All You Need Is Love & Salt…

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Love & Salt.

The perfect recipe for a delightful dinner.

Last Saturday night Mr. Devil and I headed to Manhattan Beach.

What is usually an enjoyable and picturesque cruise by the ocean turned out to be a crawl. Who knew that you could have campfires on the beach in El Segundo at night.

The beach was aglow and the traffic was on fire. I was burning up by the time we arrived in the upscale and of late, foodie hamlet of Manhattan Beach.

Love & Salt is conveniently located on Manhattan Beach Blvd, which is the main thoroughfare in Manhattan Beach.

Chef Michael Fiorelli
Chef Michael Fiorelli

We booked the Chef’s Counter and had an up close and personal experience with Chef Michael Fiorelli and the competent kitchen staff.

Interior Love & Salt  photo:twitter.com
Interior Love & Salt photo:twitter.com

The 100-seat restaurant which opened in November, was designed by Ana Henton of MASS Architecture and features paneled walls, exposed wood beams and a large steel “love” sign created with empty salt shakers.

Chef Michael Fiorelli (formerly of Terranea) kept the flow going. The kitchen appears to function like a well-oiled machine. The timing was awe inspiring. Even the staff’s exit and entrances from the kitchen  appeared coordinated. I wish I could duplicate the timing in my own kitchen.

Now, let’s get down to the food.

The restaurant, named for the owners’ philosophy that great food mostly needs love and salt, serves Italian dishes showcasing California ingredients.

The opening act includes offerings of cheeses (3 cheese, house jam, duck fat crackers $17), proscuitto ($12) homemade English muffins with rosemary and cultured house butter ($6) and thick cut homemade ciabatta toast ($4).

We ordered a fabulous bottle of Macchia Primitivo Di Manduria wine and the price point provided a lovely finish ($40).

Burrata and Leek Toast
Burrata and Leek Toast

We started with burrata and leek toast which was delicious except for the pickled fresno chiles on top. I really dislike peppers except for fresh ground black pepper.

The toast was laden with them, but the ciabatta was thick and crunchy and the burrata was creamy ($13).

Mortadella Hot Dog  photo:latimes.com
Mortadella Hot Dog photo:latimes.com

We skipped the Odds & Ends consisting of a mortadella hot dog ($10), corned lamb tongue panini ($13), crispy pig’s ear ($9) and roasted glazed pig head ($45)…I don’t do head of any sort.

Shaved Fennel Salad
Shaved Fennel Salad

The small plates were very appealing. The simply shaved fennel salad with parmesan, olive oil and crackled black pepper was refreshing and quite tasty ($9).

Oven Roasted Baby Carrots
Oven Roasted Baby Carrots

The wood oven roasted baby carrots with whipped sheep’s milk ricotta were fabulous ($12). By the way, on most restaurant menus carrots are prevalent and appear to be the new kale.

The portion looks skimpy because my husband could not resist digging in when the carrots arrived. I was deep in conversation with Chef Fiorelli, discussing food rather than consuming. David dove into the pizza, as well, before I could photograph the dish in its’ entirety.

Sauted Cauliflower Leaves
Sauteed Cauliflower Leaves

The sautéed cauliflower leaves with mascarpone polenta, olive oil and parmesan was my favorite selection  of the evening ($12).

Mushroom Pizza
Mushroom Pizza

The roasted mushroom wood oven pizza was very good and was topped with creamy taleggio, fontina and thyme.

Pasta was also on the menu ranging from potato gnocchi with proscuitto, mushrooms and wild arugula ($16), bucatini featuring fennel sausage, black kale parmesan and bread crumbs ($18), agnolotti with wilted escarole, parmesan brood and little rabbit meatballs ($18) and rigatoni with poached tuna, fried capers, olives and stewed tomatoes (4!8).

I did not have room for pasta, but if I did I would have gone for the cavatappi with bone marrow, parmesan and cracked black pepper ($16).

Rabbit Porchetta
Rabbit Porchetta

The main dishes or family-style platters feature roasted whole chicken ($46), rabbit porchetta ($75), whole branzino ($65) and a roasted 32 ounce bistecca ($75). We skipped the main because they are huge and you need to be at least a party of three to four.

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I was not craving dessert, but my husband gave the server carte blanche. He loved the almond infused treat and I was just not that into it ($9).

The team at Love and Salt is stellar.

The former Cafe Pierre owners where Love & Salt now resides, are father and daughter team Guy and Sylvie Gabrielle.

Stephane Le Garrec helms the dining room as General Manager and Melissa Gabrielle (Guy’s other daughter) is serving as Assistant GM. Melissa could not have been more accommodating and gracious.

Pastry Chef Rebecca Merhej
Pastry Chef Rebecca Merhej

Love & Salt’s pastry chef, and chef de cuisine Rebecca Merhej, elegantly whips up the desserts and salads.

The restaurant features a wine list curated by Guy Gabriele and cocktails by Vincenzo Marianello (Copa d’Oro). Next time, I have to sample the housemade limoncello which is one of my favorite after dinner drinks.

We had a lengthy discussion with Chef Fiorelli who is talented and congenial and had the good sense to bring his staff with him as he transitioned from Terranea to Love & Salt.

Love & Salt is a great neighborhood haunt as well as a destination restaurant.

A pinch of just the right amount of salt, plenty of love, a talented chef, competent staff, devoted owners and some outstanding dishes are obviously a recipe for success.

Love & Salt. 317 Manhattan Beach Boulevard, Manhattan Beach, Califonia. Open Monday-Thursday 5:30-10:30pm, Friday and Saturday 5:30-11pm, Sunday 5:30-10pm. Reservations on OpenTable.com  Street parking available. Info@LoveAndSaltLA.com.

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