A new Italian restaurant quietly slipped into Studio City (actually more on the way to Universal City) earlier this month turning what was once a tired Thai BBQ into a sleek, urban restaurant called Ombra, which is Italian slang for “small glass of wine.” The white exterior pops out on this last part of Ventura Boulevard, even without signage. The interior is designed with off-white walls, chocolate brown tables and chairs, banquettes and mod chandeliers which lends itself to a fun, yet sophisticated ambiance.
Owner and chef Michael J. Young is a San Fernando Valley native and a graduate of Harvard-Westlake, and although he is American, his family’s roots are Italian and he has spent extensive time working in Italy, particularly Parma. Ombra is the first restaurant Young has fully owned, but he made a splash as the head chef at Silverlake’s Domenico and has worked in many of Los Angeles’ top kitchens, including the Patina Group, Valentino, Il Grano, Drago, Piccolo Cipriani (now Piccolo).
With Ombra, Young has set out to create a casual, neighborhood restaurant with an upscale vibe. The small, but select seasonal menu is not typical Italian fare by any means, but prepared with a creative and rustic twist. There’s no pizza or simple pastas here. Appetizers and salads include calamari prepared in a tempura batter with fried lemon rounds, the carciofi (artichoke salad) is a mix of raw baby artichokes and arugula. There’s also a lovely prosciutto platter, a white bean salad, a octopus salad and carne cruda which is prime NY steak sashimi. The evening I was there, we were presented with two amuse bouche — arancini rice balls and a bite of a spinach-parmesan frittata.
There are only a handful of pasta dishes, but they are different than what you find in most ‘americanized’ Italian restaurants due to the varying types of noodle and fillings. Pastas are available in half and whole orders. Choices include: Casunziei, a handmade pasta filled with red beets, Fusilloni, a Neapolitan pasta with fava beans and pesto, Maccarronis prepared with a lamb and pork ragu, and Cavatellu with dungeness crab. There’s also tastings of two or three pastas that must be ordered by the entire table.
The entrees (secondi) include a very rich osso bucco on top of polenta; pollo Milanese which is lightly breaded chicken fillet with heirloom tomatoes; cinghiale is wild boar chops; albcore tuna kabobs and prime NY steak. All entrees are well portioned.
The dessert menu is varied for such a small restaurant and includes gorgonzola marinated figs, a panna cotta made with espresso and nutella, a Neopolitan layered Easter cake and a chocolate sacher torte and gelato.
There’s a nice wine and beer list that also includes champagne and prosecco.
Ombra is a wonderful addition to the 818 — with its bustling feel, it’s a fun place for a small group or date night.
Starters, soups and salads $11 to $18, pastas and risotto $11 to $19, entrees $23 to $29, desserts $7. Corkage: $8 per bottle.
OMBRA 3737 Cahuenga Blvd., Studio City. Lunch noon-3 p.m. Monday-Friday; Dinner 5:30-10 p.m. Monday-Saturday. 818-985-7337. Reservations highly suggested.
Karen Young is the Founder/Editor of My Daily Find. Email: Karen@mydailyfind.com