What’s Good at Luigi al Teatro, Santa Monica
We found excellent crudos and seafood pastas at Luigi al Teatro in Santa Monica. Oh, and leave some room for Chef Luigi's creative take on Neapolitan "pastiera" cake
Prepare yourself for a dinner you will never forget!
After the success of his first restaurant, Osteria Venice West, which boasts all the deliciousness of a typical Italian menu, Michelin-starred chef Luigi Fineo aimed to create a nuanced culinary experience, rooted in Italian coastal traditions. This project gave birth to Luigi al Teatro, a unique seafood restaurant where flavor and ambiance come together to create the meal of a lifetime.
Before opening his first restaurant, Luigi worked for Celestino Drago and became the only Italian chef to serve delicious food for two years at the French Laundry in Napa Valley. Among his other achievements, ahem, he also cooked for us at Foodiamo back in the summer of 2017.
Fair warning… dining at Luigi al Teatro can be expensive, but definitely worth every penny. The following review refers to the full menu available at dinner. Recently, the restaurant added a very reasonably priced lunch menu, which you can see here.
What’s the vibe at Luigi al Teatro
Luigi al Teatro takes its name from its venue, a 1910 building that used to be a theater from the mid ‘80s until recently. The decor is classy and romantic, with complementing music filling the atmosphere.
You can decide to sit outside in the patio, enclosed by a vertical herb garden and adorned by rows of dimly lit string lights, or dine inside, where the high ceiling, stained windows, and the frescos on the walls are reminiscing of medieval times. The staff is warm, welcoming, and attentive, setting just the right mood for the meal without intruding upon your party’s privacy.
As I took my seat inside, facing the open kitchen, I asked Chef Luigi which dishes are the most popular and which are his favorites. “The most popular are the Scallops (crudo), the Amberjack, the Gnudi and East Sicily, which are also my favorite dishes to make. I guess I put some extra love in them, since they are my favorites, so that’s why everyone likes them.” Sold!
What’s good at Luigi al Teatro
I started my meal with Prosecco as a prelude to the first course: thinly sliced sashimi Scallops served in a shell ($19). Their delicate texture and flavor was pleasantly juxtaposed against the crunchiness of the garnishments, which made for a perfect match. (VV.G. very very good)
Then came the Amberjack ($22), served with smoked roe, chives, and dusted with finely grated boiled egg yolk. My taste buds were cheering and applauding as I savored each bite.
After the two cold appetizers, we moved on to the Gnudi, a typical Tuscan dish ($36). The word itself is an old dialect version of the word nudi, which means naked. It indicates that there is no pasta to “cover” this ricotta filling. The result is a fluffy, light, airy dumpling-like pasta, which created a perfect pillow for the accompanying shellfish. (ExG. Extremely good)
To cap off the savory experience, I had the “East Sicily” Pasta con le Sarde, aka spaghetti with sardines and anchovies ($30). Even though it may seem like a bold dish for the unsuspecting, the flavors are still delicate, the pasta perfectly cooked and overall a great dish (TOP just because we LOVE pasta, don’t you ever forget).
Now, ready for dessert? Don’t miss Luigi’s “deconstructed” version of the famous Pastiera Napoletana, with barley and ricotta ($10)—the happily ever after to fairytale dinner (FLG finger licking good).
This review of Luigi al Teatro is based on a complimentary meal. Photos by Raffaele Asquer and Annalisa Rinetti for Foodiamo. All rights reserved.
Luigi Al Teatro
Where: 3116 2nd Street, Santa Monica, CA 90405
When: Mon-Fri, 11:30am-2:30pm, 4:30-10pm; Sat-Sun: 4:30-10pm
Details: Extensive wine list
Phone: (310) 328-0000