The Sicilian secret in Santa Monica – O+O Sicilian Kitchen and Bar

img_3676The only thing not great about O+O Sicilian Kitchen and Bar in Santa Monica was finding the place. Waze announced my dining companion and I had arrived, but we still couldn’t find it after 10 minutes of walking up and down Ocean Blvd.  We started to leave when we ran into a group of people who were also looking for it.  They had friends on the phone who were at the restaurant who swore it really existed and we were just a half black away.  I’m glad we did not give up the hunt.

Even on a dark, cold and rainy night, somehow a restaurant full of people had found O+O.  The place was packed.  After having a needed glass of Tuscany wine to unwind from our trek, we relaxed into the warm and friendly neighborhood atmosphere of the Italian family style eatery, where large groups had pushed together tables, and many families with children were dining together.

The menu featured modern Sicilian cuisine with a California flair, with dishes such as fennel and blood orange salad, fried olives, squid ink linguine and vegetarianna artichoke and eggplant pizza.  As a charcuterie aficionado, I was happy to see a selection of cold cuts, and for my starter I had the persimmon and prosciutto salad. The meat was satisfyingly salty, and the burrata perfectly creamy soft.

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It’s a good thing I didn’t eat lunch that day, because after the generously portioned salad, I was already feeling full, and I was wondering if we should have ordered the second course, the restaurant’s popular classic meatballs, but we were glad we did.

The meatballs lived up to their promise, of being classic. They tasted just like my mom’s meatballs from my childhood, the ones she would make for the progressive dinner parties, that percolated all day in the crockpot in their rich tomato sauce with basil, and pecorino.

For the main course, I ordered the breaded swordfish, which was previously a special, but because but it became so popular they put it on the menu. It was light and tasty, served with romaine, arugula, fennel, and cherry tomatoes.  A delicious and perfectly cooked dish.

To finish off our meal, we enjoyed the trio selection of ricotta, pistachio and chocolate cannoli, which were fresh and just the right size to not be overly filling after a three-course meal.

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The food made this place worth finding, but clearly by the size of the crowd, the restaurant was not as hidden as we thought. In fact, the crowd was a bit much, as the place was rather noisy, probably owing to the acoustics of the mostly glass walls. It seemed like everyone was yelling to be heard, so on one hand there was an enjoyable frenetic New York-y energy, but on the other hand, I would’ve liked a more tranquil environment to savior my food.

While they are not terrific for audibility, those panoramic floor-to-ceiling windows offer an incredible view of the outdoors, which on a sunny day would be the place I would choose to dine. The patio overlooks a lovely courtyard of the Pacific Terrace building complex in which the restaurants resides — and which should be part of the street address instead of Ocean Avenue, if they want to make the place less impossible to find; but maybe its best we keep that a secret.

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