Locanda del Lago

Locanda del Lago's pizza margherita fresca

Crusty companion: Pizza margherita fresca

Cabbage patch: pizzocheri alla Valtellinese

Cabbage patch: Pizzocheri alla Valtellinese

Say cheese plate: (From left) Taleggio, Pecorino Toscano, and Montasio

Say cheese plate: (From left) Taleggio, Pecorino Toscano, and Montasio

Yet another good, authentic Italian restaurant to add to our burgeoning list, Locanda del Lago (231 Arizona Ave.) is an island of relative tranquillity amid the hubbub of Santa Monica’s Third Street Promenade, which these days is swelling with Italian tourists looking for—you guessed it—Italian food. (Would it kill them to try something new?) Differently from Pecorino and Da Pasquale (see reviews June 11 and June 16), Locanda offers dishes from Italy’s north, specifically Lombardy, whose fare tends to be meatier and cheesier than its southern counterparts. On this visit, we knew we wanted to try the pizza, which we had repeatedly spotted and longed for as we passed by the outdoor tables on our way to other destinations. Like other memorable pizzas we have had lately, Locanda’s boasts a thin, crisp crust, but unlike the others, it has a solid layer of mozzarella and chopped Roma tomatoes instead of a red sauce, like an ultra-refined prototype of a New York-style pie. The result tastes as great as it looks. Our other main dish was pizzocheri alla Valtellinese, featuring hearty buckwheat pappardelle tossed in a surprisingly delicate buttery sauce of garlic, Savoy cabbage, Yukon potatoes, Bitto cheese (a specialty of the region), and sage leaves. For dessert we started with a divinely dense and creamy semifreddo bursting with pistachio flavor and encircled by a ring of sweet, fruity compote. Eager for more, we assembled a plate pairing savory cheeses with complementary sweets. These included mild Montasio with bing cherry marmalade; ripe, soft Taleggio with mostarda di Cremona, a candied, subtly mustardy fruit preparation; Pecorino Toscano with a salty, pungent dipping sauce of cannellini beans and shallots in extra-virgin olive oil; and, as a bonus, a wine-poached pear in truffle-infused honey (not to mention a tasty heap of toasted walnuts and basket of bread to mop it all up). Though Locanda del Lago does not match the homey, family-run feel of our sentimental favorites, the food and service were first-rate. Even the Italian tourists seemed to agree.

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