attain over the course of their careers.
“Las Vegas and Macau have two completely different food scenes and both were equally influential in my take on the restaurant world,” Alaimo said, reflecting on his time at Le Cirque in the Bellagio and Il Teatro at Wynn Macau (China). “There were several Michelin star restaurants [in Macau] who would go above and beyond…a Japanese restaurant in Macau would fly in water from Japan to cook their sushi rice, and I’ve never seen that type of dedication before.”
101 North undoubtedly exemplifies that type of dedication, with dishes like the crispy split corn, turning an ordinary corn cob into a true work of art with just enough ground chili, pecorino cheese and bacon aioli to make the whole concoction terribly addictive. Or perhaps the papas, among the most elegant French fry displays in all of Los Angeles, perfectly cooked with a light vinegar to finish, and each individual fry perhaps stacked by hand to take the dish truly over the top.
With hand-painted murals lining several of the walls, a beautiful backlit bar and enchanting patio, a place like 101 North would fit in perfectly among the modern food epicenters of DTLA, Santa Monica and Beverly Hills. Westlake Village, however, was a very conscious decision by Alaimo and his team.
“When we began searching for the perfect location to begin our journey, we were inspired by the rich and diverse culinary scene that Downtown Los Angeles had created,” Alaimo said. “We were motivated to bring that energy, enthusiasm and love for food to an area that has an emerging culinary scene of its own. We firmly believe that Westlake Village was the perfect place to debut our restaurant, serving a population that values and appreciates high quality dining and holds their community of family and friends in the highest regard.”
The Westlake Village community has certainly taken a liking to 101 North. The place was packed on a Sunday night, with patrons still attempting to come in after the kitchen had closed. Could you really blame them, though? One bit of those short rib sliders, or a wood-fired pizza with fresh arugula, San Danielle ham, parmesan and ricotta, and you’d try to break down the door too.
On the surface, 101 North could be confused as just another new-age place serving up haute cuisine. The menu has no geographic roots—101 North isn’t a place you go for ‘Italian,’ or ‘Chinese’ or even ‘gastropub.’ The food here is dynamic, shifting with the seasons. And while this is nothing more than a marketing ploy for some eateries, it’s a genuine initiative for Chef Alaimo, and all part of his master plan.
“We call ourselves a ‘New American restaurant with a Mediterranean influence.’ This way, we’re not obligated to prepare dishes that are categorized in a specific cuisine. We’re able to cook with a variety of ingredients and switch out dishes as the seasons change,” Alaimo said. “By not defining ourselves as any particular cuisine, it gives us the opportunity to get creative and use fresh, seasonal ingredients year-round.”
At the time of this writing, seasonal kabocha squash made for a killer risotto, melding beautifully with burrata and a drizzling of fig balsamic. Then there’s the picante shrimp tagliolini, where selva prawns and clams sit atop a homemade pasta that showcases Alaimo’s training in a high-end Italian setting, all laced with sliced picante salami. It’s a mouthful, and it’s darn delicious.
Equally sophisticated is the drink menu, where that beautiful bar is clearly for more than just good looks. Cocktails like the sweet ignition, with vodka, fresh rosemary and candied ginger, or the lovely loon, with vodka, fresh mint, citrus, organic blueberry and sparkling wine, taste as refreshing as they sound and go with just about everything.
101 North’s dessert menu packs all the same punch as well. The chocolate hazelnut trifle is something else, deeply rich and eloquently plated to show the pride and joy Alaimo and team take in creating a pristine guest experience. Same goes for the bomboloni, or sweet donuts coated in vanilla sugar and delivered so beautifully that you almost don’t want to touch them…almost.
And while 101 North is Chef Alaimo’s first mark on LA, it looks to be just the beginning. He’s got another concept in the works, and after one meal at 101 North, you’ll be on the edge of your seat waiting for what’s next.
101 North Eatery & Bar is located at 30760 Russell Ranch Rd Suite D, Westlake Village, CA 91362. Open 4 – 11p Tue – Thu, 4p – 1a Fri/Sat, 10a – 8p Sun, Closed Mon. Avg. out-the-door price for starter, entrée, split dessert and 1 – 2 drinks is ~$89/person. Call (805) 852-1588 or visit 101NorthEateryAndBar.com.
Snooze AM Eatery, known for creative breakfast and brunch with trendsetting ingredient standards, is getting crafty for the holidays. From now until New Year’s Day, patrons can treat themselves to festive items that range from sweet and savory to hot and boozy.
While Santa may get all the cookies and milk this time of year, he’ll be missing out on nana’s hot cocoa pancake, a buttermilk pancake with white chocolate chips and topped with candied pecans and what is simply dubbed a ‘gigantic’ marshmallow. Served alongside is a warm pot of Mexican hot chocolate, for drizzling, dipping and generally good measure.
The home for the hollandaise benny features seared, cider-braised, habanero pork belly on top of a lightly buttered griddle English muffin with bacon-espresso jam and poached cage-free eggs. On top: cream cheese hollandaise and cranberry relish.
And in true trendy holiday fashion, hot and heavy drinks are in full force. Snooze’s celebration cider mixes hot muled cider with white rum and Aperol, while the spiked candy cane cocoa puts a twist on the restaurant’s signature hot chocolate with peppermint, vanilla, coffee liqueur and—what—tequila, topped with whipped cream, cookie crumble and crushed candy cane.
To find the Snooze nearest you, visit SnoozeEatery.com.
Mi Piace has been a staple of Old Town Pasadena for about as long as restaurants have stood on Colorado Blvd. A combination of aesthetic experimentation and culinary genius are undoubtedly two of the biggest reasons that this Italian haute spot has been serving patrons for 30 years and counting, with no signs of slowing down. This is a rare scenario where modern design, contemporary ambiance and a timeless menu that embodies authentic Italian classics come together in perfect harmony. Dare I name Mi Piace as one of the top Italian restaurants in Los Angeles.
Mi Piace is made to feel like a home away from home for anyone who walks through its doors. On the surface, the chic pendant lighting, beautifully-lit bar and dark wooden tables sans white table cloths could be mistaken for just about any other trendy spot that doles out new-age fusion. But there’s more to this ambiance than good looks. It’s an intangible warmth typically reserved for coming home for the holidays or seeing a good friend for the first time in years. It’s the genuinely welcoming tone you get from everyone on staff. It’s the smile that comes not just from you upon first bite, but also from everyone on the team that brought that dish into the world just for you. That familial Italian hospitality is becoming harder and harder to find in LA, but has found sanctuary within these four walls.
And while classic Italian doesn’t seem to be enough in an era of global fusion, Mi Piace shines with its iconic menu, where traditional classics have aged like a fine wine. Reading more like a novel than a menu, the seemingly endless list of handmade pastas, wood-fired pizzas, and meat and seafood specials holds an identity far stronger and a level of flavor far more developed than the typically narrow and terse selection of trendy ingredient combinations you’ll find on a clipboard in some of your nearby counterparts. Let’s digress no further on the new kids on the block thought. Let’s talk about how Mi Piace has helped establish Old Town Pasadena as a culinary powerhouse for decades.
Unquestionably, the pasta is going to be memorable to say the least. Mi Piace features two entirely separate selections, one of pasta made from scratch in house, and another of pastas imported from the motherland. Among the many highlights here is the tagliatelle con gamberi, boasting handmade spinach tagliatelle that holds perfect texture and earthy character, soaking up a rich cognac cream sauce and pairing with perfectly-cooked prawns. Then there’s the spaghetti a la carbonara, another impeccably delightful creation that brings together rich pancetta and peas that snap open with even the softest bite.
For something on the meatier side, look no further than the pork ragu papperdalle Bolognese, with mile-long house-made pappardalle woven into a hearty Moroccan-spiced meat sauce with a touch of fleur de sel. Conversely, on the lighter side (but far from light, in traditional Italian fashion) is the ravioli al burro, or handmade butternut squash and ricotta-filled ravioli with roasted sage sitting in a brown butter sauce.
For those crazy enough to divert from pasta, pizza proves to be a lovely suitor, with fresh ingredients atop a perfectly blistered crust. The mixed mushroom pizza with ricotta and micro greens was something else, but with a long list of toppings and endless custom options, there should be a pizza for everyone here.
And while Mi Piace could easily stick to a traditional Italian wine list, they really go the extra mile in their cocktail program. The food menu may pay homage to purebred Italian history, but their futuristic drink menu can go head-to-head with just about any young gun in SoCal. Try the smoke in the water, a martini at heart but an Instagrammer’s dream in presentation, served over a fishbowl-looking base lined with dry ice to make the drink look like a medieval potion. There’s a gin and tonic that changes colors before your eyes, spritzers served in simply the coolest glasses, and so much more on this dazzling list that assures you this place may have been around for 30 years, but has unquestionably ‘gotten with the times.’
Then there’s dessert, where at Mi Piace, there’s always room for chocolate soup. Described as part souffle, part molten chocolate lava cake, it looks like the former and tastes like the latter. Every bite is like an entire chocolate bar just went and melted on your spoon, with vanilla gelato and fresh whipped cream pairing like a charm. But it doesn’t stop there. Creations like the almond rocha cake and the Mi Piace special—chocolate and raspberry mousse layered between white cake, wrapped in white chocolate and topped with French raspberry marmalade—are made to look beautiful and taste even better.
Mi Piace is located at 25 E Colorado Blvd, Pasadena, CA 91105. Open 11a – 11p Mon – Thu, 11a – midnight Fri, 8a – midnight Sat and 8a – 11p Sun. Avg. out-the-door price for appetizer, entrée, split dessert and 1 – 2 drinks is ~$90/person. For more information, call (626) 795-3131 or visit MiPiace.com.
Benjamin Brown is a seasoned restaurant writer and hospitality consultant, serving up SoCal's hottest food news and reviews.