Surprise, surprise! Eater reports that sbe's Mercato di Vetro opened its doors in a uncharacteristically quiet manner yesterday, beside the legendary Troubador on Santa Monica Blvd. Like the hospitality company's own reinvention from Hollywood nightlife kingpins to international restaurant professionals, the turn-around here was neck-breakingly quick, finding the brand's last local gasp of exclusive clubdom, Mi-6, transformed into what we assume is a sort of Eataly for people who adore The Hills. Not that the cooking of Danny Elmaleh, who knocked the socks off of see-and-be-seen diners with competent, accessible Middle Eastern cuisine at Cleo, doesn't sound like an improvement on the surrounding options already (and hey, Ms. Sherry liked Cleo more than Son of a Gun). So what is sbe adding to L.A.'s boundless Italian scene?
Usually a restaurant gains a loyal following for a specific recipe or condiment before it goes ape-shit in the gift shop department, but Mercato already has a signature line of products in place to sell from its larder, as well as what Eater calls "imported Italian products." Meanwhile, the menu is broken down into simple terms even US Weekly readers can understand in sections like "Salads," "Wood-Oven," "Meat," "Pasta," and "Fish," with three kitchens handling a range of duties and departments and stressing fine product and ingredients, both local and Mediterranean.
Small plates abound, with antipasti served from a central bar, and today's current crop of popular Italian buzz-dishes like crudo and crostini, as well as pizzas that must be better than the flacid pies at Villetta's (egg and sausage already sounds up our allies), pastas made in-house like a pappardelle lamb bolognese, and straight-forward servings of meat that offer early temptation in a lamb with rosemary honey, potato gratin, and mint pesto, plus meatballs made of veal and beef, shellfish and bucatini served in a plastic bag, and branzino with curried cauliflower, yogurt, and cilantro (you can take the chef out of the Middle Eastern restaurant, but you can't take the...etc. etc.).
There's little doubt here that Mercato di Vetro will quickly enrapture a certain segment of our population, specifically those who take the restaurant's Facebook promise of "some of the most authentic, house-made pasta in Los Angeles" at face value. The space looks polished to be not too rustic, not too glam, the food so far sounds easy, dedicated, and refreshing (with plenty of cooks in the kitchen), and sbe has a built-in crowd.
We won't hold our breaths for the new Mozza or Angelini Osteria or Scarpetta, but anticipate Mercato will be proficient in Italian and prove quite popular with gaggles eschewing Cosmos for their first flirtations with Campari and the former fliers of Ed Hardy's flag who court them. That being said, it still sounds better than spending the day with real-life Europeans over at Rose.
Mercato di Vetro, 9077 Santa Monica Blvd. West Hollywood. 310-859-8369.
Earlier: What to Expect at SBE's Mercato di Vetro [GS]