Critic's Choice

Special restaurants for grown-ups: Pistola, Providence, Spago

After holiday potlucks, family get-togethers and office parties, you may need a shot of glamour

In the midst of holiday potlucks, family get-togethers, office parties and craft fairs, sometimes you need a shot of glamour. You want to celebrate in high style. Casual won't cut it. You want to dress up. You want tablecloths, Champagne, a thrilling menu and a special bottle of wine. You want, in short, a grown-up restaurant.


Pistola is the new restaurant from Gusto's Vic Casanova, who has moved into the old AOC space with this swaggering tribute to the East Coast Italian steakhouse genre. It's all dark wood, white tablecloths, big red wines — and beef. OK, maybe you'd want to start with an app — crispy Monterey squid and shrimp maionese, or charred Mediterranean octopus. But don't get too involved, if all is right in the world, one of those big steaks is headed your way. The rib-eye or the dry-aged tomahawk are tempting, but go ahead, get the dry-aged 18-ounce Delmonico. And with it, a bottle of Barbaresco from Produttori del Barbaresco or the Nerello Mascalese blend from Salvio Foti in Sicily.

8022 W. 3rd St., Los Angeles, (323) 951-9800, Steaks and chops, $49 to $125 (the latter the Fiorentina Porterhouse for two).


Michael Cimarusti is a genius with seafood, taking the best that his long relationships with purveyors can provide and creating fascinating, understated and elegant dishes. A live scallop with white truffle and salted butter, the grouper with delicate matsutake mushrooms, a spiny lobster ravioli, and uni beneath soft-scrambled egg stand out — but so does practically every dish. What's most impressive is the way Cimarusti orchestrates the tasting menus to provide a lyrical sequence of dishes. And, yes, you can get something other than seafood: a duck breast or Wagyu beef. But why not experience what the sea has to offer at one of the country's best seafood restaurants? With its dark blue velvet chairs, Providence is also one of the most comfortable restaurants in town.

5955 Melrose Ave., Los Angeles, (323) 460-4170, Tasting menus, $100 to $220 per person.


Spago still has the old glamour at the holidays when the old — and new — crowd come in for a festive lunch or languorous dinner from chefs Lee Hefter and Tetsu Yahagi. In December, dishes include veal filet mignon tartar with smoked mascarpone, hand-made agnolotti with an Italian chestnut stuffing and sautéed diver scallops with French black truffles and hazelnuts. The California tasting menu is a parade of dishes based on the best of local products. That could be Santa Barbara spot prawns two ways, bincho-grilled black cod with Asian slaw and black sesame paste, or California guinea hen with savoy cabbage and herb tea. Or, if you just want a bite, you can nibble on steamed short-rib bao or Puck's signature smoked salmon pizza at the bar.

176 N Cañon Drive, Beverly Hills, (310) 385-0880, Entrees, $36 to $95; six-course tasting menu, $95; eight-course menu, $145.

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