I can’t think of a better way to spend an evening than with an enjoyable dinner and toe-tapping music. After learning that the new Spaghettini and the Dave Koz Lounge opened in Beverly Hills, my husband and I made a reservation for dinner and were looking forward to the neo-ragtime sounds of the talented singer Dessy Di Lauro.
The sophisticated supper club is the second dining and entertainment destination by restaurateurs Cary Hardwick and Laurie Sisneros, who also own Spaghettini in Seal Beach. With 26 years of success in Orange County, they joined Grammy nominated saxophonist Koz to create a top-notch restaurant offering refined California-inspired Italian cuisine in a state-of-the-art music venue.
The platinum-selling Koz has performed with Burt Bacharach, Ray Charles, Natalie Cole, Celine Dion, Kenny Loggins, U2, Barry Manilow, Luther Vandross and Rod Stewart. He is also known as a humanitarian, entrepreneur, radio host and instrumental music advocate.
The trio hired Eric Rosen Architects to create an open restaurant and live music venue with an exposed wood beam ceiling and leather booths. Guests dine at tables with white tablecloths and porcelain serving plates. The owners also hired an extremely personable staff that is informative and cheerful, creating an upbeat dining experience.
They lured executive chef Scott Howard, from Brick & Bottle in San Francisco, to serve as the culinary director for both restaurants. Not only does he prepare some of the signature Spaghettini dishes from the Seal Beach restaurant — such as the parmesan crusted Chilean sea bass — he has created some new innovative dishes for discerning foodies.
We arrived for a 7:30 p.m. reservation and were immediately led to a raised semi-circular booth that was roomy enough for four guests and had a great view of the show. A housemade baguette and sliced toasted Parker House rolls were served first with three condiments in small dishes. There was a delightful jam made of strawberry, raspberry and rose water to spread with caramelized onions and unsalted butter — a sweet yet savory starter.
Additional starters on the menu include creamy, white burrata with strawberry jam and wild rocket arugula; ahi tuna tartare with Yukon chips; and meatballs in creamy polenta. We ordered the carnaroli rice medium-grained risotto with mushrooms, a splash of Madeira wine, shaved parmigiano and reggiano, and chopped chives. It was pure comfort food — rich and filling.
The dish could have been a meal, along with a flute of Nicolas Feuillatte brut rosé. The sparkling wine is blended from 90 percent red grapes and a pour of chardonnay. It has a vivid pink color with flavors of raspberry, strawberry and red currants. The bubbles offset the creaminess of the risotto.
We also ordered the heirloom apple and arugula salad with frisée, champagne vinaigrette, pecorino cheese and chopped walnuts. The chef adjusts some of his dishes weekly, and the salad was previously made with Point Reyes blue cheese instead of pecorino cheese. I liked the pecorino; it’s a widely used, sharper alternative to parmesan cheese with a hard texture and sharp salty flavor. It is excellent grated over pasta and salads.
The spaghetti arrived with five medium-sized meatballs and topped with slightly sweet, garlic San Marzano tomato sauce. The San Marzano tomatoes are thinner, stronger and sweeter than other tomatoes used for sauces, and they are less acidic.
Chef Howard also prepares bucatini with cheese, and fiery bucatini with shrimp. His trotolle pasta is served with lamb bolognese with feta, and the spaghettini is topped with dungeness crab, shrimp and uni butter. Another savory dish is Howard’s pappardelle mixed with short rib sugo and blistered cherry tomatoes.
We ordered the restaurant’s signature lightly crusted parmesan Chilean sea bass served with asparagus and potato puree, and a pleasant Meyer lemon butter sauce. We paired the dish with a glass of Dave Koz chardonnay — a fruit forward wine with grapefruit and golden apple aromas, offering a hint of vanilla and an oaky finish.
Koz recently partnered with premium Santa Barbara vintner Terravant, Whole Foods Market and California Pizza Kitchen to introduce a new quartet of Koz wines. All proceeds from sales of the wine benefit the Starlight Children’s Foundation.
Other entrées include branzino, salmon with baby artichokes, lamb chops with cilantro and mint pesto, pork chops with maple jus, New York steak with bordelaise, and braised short ribs. Side dishes are available, however most entrées are accompanied by a vegetable.
Around 9 p.m., the wood walls toward the back of the room slide to the side, and musicians walk onto the stage. There isn’t a bad seat in the house. The show started around 9:15 p.m., as we ordered coffee and dessert. The price of show tickets is added to the bill. For those only interested in the live music, there is a cover charge and two drink minimum per person. Seating is first come, first served. Guests are encouraged to check in with the hostess to be placed on the waiting list. Seating for the show begins around 8:45 p.m.
The stunning Di Lauro was backed by a stellar seven-piece band with a horn section, and two talented tap dancers. Her musical director/pianist Ric’key Pageot played keyboard and accordion. Special guest saxophonist, composer, producer and vocalist, Eric Darius, also joined Di Lauro, as did rapper Anon.
Spaghettini and the Dave Koz Lounge serves lunch every Tuesday through Friday from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m., with California starters, salads, sandwiches, pastas and entrées. The restaurant also offers a sidewalk patio.
On Sundays, brunch is served from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., and guests can enjoy live jazz, with 94.7 The Wave broadcasting from the restaurant. Koz’s protégé, Vincent Ingala, is the resident musician.
Spaghettini and the Dave Koz Lounge also offers a social hour every Tuesday through Friday from 5 to 7 p.m., with bar bites, rotating cocktails and select wines by the glass, including those from Koz’s label. Dinner service begins at 6 p.m. every day except Sunday, when dinner service begins at 5:30 p.m. $$-$$$ 184 N. Canon Drive. (310)424-4600.
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