Pasta Encino

Mora Italiano Takes Pasta Seriously in Prime Encino Location

Coral Tree Cafe’s owners replaced Red Room wine bar with Mora Italiano, a modern Encino restaurant featuring standout pasta dishes from rising chef Mindy Oh

Coral Tree Cafe’s owners recently replaced Red Room wine bar with Mora Italiano, featuring the modern Italian cooking from up-and-coming chef Mindy Oh.

With stints previously at Superba Food + Bread in Venice and Patina Catering, Mindy has proven to be especially skilled with pasta. At this prime Encino dinner-only eatery, shrimp fra diavolo coats linguine with zesty organic tomato sauce spiked with Calabrian chiles, three plump wild Mexican shrimp, and bright garnishes of mint and basil.

GM Fernando Trivisonno describes her cacio e pepe as “rich but perfect for winter.” Indeed, Mindy blankets al dente bucatini with sharp Parmigiano Reggiano and freshly crushed black pepper for a hearty, thoroughly satisfying dish.

Agnolotti (pasta squares stuffed with a variety of fillings) features thin, supple pasta made in-house; preparations change with each season. During my visit, Mindy showcased butternut squash puree with creamy mascarpone and punchy spicing from ginger, espelette and garlic. She plates the dish with rich browned Wustrich butter from Wisconsin, more Parmigiano Reggiano and crispy delicata squash discs.

The chef also proves her mettle with seasonal salads and standout entrees like Jidori chicken pan-roasted with preserved lemon, pee wee potatoes, crushed Castelvetrano olives and charred rosemary.

One thing hasn’t changed with the space: It’s still a good place to sip wine—with an eclectic international selection that’s rooted in Italy and ranges from crisp, light-bodied 2013 Jazmin Zibibbo from Sicily to a richer 2016 red from Hewitson in Australia’s Barossa Valley. Fernando is also the in-house sommelier and most bottles in his high-value wine program are available for under $50. Better yet: Mora Italiano offers 2.5-ounce pours to encourage exploration. During my meal, the sommelier poured me a warming, full-bodied glass of 2015 La Storia Cabernet Sauvignon from California’s Alexander Valley.

Dolce poses a simple choice for dessert: flourless chocolate cake or tiramisu.

Sharing a kitchen with Coral Tree Café, the sleek space features a pinstripe facade, six counters at a marble bar, black-and-white checkerboard floor and white-clothed tables. The walls display classic black-and-white photos, including Italian-American patron saint Frank Sinatra.

Mora Italiano is the latest concept from Alliance Hospitality Group partners Kevin Khalili, Robert Niksefat and Steven Yari, who also run the Coral Tree Cafe and Comoncy chains, plus high-end Brentwood steakhouse Baltaire.

17499 Ventura Blvd., Encino, 818-386-0278

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