Hidden jewel

Discover Leo & Lily, a European inspired eatery with down home charm

Proving that Ventura Boulevard is experiencing a culinary Renaissance is this hidden treasure of a restaurant. 

Leo & Lily is so hands-down good, so wildly overachieving and yet so unprepossessing that I might well have continued to drive by it month after month without stopping in. Literally sandwiched between the 101, a tire dealer and a Thrifty gas station, it was the odd valet queue (at lunch! in Woodland Hills!) that first piqued my interest. 

Two breakfasts, five lunches and one dinner later, I am thoroughly hooked. Should I start with the bread? Utterly perfect baguettes, baked in-house, with that wonderful crackly texture. It’s the best bread I have ever had outside Paris— served with a yummy trio of butter, Kalamata tapenade and feta. 

Coffee here is strong, dark and European and is the perfect start to your morning commute. Weekday breakfast starts at 7:30 a.m., while brunch gets going at 8 a.m. on the weekends. Come early or late during prime meal periods, as tables on the patio go fast; you’d never realize you’re so close to the freeway. Beyond the Continental breakfast are heartier menu items like the excellent “Cyprus” omelette with whipped goat cheese and Merguez sausage and the “L&L” brioche French toast with maple butter, caramelized bananas and Nutella.  

Currently, I am obsessed with the “Capri” Cobb salad at lunch

—a huge but impossibly delicious combination of mixed Italian greens, just the right amount of shaved fennel, crunchy pistachios, turkey “prosciutto” and homemade Greek-style dressing. My husband is partial to Leo’s steak salad, where sirloin is piled atop arugula, roasted tomatoes, asiago and bits of crispy shallot. At just $12.95, the heroic portion of this manly main course underscores one of the key aspects of Leo & Lily: incredible quality for an incredible price. 

A well-curated selection of burgers and paninis rounds out the lunchtime fare, and patrons run the gamut from Valley moms with strollers to business folks with time constraints. Dinner at Leo & Lily’s is a slightly quieter affair. This may be due to their lack of a liquor license, although a beer and wine permit is in the works. My quick tip? Walk five blocks further west to the Woodland Hills Wine Company and BYOB. The staff at Leo & Lily will cheerfully bring you a wine opener.

We dined early with our little ones, who devoured their pizza ($3.95 with plenty of fries—enough for two kids easily), and I particularly enjoyed my spicy Italian turkey sausage with roasted peppers and burrata, the perfect choice for a rainy spring night.  

Owners Guy and Maureen Zaradez emphasize that they opened this charming place because they themselves were looking for options in the Valley with healthy, European-inspired food at affordable prices. Indeed, they’ve done it—and more. 

 

Leo & Lily
22420 Ventura Boulevard, Woodland Hills  818-222-6622,  leonlily.com

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