Where the famed Settebello established the groundwork for killer Neopolitan pizza, Terzo MdR has launched as an alluring new concept and one of Settebello’s first expansions beyond pizza. Homemade pastas with rustic Italian additives and wildly creative Mediterranean antipastis highlight this case study in restaurant rebrands, along with a reinvented pizza menu that boasts Settebello’s tried-and-true crust.
Located in Marina Del Rey’s Villa Marina Markeplace Mall, Terzo MdR (The MdR stands for Marina Del Rey, for those not in the know) sits just a short stroll from the ocean and the luxury hotel-esque apartment complexes that house some of LA’s finest. Each element of the restaurant plays to its native crowd, reflective of its namesake—‘Terzo’ comes from the Italian idea of having a ‘third place’ to spend one’s time (think Starbucks, but with delicious Italian fare). Bright, homey décor gives off an elegant feel, complemented by an open-air kitchen with the woor-burning stove inherited from Settebello as the centerpiece. The patio is lined with outdoor lounge furniture and a multitude of fireplaces. A quaint but very well stocked bar invites patrons to cozy up for some inventive drinks.
Executive Chef Brian Lavin, named one of Zagat National’s ’30 under 30,’ moved from across the country to take the helm. Hailing from Baltimore, MD with extensive travel through the Mediterranean, Lavin created a menu that pays homage to his love for seafood, olives and sweet corn, as well as classic Mediterranean flavors with just the right amount of modern invigoration. Case in point with the seared sea scallops, timed to just about the second with a perfect sear and an addictive sweet corn puree. The roasted U-5 head-on shrimp (read: 5 shrimp per pound) are absolutely massive and do quite well in a chickpea puree complemented with shishito peppers and olive vinaigrette. And not only is Lavin’s chicken liver mousse creamy and indulgent, but it comes out in massive quantity.
Pastas integrate new-age creativity with age-old flavor, with nothing as surprisingly novel as the corn and ricotta cappelletti, or sombrero-shaped pasta cooked al dente to the point of popping in your mouth, releasing an eye-fluttering compilation of smooth ricotta and sweet corn essence. Close behind is the squid ink gnocchi, with tomato braised calamari and spicy breadcrumbs. The ricotta cavatelli boasts wild boar sausage and just a touch of fresno chile for a bit of heat.
When it comes to great meat, however, Lavin’s ‘Nduja, a classic Italian sausage spread, takes the cake. It’s the star of the show alongside roasted corn and thyme cream to highlight Terzo’s pizza menu.
For dessert, the ricotta doughnuts are a house favorite. What makes them so special though, is—wait for it—corn ice cream, bringing out that same addictive flavor that lines the savory menu with even more sweet woven in.
The cocktail menu is equally creative. Try the royal 75, with gin, amaretto, lemon and prosecco, or Hemingway’s rare tale, with run, ancho chile, maraschino, grapefruit, lime and grenadine. A thoughtful wine and beer list rounds things out.
Terzo MdR is located at 13455 Maxella Ave, Marina Del Rey, CA 90292. Open 3 – 10p Tue – Sun. Avg. out-the-door price for antipasti, pasta or pizza, split dessert and 1 – 2 drinks is ~$90/person. For more information call (310) 306 – 8204 or visit TerzoMdR.com.
In a world where fine dining is dominated by red meat, Water Grill emerges as a rare entity that truly puts seafood first. Water Grill takes their seafood so seriously, in fact, that they control virtually every step of their supply chain. Sustainable seafood has been a top priority since the first restaurant’s opening in 1989, long before it was ‘cool.’ Nearly 30 years, Water Grill has expanded ever-so-carefully with prime locations across Southern California and Dallas.
A theme of humble elegance resonates from the moment you set foot through the doors. A sprawling dining room with plush booths, dark wood tables and dim lighting speaks to the iconic steakhouse while the raw bar, lobster tanks and fish state that while steak is served here, it comes in a distant second. The staff to guest ratio is astounding, with an army of servers catering to the haute crowd in spectacular fashion even by fine dining standards.
Water Grill’s menu is both vast and ever changing, the revolving door of seafood selections changing with fishing seasons from across the world. An impressive raw bar showcases all the oysters you could ever want, as well as a fashionable crudo lineup highlighted by addictive Japanese-seasoned scallops.
Iconic dishes such as crab cakes and lobster rolls have been perfected over three decades. You’d be doing yourself a disservice if you don’t order the Chilean seabass, a historic best-seller so rich and flaky that it practically melts on the plate. Shellfish is nothing short of top-notch—spiny lobster was in season at the time of this writing, served sliced down the middle and practically bursting at the seams with butter.
Artfully crafted cocktails and a sophisticated wine and beer list contain a pairing for everything, and that impeccable service staff s more than ready to navigate the menu for you. Expectedly, the price point here will set you back, but is worth every penny.
Water Grill has locations in Santa Monica, DTLA, Orange County, San Diego and Dallas. Santa Monica location open 11a – 11p Sun – Thu, 11a – midnight Fri/Sat. Avg. Out-the-door price for appetizer, entrée, side, split dessert and 1 – 2 drinks is ~$150/person. For more information, visit WaterGrill.com
Sea Change is one of three restaurants housed in Redondo Beach’s Chez Melange, a quaint retreat just steps from the beach. Run by Executive Chef Robert Bell and Co-Owner Michael Franks, who have been in business together for more than 40 years, Chez Melange is both homage to decades of friendship and a modern player in the realm of sophisticated fare.
Pass through Bouzy Gastropub and Oyster Bar, Chez Melange’s other micro-establishments, and a museum-style corridor allows for a glimpse of the past—photos of Robert and Michael from the early 90’s, menus from their previous restaurants, and even painted portraits of the two in action. From there, enter Sea Change, a small but mighty dining room hustling and bustling with the regulars, who are just as familiar with each other as they are with the servers who see them ever so frequently.
Friendly Becoming part of the family is easier than anticipated, with friendly staff that greet you with a warm smile at first sight. The difficult part comes with placing your order. Chez Melange’s massive menu with inspirations from across the globe speaks to Chef Bell’s range, and fresh fish specials that change daily take it up a level further.
At the top of the list stands the Zarzuela, a Spanish stew of scallops, shrimp, mussels and other seafood in an addictive bisque-like base. The New England dry pack scallops are the perfect golden brown, taken off the frying pan not a second too soon or too late, served with rich bacon cheddar mashed potatoes. The Pacific rim tostadas bring together sashimi-grade ahi, Japanese salsa, avocado, spicy aioli and pickled ginger atop wontons that contain just the right crunch.
Portion sizes are another strong suit at Sea Change. It’s a surprise to see guests finish the mountain of parmesan truffle fries, or have room after the delightful baby beet salad. The drink selection follows much the same face, containing a long list of wine, beer, craft cocktails and a homemade ginger lemonade that’s absolutely worth trying.
Chez Melange is located at 1611 S. Catalina Avenue, Redondo Beach, CA 90277. Sea Change is open 5:30 – 9:30 p.m. Sun, Tue – Thur, 5:30 – 10 p.m. Fri/Sat. Sunday brunch served 9:30 a.m. – 2 p.m. Closed Monday. Out-the-door cost for split appetizer, entrée, split dessert and 1 – 2 drinks is ~$79/person. For more information, call 310-540-1222 or visit Chez Melange online.
Benjamin Brown is a seasoned restaurant writer and hospitality consultant, serving up SoCal's hottest food news and reviews.