By Charly SHELTON
Summer is waning. As pumpkin spice everything invades stores and restaurants around L.A. and temperatures dip into the chilly 75° range that Southern Californians call autumn, the days of light, crisp summer foods are dwindling.
When I was invited to Obicà Mozzarella Bar in August, I thought it was the perfect summer place and would make a great restaurant review. Sundried tomatoes and marinated raw langoustino scampi at the restaurant located just a few blocks from the water in Santa Monica makes for a great hot weather lunch. But as life gets away from you and Halloween began to approach, Obicà was put off.
As October approached, I was afraid that I had missed the opportune window to share this fantastic restaurant. So a couple of weeks ago, I returned to Obicà to see if it still held its charm in light sweater weather. What I found was that this restaurant, which I was ready to classify as a summer place, is much more.
Obicà has restaurant locations around the world –Italy, Japan, England and here in the U.S. “Obicà” means “Here it is!” similar to the French “Voila!” and is used, as its website states, when presenting something fresh and new happening now, like pulling a fresh ball of mozzarella from its brine and serving immediately. This is its house specialty, as implied in the name as a Mozzarella Bar. The cheese is imported from specially selected farmers in Campana, Italy – the area around Naples and Pompeii where the laces would be on the boot-shaped country. The cheese is imported weekly and stored in the brine it is made in until the guest orders it, giving it the freshness that one expects from a really good mozzarella. Obicà offers both bufala (heartier) and burrata (creamier) mozzarellas, as well as specialties of each – bufala affumicata (naturally smoked) and burrata al tarttufo (black truffle). I tried them all and liked the plain burrata the most because it is just a really good, classic, well-made cheese with nothing to get in the way.
Cheese aside, the menu is great on its own. In the summer, I had the very summery prosciutto e melone (prosciutto wrapped around slices of cantaloupe) and the risotto con scampi e asparagi (Gran Riserva Riso Buono rice, shrimp, marinated raw scampi and asparagus), among other things. This is light fare that satisfies but doesn’t weigh down. Prosciutto and cantaloupe sounded weird when it was ordered but actually worked well together. The risotto was probably my favorite dish on the menu and the raw marinated langoustino – like a big, sweet shrimp – really set the whole dish off and made it that much more memorable.
When I went back recently, it was too cold to sit outside when the marine layer rolled in. I was not in the mood for chilled melon. The mozzarella held up because cheese is even better when you aren’t sweating. I noticed a few more dishes on the menu that I must have just glazed over my first time through – lasagna (spinach pasta, grassfed beef ragu and bufala mozzarella), Pappardelle al Ragu di Anatra e Arancia (homemade rosemary pasta with Tuscan-style duck ragu and orange zest) and the pizzas, which I noticed the first time but didn’t try. Ham, bufala and truffles. Bufala, black pepper and mushrooms. Burrata, zucchini blossoms and anchovies. I went with the classic margherita pizza – tomato, bufala and basil – which might be the best version of this pizza that I have had in quite a while.
Whether it’s hot or cold, summer or winter, Obicà has something to satisfy. The only thing you have to be in the mood for is cheese. Obicà is located at 606 Broadway in Santa Monica, with other locations at Westfield Century City, 10250 Santa Monica Blvd., and Sunset Plaza, 8630 W. Sunset Blvd. in West Hollywood. For more info, visit obica.com.