Find Authentic Italian Fare in an Upscale Setting at Culina in Beverly Hills
I’ve never been to The Four Seasons Hotel in Midtown Manhattan, a neighborhood whose fast pace can only be rivaled by a NASCAR track. I’ll bet, though, that in comparison, experiencing its Beverly Hills outpost is like taking a leisurely stroll through the park — a very fancy park complete with a fire-and-water fountain.
While the indoor dining room of Culina is stunning — it boasts herringbone tile floors, a 25-foot light fixture of hand-blown Czechoslovakian glass, and a raw fish bar you can cozy right up to — sitting outside is a must. The outdoor garden features a “living wall” of succulents, a garden with real lemon trees (which the chef intends to use to make homemade lemoncello), and of course, there’s that fancy fire fountain we mentioned, which is also outfitted with light projectors.
The new sous chef, Dennis Stritto from Naples, brought us something called Montanare: pizza dough that is deep fried, then baked in the oven.
We tried three varieties: heirloom tomato marinated with basil and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, sliced smoked Buffalo Provola cheese, and sea urchin from Santa Barbara.
“In Napoli, there are 100 uses for pizza dough,” chef Stritto explains. “After World War Two, people needed to find ways to prepare the dough without an expensive wood oven. So, they would deep fry these little pieces of dough, fill them with ricotta or tomato, and sell them on the street.”
He also knows how to make a mean lobster fra diavolo: the secret, he says, is in knowing how to preserve the quality and freshness of the lobster, then adding some chopped Calabrian long chiles, garlic cloves, and well, the rest is magic.
For dessert, we were treated to a trio of sweets from pastry chef Federico Fernandez.
The tiramisu, which eats like a merengue, is a variation from a classic recipe that originated from Bice restaurant — also in Midtown Manhattan (which has since closed). At Culina, it has found new life made in espresso syrup with mascarpone cream, “coco snow,” and espresso merengue. It’s the perfect way to end an authentically Italian meal in a venue whose décor mirrors the quality and care invested in the menu.