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History-making Chef at Osteria Bigoli

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(Gerry Furth-Sides) Knowing  Claudio Marchesan is in the house at Osteria Bigoli in Santa Monica is enough to bring out fans immediately.  I am one of them.  We know the name translates into  hearty Italian food and lively atmosphere from the founding chef of the enormously successful Prego in Beverly Hills, Pane e Vino (Los Angeles and Montecito) and Il Fornaio with legendary San Francisco restaurateur Larry Mindel. Underscore enormously successful.

The ebullient, masterful Marchesan does not disappoint in the kitchen.  Its as if the chef-owner condenses all of his decades of grand scale restaurants into into his new gem of a “new home”.   He not only creates and carries out the dishes to consistent perfection on  his chef-driven menu, but he also presides over the warm, woodsy, intimate, neighborhood dining room space, table hopping in-between cooking.

Timeless classics, both familiar and unique, are on the menu.  Oswaldo, the ultimate server effortlessly takes care of the entire filled dining room, explaining dishes with enthusiasm and accommodating every need.

Fried, tender calamari with a golden crust and tangy aioli falls into the first category.  The  go-to staple first came into the public eye in 1975 with a New York times article, then offered as an exclusive dish in high end “exotic” eastern seaboard cities.  By the mid-1980’s it had gained popularity in most restaurants, and by 1996 was earned a permanent place in the company of such beloved and “hip” new dishes as tuna tartare, ramen, and short ribs. (http://www.towndock.com/squid-market-history-calamari/)

Chef Marchan prepares this dish with authority.  His Fritto Misto Di Calamari E Gamberi adds shrimp in a rich seafood tangle with the squid)and adds grilled lemon and herbs to bring out the texture and flavor.


Grilled octopus is a non-fried option, served with fingerling potatoes, arugula, tomatoes coulis and mint.  salumeria and cheese board for two

Trippa Alla Fiorentina is a fascinating dish, carried out with pride and precision.  It comes straight from the heart of the chef’s birthplace in Grado, northwest Italy.   Brazed honeycomb tripe, tomato sauce, cannellini beans, parmesan  in this composed stew is appetizer or main dish perfection, down to the toasted fresh bread to soak up the sauce.

Braised Short Ribs with Pappardelle is slowly baked in red wine, mushrooms and tomatoes. Melt-in-your-mouth short ribs hold the sauce with an intense depth of flavor, along with endowing it with a rich, royal dark color.   The wide Pappardelle pasta, our favorite, “takes on” the sauce so well it becomes a robust partner adding body to it.

Housemade pastas are so intriguing  we paleos had to have two.   The  Sausage Ragu with Wild Boar mixed into the fat tubes of Bigoli pasta is a specialty.  Other choices even more decadent include Rigatoni Carbonara short tube pasta, guanciale, white wine and Pecorino Romano.

Osteria Bigoli also offers for the paleo, roasted meats, sustainable fish, grass-fed Angus Flat Iron steak and marinated vegetables.  Veal and pork meatballs are prepared  “old school” with a rich Pomodoro sauce and fresh parmesan.   Visit the menu at bigoliosteria.com

Dessert are made in-house.  The cannoli is crispy and not too sweet, filled with ricotta and sprinkled with chopped pistachios.  Other choices include Tiramisu, Buttermilk Panna Cotta and New Orleans style Bread Pudding.


The kitchen  graciously accommodates all dietary restrictions with gluten-free flavorful pastas, dairy-free entrees and nut-free sweets.

Claudio Marchesan is a native of Grado, Italy.  He attended ENALC, the Professional Cooking School of Rome, from 1966 to 1968 where he studied under the guidance of the renowned Master Chef Giovanni Caruso, one of the still living prodigies of the one and only “August Escoffier”.   Watch for cooking classes and wine pairing events in 2018. Osteria Bigoli, 714 Montana Avenue in Santa Monica.  Hours: 5:30pm – 10 daily, closed Mondays.

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Gerry Furth-Sides

Gerry Furth-Sides

Content Editor/Columnist

Photo-journalist Gerry Furth-Sides has been covering the ethnic and American culinary scene in California since it first came into prominence 25 years ago.