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Sor Tino Swings the Pendulum Back to Authentic Italian

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(Darien Morea, Intro and photos by Gerry Furth-Sides). Even with its wide front veranda lush with greenery  and twinkle-lit at night,  it is easy to slide right by Sor Tino Italian Restaurant because of its borderline Brentwood residential location on Barrington off busy San Vicente.

Not so for the neighborhood regulars who have been frequenting it over the nearly 30 Italian restaurants in the area, sometimes two or three times weekly.

Opened in 2004 by owner Agostino Sciandro, the “Sor Tino” in the name translated into the slangy, affectionate manner of address.

Agostino Sciandri, chef-owner for whom Sor Tino is named

I enjoyed a delightful lunch at Sor Tino this week with four friends.  We shared all the dishes, which were entree sized.For our first course, we selected a garden fresh salad of Grilled Calamari rings, Tomato and Arugula dressed in a light Balsamic Vinaigrette.  With the calamari perfectly tender, we were very pleased.

Along with that we ordered the Panzanella Salad, which led with cut Heirloom Tomatoes that were as thick,  juicy and ripe as is possible (and as we all know, difficult to find in L.A.), cubed Italian Bread, Cucumber, Baby Capers, Red Onion and Basil, dressed in a Red Wine-Lemon Vinaigrette.

For our entrees, we selected two pastas.  Pappardelle Cinghiale (Wild Boar Ragu), with an unctuous, rich, slightly tomatoey sauce including large pieces of the Boar that had been cooked for hours in the sauce, is the equivalent of a rich man’s Bolognese.
Sor Tino was the first to offer wild boar in Los Angeles in the early 1990’s, now almost an Italian restaurant staple (LocalFoodEater has even down a roundup on this, our favorite dish)
Not to name drop (but I will), I had first been introduced to this dish at the home of the father of Leonardo di Vinci in the town of Vinci, Tuscany, and Sor Tino’s version was its equal in every way.
We also shared with gusto Ravioli Funghi with veal and mushroom Ragu. This pasta dish of sliced Fresh Porcini Mushrooms with large home-made Veal-Ricotta Ravioli is nestled in an earthy Veal-Mushroom Ragu – which takes hours to make.  It is very unusual to have the opportunity to enjoy an actual Porcini, which are so expensive to import.
We topped off our meal with two desserts: Torta della Nonna, which is a type of tart actually, including a shortbread crust topped with (in order) a thin layer of chocolate, a baked custard filling, a top crust and a sprinkling of toasted pine nuts and confectioner’s sugar to finish it.  It has all of the homemade “grandma” taste in its name but the consistent, crisp professional taste of being prepared in a highly professional kitchen bakery.
We paired this with a Mascarpone Cheesecake, which was creamy and somewhat “New York” style.    The restaurant alternates  ricotta style cheesecake with this one.
The focaccia bread that comes to the table is also baked fresh at the restaurant. Its is the perfectly acceptable way to “mop up” every bit of sauce in a dish.

Our service was excellent – the waiter and busboy took good care of us. It is for me the quintesenntial neighborhood restaurant that I would frequent in Florence – familiar, friendly, warm, homey, but elegant and special at the same time.

In between its white tablecloth days, the space became the wildly popular Rosti, which quickly became a standard bearer for  “take-away” rustic Italian food.


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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.