Venice's Scopa Italian Roots

The once fairly quiet stretch of Washington where Abbot Kinney dead ends is now in the midst of creating its own little restaurant row.  Roy Choi has been the mainstay in the area with his fun vibe-y Caribbean restaurant Sunny Spot, where ironically I was last night, celebrating with him and eating delicacies from his new cookbook LA Son.  This interesting book includes stories and recipes from the city's diverse ethnic patchwork.

Roy Choi and his new cookbook LA Son

Roy Choi and his new cookbook LA Son

Choi is finally getting some worthy neighbors.  Open a few months now is South End from the Mozza and Piccolo vets, just across the street from Sunny Spot in a small strip mall.  Even newer is the recently opened Scopa Italian Roots, right next door to Sunny Spot in a totally revamped space.

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What an overhaul it was. There are now floor to ceiling windows encasing this beautiful jewel, showing it off to anyone driving down Washington. Brick walls are brightened by large mirrors hanging throughout that reflect the light coming from the stunning six story backlit shelves showing off its alcohol like beautiful works of art. Your eye is immediately drawn to it and the bar scene thrives around it. Unfortunately it also means you'll be competing with the noise and loud music, but this isn't the place you come with your parents to tell them you're life changing news.

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The cocktails are refreshing and inventive like the West Side with vodka, cucumbers, mint, lime and bright colored bitters, but its a tough call with a very personable (and ok, pretty cute) sommelier, so why not do both.  We got to sample 3 sparkling wines from Lambrusco to Proseco before making a choice. The selection of real deal champagne by the bottle was a bit unnerving as the list was all over $100. But give the somm a budget and flavor profile and he's willing to please.

It's hard to tell if the service was overbearing or we were just too busy talking to commit to an order. Perhaps I'm still on Paris time where you have to light a flare in the room to get someone to talk to you, but suffice it to say, the server was there often, ready for anything we were. We started with a handful of small plates that ranged from very good to really great.

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The housemade ricotta is an excellent way to start. It's a creamy, luscious cheese doused with a gentle hand of olive oil and parsley, perfect to slather on the crisp ciabatta.

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The sun chokes were thrown in a pan with lemon and olive oil and wilted treviso, a lighter, thinner version of radicchio.  It was nice, but probably the least interesting of the bunch. Save yourself since it only gets better from here.

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The beets were bright and vibrant with a nice acidic dressing, as was the winter squash roasted with the always wonderful companion sage.

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The scallop crudo - light, tender with a touch of finger limes and thinly sliced mustard greens.  Yes.

The clams came highly recommended and for good reason. They were smoky and sweet thanks to a spicy Italian pork sausage called n'duja. The fennel played defense to the sausage and made me forget to even go fishing for a clam to eat with it. The sauce was complex and delicious on its own, and I recommend throwing some of it on the homemade ricotta.

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The shells were billed as one of the owners new favorite items so we dug into the warm dish covered in red sauce and cheese to discover flavorful chunks of sausage between homemade shells. A hearty and filling dish when you're done eating salads and crudo.

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We pressed on and tried the pappardelle which could have used another minute to cook. I'm a fan of al dente, but this required some serious chewing. Luckily the rich pork shank sauce made up for a lot.

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The 24 ounce T-bone was done to perfection with a beautiful sear and outstanding flavor, further enhanced by the spicy parsley oil served on the side.

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We didn't have any room for dessert after all this, but we forced down bites of ricotta cheeseccake that I don't think held as well as the other items on the menu.

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Overall, a very well executed and flavorful meal, served in a gorgeous room that you need to be prepared to share with the noise and activity of a lively bar scene. I think they'll fit nicely into the neighborhood.

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