We did not feel like dying after the Tuscan Beef dinner at Mozza three Fridays ago.
In fact, when I woke up the next morning I was ready to do it all over again. That morning.
They've really nailed it over there. And by they, I mean Chad Colby and his crew. The six course dinner featuring beef in the style of Tuscany was -- of the three Mangiare In Famiglia I have attended, so far -- the best.
The not dying part was actually a really big deal. Because after our Heritage Pork dinner, things were not looking so good for A. and me. We way over did it. Colby has managed to keep the family style dining experience in tact, while reining in the portions. It's a lot harder to gorge yourself like a pig now. You won't be helping yourself to thirds of the second course when all the heaviest fare is yet to come.
And thank goodness. While you might want another crostoni topped with beef tartare, you'll be glad you couldn't go down that path when you're staring at the glorious oxtail on your plate.
The Manzo Toscano (Tuscan beef) dinner at Mozza was exquisite. From the first bite of focaccia to the last slurp of ice cream sundae, we were all besides ourselves.
A. and I had booked the reservation almost two months prior, so there was plenty of time for the anticipation to build. By the week of our dinner, I was racing about my life, positively buzzing with excitement. I knew we would be having a stellar evening.
I had no doubts at all.
If I hadn't had such a wonderful time, my photos might be better. I apologize.
I was tickled when Chad Colby greeted me with a hello and a the last time I saw you, you were eating pig's blood soup. Yep, I bumped into him and Mozza's terrific bespectacled server -- whose name I regrettably don't know -- at Sapp Coffee Shop some months back. That soup is not to be missed.
We were again enthusiastically welcomed with a glass of Prosecco and a wedge of focaccia. That focaccia is exceptional. There was sage and onion, olive, and another round that featured peppers. This chewy, oily, crispy beauty is a must. The good news is that you don't have to sign up for a five or six course meal to enjoy it. You can simply pop into Mozza2Go after 2 p.m. and order a slice.
Don't even wait. Stop over there on the way home tonight. You will not regret it. Even if it takes you an hour out of your way.
The tables were laid with platters of raw baby vegetables and bowls of bagna cauda. Bagna cauda in general -- and this one in particular -- is divine. We joyously dipped the raw beets, butter radishes, baby carrots, slices of fennel, and treviso into the warm bath of garlic, anchovy, olive oil, and butter. I was going nuts over this course. I didn't want to stop. I need to make this at home post-haste.
The first beef course was one of my favorites of the night. Carne Cruda - carciofi e Parmigiano-Reggiano. This was essentially a steak tartare on a lengthy crostoni topped with shaved raw artichoke and Parmigiano-Reggiano. The beef is cut in much thicker chunks than your usual tartare, thus delivering a more interactive experience in the mouth. The beef is doused in olive oil that gushes into your mouth with every bite. The flavor is the most refined essence of beef --raw, minerally -- pure cow.
The Breve Costoletta Alla Griglia with salsa verde is a whole new experience in grilled short ribs. Think Korean barbeque style cut, flat and thin. These ribs are building a reputation of their own, being prominently featured in the December 21st 2010 Dining and Wine section of the New York Times. A kiwi marinade! A porcini rub! The accompanying salsa verde seems to be a standard at these Mangiare In Famiglia. We've happily lapped up the emerald-green condiment at every one so far.
I couldn't help myself. I whispered to a friendly server that perhaps the extra slab at the end of the table was available. He smiled and assured me he'd be right back. And he was, ribs in hand.
The Coda Alla Vaccinara - brasati sedano or braised oxtails served with braised celery was next. Colby reminded us not to forget to try the celery. It's delicious, too, he quipped. These luscious oxtails rested on a heap of braised celery, and the whole affair was showered with a celery leaf garnish. A bowl of the braising liquid was passed around to ladle over. How thoughtful! This was my other favorite of the night.
I have never had oxtails cooked this perfectly. They were impossibly meaty and tender. I am a big fan of celery. The humble vegetable sadly gets very little recognition, but all the naysayers would change their tune after one bite of these supple melting stalks.
At the end of meal, I managed to extract the recipe for the oxtails out of Chad Colby (thank you, Chef!), so stay tuned. There is a mess of oxtails in the refrigerator as we speak.
The final beef course of the evening was Bistecca Fiorentina - fagioli et swiss chard, cippolini al forno. These gigantic porterhouse steaks greeted us from their perch on the cooking island at the start of dinner, challenging us to save room for them.
And we did! Plenty of room for a sliver of New York and a rosette of fillet. And who could say no to the comfortingly soupy beans and swiss chard, and the gorgeous roasted onions with their caramelized edges?
When I noticed that Sundaes were the dessert of the evening, I was a little disappointed. I don't really dig dessert all that much to begin with, and ice cream with toppings sort of seemed like a cop-out.
Sundaes for dessert was a dynamite idea. It brought back all the excitement of making them with my grandpa. I felt like a silly kid again. The vanilla, gianduia, and banana gelati were all stand-out. The ultra-salty peanuts and Luxardo maraschino cherries were magic atop a very healthy drizzle of chocolate sauce.
I can't help but sing the praises of the Mangiare In Famiglia. There just isn't a better deal or dining experience to be had in town right now. Strangers seated around the table that night were nearly moved to tears, discussing the virtues of this dining experience. And there's so much more to come. This month features seeds and grains, and April will welcome in the spring harvest. Chad Colby also mentioned a dinner focused on chiles.
Sign me up!
Mozza2Go/Scuola Di Pizza
6610 Melrose Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90036