At Estrella, Chef Mirko Paderno brings Northern Italian cuisine to the Sunset Strip

When you sit in the patio at Estrella, you feel like you’re in someone’s luscious garden. It’s relaxed, yet elegant and perfect for a romantic dinner or a night out with friends. Definitely not what you would expect from West Hollywood.

Mirko Paderno, the James Beard-nominated chef previously at Officine Brera, recreates Northern-Italian recipes, combining locally grown ingredients and delicacies imported from Italy. He focuses on cucina povera, “poor kitchen”, which we both agree sounds like a terrible name for such a delicious thing! It’s all about making simple dishes with high-quality ingredients, reducing waste as much as possible. It’s about extracting as much flavor from the ingredients as possible. And for that you need really good ingredients.

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That’s why you won’t find a menu on Estrella’s website. It changes daily, based on what’s in season and what the chef gets from the market. Let the chef guide you and relax while sipping one of their great cocktails. I recommend the smoky, spicy Sex Drugs and Rock’n’Roll, with tequila, ginger, lime, rosemary, and a surprising hint of nutmeg.

Risotto by Mirko Paderno

Risotto is Chef Paderno’s specialty at Estrella Sunset

Discovering Italian Delicacies in West Hollywood

When I visited, the soufflé of the day was pumpkin with a gorgonzola cheese sauce and a generous dose of shaved truffle, sourced by Truffle Brothers. The cheesy, savory sauce was the perfect counterpart to the sweeter winter squash and the truffle lifted the flavor. It’s a great way to start the meal: light and totally sharable.

My favorite dish of the night included the chef’s favorite ingredient: tomatoes. I had gnocchi with quail ragù. Imagine soft pillowy potato clouds, melting in your mouth, covered with a meaty hearty and yet really light sauce. Quail definitely has a more assertive taste than chicken, but it’s also delicate. This is a dish that would turn everyone in a fan of game. The sauce hit the right level of umami and was balanced by the sweet gnocchi.

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Chef Mirko was born and raised in Milan, the birthplace of risotto. That’s why he always has at least one variation of the dish in his menu. Tonight’s was a chanterelle mushroom and truffle risotto. The final step to cooking risotto is the “mantecatura”, the mixing of creamy things, usually done with butter and parmigiano (as Chef Paderno explains here). This risotto was perfectly creamy but still “al dente”, with a bite. Certainly not a poor dish, due to the presence of truffle, it was highly technical, luxurious and really simple at the same time.

Burrata at Estrella Sunset

Buffalo mozzarella and caviar “amouse bouche” at Estrella Sunset

Find Risotto and Other Northern Italian Specialties at Estrella Sunset

Much like his risotto, Mirko Paderno’s cooking philosophy is all about tradition, classic techniques, a passion for great ingredients and a touch of delicacies. The way he describes his process is deceptively simple. “It’s just buckwheat flour and water”, he says about pizzoccheri, a flat pasta, originally from Valtellina. This is the kind of dish you eat on the mountains, served with green cabbage, potatoes, butter and cheese. It’s pretty heavy, ideal for a winter meal.

Chef Mirko’s pizzoccheri are thin sheets of pasta, with a sauce made of casera, the impossible-to-find traditional cheese used in the recipe for centuries. It contains the classic potatoes and cabbage, but a touch of basil gives it a lightness that the conventional recipe is missing.

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If you like meat, and especially pork, I highly recommend the cotechino with cassoeula. Traditionally cooked right after the end of the pig slaughtering season, this dish uses the parts of the pig that were ready for consumption immediately after the slaughter. The more “noble” prosciutto and salami, meanwhile, would be hung to dry or cure. A slow-cooked concoction of less valuable pork meat (nose, rinds, ears, ribs), sausage and cabbage, is served in this case with cotechino, a large pork sausage that gets boiled for hours. It’s a great way to experience the different textures and flavors of pork, the meat with the widest range of uses.

Ending the meal on a high note, I tried a pumpkin semifreddo, covered in chocolate, with a hazelnut ice cream. A nice way to satisfy the desire for a taste of fall, still taking into account the warm weather.

Outdoor dining at Estrella Sunset

The patio at Estrella Sunset in West Hollywood

So When Are You Going to Estrella?

Estrella and chef Mirko will make you forget you’re on Sunset Strip and will transport you for a couple of hours to the foggy countryside near Milan. You will leave with a new perspective on Italian food, a satisfying combo of simplicity and luxury. Just fidati! —trust the chef.


This review of Estrella Sunset is based on a complimentary meal. Cover photo courtesy of Mirko Paderno. Other photos by Cinzia Giorgi for Foodiamo. All rights reserved. 


Where: 8800 Sunset Blvd., West Hollywood, CA 90069
When: Tue-Fri, 11am-3pm; Tue–Thu, 6-10pm; Fri-Sat, 6-11pm; Sun, 6-9pm; Sat-Sun Brunch, 10am-3pm; Mon closed
Phone: 310.652.6613
Details: Beer and wine; menu changes daily.