Da Pasquale

Miracle of melanzana: Penne alla siciliana

Miracle of melanzana: Penne alla siciliana

Crisp and delicate: Pizza vegetariana

Crisp and delicate: Pizza vegetariana

Bean encounter: Insalata di fagioli bianchi

Cannellini zone: Insalata di fagioli bianchi

Crunchy and chewy: Pasquale's bread

Extraordinary: Pasquale’s bread

Last night we returned to one of our favorite eateries, Da Pasquale (9749 Little Santa Monica Blvd.), a Beverly Hills trattoria specializing in Neapolitan cuisine. Run by a husband-and-wife team, the restaurant prides itself on the authenticity of its food, offering none of the Americanisms (Parmesan on seafood, chicken on pizza, alfredo sauce) that stir indignation among purists. Because of the southern orientation, a vegetarian can do quite well here. The daily soup is typically bean-based and vegan, a hearty lentil, chickpea, or cannellini preparation bolstered with pasta (the native Italian half of our duo insists the soups are just the way his grandmother from the south used to make them), and the menu offers many other inviting options. There is, for example, a delicious, not-too-heavy vegetarian lasagna with eggplant, spinach, ricotta, béchamel, tomato sauce, and Parmesan, as well as a variety of crisp, delicate pizzas (start with the classic margherita or the vegetariana). Our meal last night began with the cannellini soup and the insalata di fagioli bianchi (cannellini beans, again, marinated in olive oil, garlic, and lemon and served on a bed of arugula with toasted bread). For our entrée, we both chose penne alla siciliana, in which Anna, the indomitable chef, virtually melts eggplant into an incredible tomato sauce with just a little mozzarella (we needed a double portion, since this dish is too good to share). For dessert, we went with another irresistible favorite, coppa amaretto, an unbelievably creamy cup of mascarpone flavored with an almond cookie soaked in amaretto di saronno (an almond liqueur). We would be truly negligent if we failed to mention Pasquale’s extraordinary bread, a puffy circle with a toasty crunch on the outside and a moist, chewy inside, always served hot from the oven and perfect for dipping in extra-virgin olive oil. Don’t let the Beverly Hills address fool you. Da Pasquale has both great food and a casual warmth all but guaranteed to leave you with a smile.

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