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Sal Marino, Mark Peel team up for early spring pop-up dinners at Il Grano

Ready to have to make some tough choices? Mark Peel and Sal Marino have scheduled a series of early spring pop-up dinners for the end of February at Marino’s Il Grano restaurant in West Los Angeles. And rather than a single set menu, each course has a couple of options. Choosing may be difficult.

Do you start with pickled periwinkles, fava beans, sweet onions, new potatoes and black cabbage in Brussels sprout leaves on fava bean puree? Or do you go for a crudo course of raw clam topped with seaweed-enriched soy, Japanese yellowtail with sweet wine, wasabi medallions and sesame seeds, and spiny lobster with fresh sea urchin and lobster gelee?

“Sal and I have been friends for a long time,” Peel says. “Of course, we’ve known each other professionally for years, then our kids are going to the same nursery school, I guess they call it preschool now, and we’ve become pretty good friends.

“I’ve always really respected his cooking. I think he’s an incredible chef, he’s got a real delicacy and robustness. Plus, he’s serious -- he’s at the farmers market every week, at the fish market several times a week.”

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When it came to setting up a menu, it was more or less collaborative, with each having more say when it came to their specialties -- Marino is well known for his crudo and fish courses; Peel is a great meat cook.

So Marino proposed Maine striped bass sautéed in savoy cabbage with new olive oil, spring herbs and baby purple artichokes, and Peel countered with spring lamb cooked three ways (grilled chop, roasted saddle and leg, and braised shoulder) with spring onions and wild herbs.

The good news is that they’re repeating the menus on succeeding weekends, Feb. 21 and 22 and Feb. 28 and March 1. So if you’re really stumped, you can try both. The five-course menu is $75.

Il Grano, 11359 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles, (310) 477-7886.

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