Silvio De MORI is a consummate host. As maitre d' and partner at the French bistros Mimosa and Cafe des Artistes, he set the tone with his warm and ebullient personality. Now De Mori has opened his own place in Beverly Hills, De Mori, following the breakup of his partnership with Mimosa chef Jean Pierre Bosc.
The Italian restaurateur has taken on the notoriously difficult space in the Rodeo Collection that once housed Reata, a flamboyant cowboy steakhouse that quickly went adios. The cowboy gift shop, Western paintings and framed leather chaps are history. The outsize space has been nipped and tucked to create something a little more cozy, and given a Mediterranean accent with splashes of yellow and turquoise paint. A huge mural that encompasses only the forehead and eyes of Michelangelo's David creates a surreal backdrop for diners digging into linguini and clams or grilled eggplant and bufala mozzarella panini.
Initially, De Mori's 76-year-old mother was the cook. But after a month, she went back to Italy. He has retained a few of the most popular dishes, including her minestrone and the classic spaghetti Bolognese. Under new chef Andrew Kirschner, who cooked in San Francisco at Eos and at Joe's Restaurant in Venice, the menu is polished contemporary Italian with a California twist.
For starters there's a wonderful salad of watercress with roasted beets, goat cheese and prosciutto strewn with toasted pine nuts in a Sherry vinaigrette. If you prefer pizza, there are usually three kinds each night. And of course there's pasta, including a terrific version of linguini with seafood in a spicy tomato sauce.
Dinner entrees are ambitious, such as sauteed whitefish with black kale, baby artichokes in a smoked tomato coulis or duck confit with a white bean and porcini mushroom ragout with roasted grapes and a port wine sauce. But you can also find something as simple and soul-satisfying as veal Milanese, a veal chop on the bone, pounded thin, dipped in beaten egg and bread crumbs and fried a perfect gold.
All in all, De Mori, which is also open for lunch on Saturdays, fills a niche and offers some of the best Italian food in Beverly Hills. But with very little street presence, you have to know where to find the restaurant: down the escalator, below street level, in the Rodeo Collection.
Where: Rodeo Collection, 421 N. Rodeo Drive, Beverly Hills
When: 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. and 5 to 10 p.m. Monday through Saturday.
Cost: Dinner appetizers, $7 to $12; main courses, $15 to $25. Lunch entrees, $9 to $15.
Info: (310) 274-1500