Sometimes just walking by a restaurant makes you want to try it, especially after reading the menu and seeing that it is participating in Dine LA Restaurant week, with three course lunches for $22 (add $16 for wine pairings like glasses of Sonoma-Cutrer Chardonnay for each of the three courses).
La Vecchia on Santa Monica's Main Street not only fulfilled all of the promise of a great meal, but it delivers some of the best service I have ever had in a Los Angeles restaurant. La Vecchia is one of those rare restaurant trifectas where good food, great service, and a comfortable atmosphere make every diner a winner. Compared to restaurants which are twice as expensive, both my server Giuliana and the manager Thao, were outstanding in a field where many servers are either annoying & obsequious or casual & saccharine. The people at La Vecchia are the best professional combination; efficient and invisible while being wholly present and personable.
A nice Ciabatta bread was served with an oil olive, garlic and basil infusion that was a precursor to the simple full flavors to come.
I chose the appetizer of capriccio imperiale, a chilled seafood salad with lobster, shrimp, baby calamari and green beans tossed in a Sicilian extra virgin olive oil lemon dressing (the dressing is very lemony, so if you are sensitive to acidity, you may want to ask for the dressing on the side). I was surprised by the amount of lobster and the freshness of the shrimp, but I was beginning to realize that this restaurant was going to surpass my expectations on many levels.
For my main course I stayed with seafood and chose the ravioli allo arragosta e gamberi, ravioli filled with lobster and jumbo shrimp tossed in a pink Cognac lobster sauce with Maine lobster, asparagus and finely diced fresh Roma tomato.
Again I was surprised by the amount of lobster meat (all the pink you see in the picture is Maine lobster chunks) and the full shrimp stuffing in the pasta. I could only finish two, but the filling was so good I ate the inside of the other two raviolis so I could save room for my tiramisu dessert of classic lady finger cookies soaked in espresso and layered with mascarpone pastry cream.
I think I'm going to adopt la Vecchia as one of my neighborhood Northern Italian restaurants, after all, winning a trifecta is a rare event that should be repeated as often as possible.