The long-awaited RivaBella restaurant opened this week on The Sunset Strip in West Hollywood. RivaBella is a partnership between Innovative Dining Group (the folks behind WeHo's Katana and Boa) and celebrated Italian chef Gino Angelini. I was able to check it out on its second night with a travel journalist visiting from New York City. It takes most restaurants a few days or even weeks for the entire operation to run smoothly, so I cautioned my dining companion that a few snags in the experience were possible. Well, my warning was completely unnecessary because our evening was absolutely flawless and my travel writer guest (a hard-to-impress jetsetter) was gushing about the meal.
At more than 8,000 square feet, RivaBella is a huge space, but doesn't really feel like it because it's broken up into an interior dining room, bar/lounge, absolutely stunning outdoor dining area and a cavernous space at the back of the restaurant that's designed to look like an old-fashioned Italian wine cellar. The overall effect is elegant and romantic, yet, in keeping with its Sunset Strip location, also quite modern and unpretentious. It's like a romantic Tuscan farmhouse meets a trendy, boutique hotel and it all works quite nicely.
Every staff member we encountered was personable and knowledgeable. We let our waiter, Brian, guide us through the menu and took most of his suggestions, starting with the eggplant parmigiana, which has a melt-in-your mouth quality, and a very good beef carpaccio topped with fresh greens. Second course was a sampling of pastas including the linguine with sea urchin sauce (perfectly al dente) and the evening's highlight, the "Lasagna Nonna Elvira," chef Angelini's grandmother's recipe. You have not experienced lasagna until you have had it here. Rich, satisfyingly cheesy, yet strangely not very heavy, it's the best lasagna I've ever tasted. We finished with the delicious lamb chops.
It's a testament to Innovative Dining Group that they can open a restaurant this large and sophisticated, and have it operating pretty much flawlessly by day two. RivaBella is a great addition to the exciting new dining landscape of The Sunset Strip and a great spot for a date, celebratory dinner or gathering with friends. Located at 9201 Sunset Boulevard in West Hollywood. Open seven days a week for dinner, and weekdays for lunch. Phone: 310.278.2060. It's going to be popular, so reservations are recommended.