It was Monday at Firenze Osteria and celebrity chef Fabio Viviani of Bravo’s “Top Chef” fame had the night off. No worries, the gorgeous and talented actress, co-owner Lisa Long was on hand and co-executive chef Kenny Biffar was manning the kitchen. It was the tasty-sounding dineLARestaurantWeek menu that drew us to the lively four-year old Toluca Lake standout virtually next door to Universal Studios and always lively with an entertainment industry clientele. At $35 for three courses, it was a bargain for such top-level food.
Any Italian restaurant calling itself “osteria” tends toward simplicity, which is how the course offerings sounded but delivered tremendous taste as well as bang for your buck. We both opted for the Beef Tartare topped with a quail egg meant to be stirred into the deep red cubes. Turns out, it was one of the best versions of this popular dish we’d had in a long time. It may sound boring to get the same dishes, but we had to have the unusual Pork Osso bucco, a long-cooked pork shank instead of the traditional veal. It arrived fall-off-the-bone tender over a bed of herbed polenta and was absolutely delicious.
At least we ordered different deserts, Hazelnut Semifreddo with crumbled meringue and Bomboloni—still warm golf ball-size donuts with lemon curd and berry dipping sauces. Quite a prix fixe meal for the money, but fair warning: Firenze’s Restaurant Week menu continues only through Friday, Jan. 31, 2014.
Firenze Osteria is a handsome neighborhood-style restaurant located at 4212 Lankershim Blvd., Toluca Lake; 818-760-7081; firenzeosteria.com.