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If you’re looking for a moderately priced dinner, you could really stop here at the pastas, all under $20, and with so many more to explore than we tried. Our protein-based entrées were pricier, but the two we tasted didn’t please as much as the pastas. The better one was pollo fiorentina, a variation of chicken Cordon Bleu, with a thick rectangle of boneless breast rolled around a stuffing of prosciutto, mozzarella, spinach, and mushrooms. It looks like a cube-shaped blimp, the Graf Zeppelin with breading and like early experiments in aviation aims to be lighter than air but doesn’t quite succeed. It’s a bit of a lead zeppelin, actually, but tastes nice anyway.

Veal scallops with mushrooms have one insuperable problem — that godawful white Provimi veal that tastes like Simulac, from confined, chained-up calves fed on formula. Despite the delicious wild mushroom sauce, with its deep, woodsy flavors, all four of us rejected the meat — this isn’t what good veal tastes like, so the hell with it! Really, it’s time for everyone with a palate and a heart to rebel against this cruelty to calves and to eaters. When you taste veal that’s fed on its mom’s milk and then given a few weeks on grass, the difference is hugely better for both ends of the food chain. (Of course, it’s even more expensive than Provimi. In the olden days, when I was young, real milk-fed was all there was, and it cost relatively the same as today’s industrial calf. But given a choice of industrial or exorbitant, maybe veal ought to be a luxury meat rather than a staple.)

The wine list is loaded with affordable bottles and fun adventures. If you order by the glass, you’ll receive a small, science-lab beaker with a generous pour. What caught my eye for the first course was a Viognier-Chardonnay blend called Arrogant Frog, a French meritage with a screw-cap, indicating it doesn’t expect aging. It was bright and lively. I wanted to explore this unknown further, and for the second course chose the same brand’s Cabernet-Merlot blend (“Ribet Red,” it’s called). It was okay, but for the same price we could have chosen an Antico Toscano that might have been mellower. For another ten bucks, the obvious choice would be Antinori Toscano, a known and proven quaff.

Dessert choices are tiramisu and cannoli (both made in-house) and ice creams. The cannoli were better than most local versions: the shells were crisp and fresh, and the thick, gooey ricotta-custard filling was decent (although, ever nostalgic for the Sicilian bakery across the street from where I lived in New York, I felt it could have used some bittersweet chocolate chips, orange rind, and perhaps something to lighten the texture). The tiramisu was coated with too much cocoa powder for my taste but was a light and reasonably good rendition. I wish the kitchen would add a few more interesting, genuinely Italian pastries — something like a torta della nonna, the luscious, nutty “grandma’s cake.”

Mark and Ben didn’t like their coffee. I was fine with my espresso — delivered, as requested, along with the sweets. I do like a waiter who actually pays attention to my requests, and if he flirts too, well, it’s la dolce vita — set in an Italian restaurant and directed by Federico Fedellini.

God/Goddess/Tao has handed humankind a plateful of woes: disease, poverty, old age, earthquakes, hurricanes, tsunamis, floods, famines, droughts, plus our own monkey-self greed, xenophobia, violence, and the planetary pollution we’ve created — and above all, the tragic, conscious knowledge that each of us will die. But it also gave us some sweeteners: The pleasures of the senses and of exercising the intellect, the ability to laugh, to love, and to take pleasure in each other’s company. Delicious dish? Seductive waiter? Surrender wholly to a moment’s joy! As that wise man, Ray Charles, used to sing, “Hey, everybody, let’s have some fun!/ You only live but once and when you’re dead you’re done/ So let the good times roll…/ I don’t care if you’re young or old/ You oughta get together and let the good times roll!”

“Do you think I can get them to pack our waiter into a doggie bag?” I asked my friends, chuffing like a contented cougar. “He’d be the perfect mint on my pillow.”

Olivetto Cafe and Wine Bar
****
(Very Good to Excellent)
860 West Washington Street, Mission Hills, 619-220-8222.
HOURS: Open seven days, 11 a.m.–11 p.m., including breakfast Fridays and Saturdays and brunch on Sundays.
PRICES: Dinner appetizers, $6.50–$15; Salads, $7–$8.50; Pastas, $14.50–$20; Entrées, $17.50–$25; Desserts, $7.
CUISINE AND BEVERAGES: Multiregional Italian trattoria cuisine. International wine list with plenty by the glass, plenty of affordable choices, fun to explore.
PICK HITS: Artisan cheese and salumi plate; stuffed eggplant; gnocchi sorrentina; ravioli de pere; pollo fiorentina.
NEED TO KNOW: Informal, neighborly feeling, rather loud but much improved since opening. Six lacto-vegetarian pastas and entrées, two of them vegan. Reservations strongly recommended, especially for weekend dinners.

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Comments

holygenes Oct. 24, 2012 @ 7:49 p.m.

The restaurant sounds good.

Positive comments about the waiter are definitionally positive.

I'm not thrilled about judging and superficialities.

To judge is to control is to enslave.

It's the basis of demonizing.

Demonizing knows no bounds when there's division and then there's endless divisions.

The point is to float false ideologies, such as by a tyrant, or a monopolist, say that's something like, oh, say, capitalism, and then say anyone who doesn't agree is, say, a witch, a communist, a gay person, etc.

In other words, the license to judge comes from the license to go on a witch-hunt.

The first was making straight guys afraid of being wrongly ferreted out as gay because witch-hunts are all about making people afraid of being WRONGLY burned at the stake.

My ideas are thoroughly pro-traditional morality.

That's because they prove it, so long as one deletes the judging, which acts like Gray's Sports Almanac displaced in time by Biff Tannin, while the East, upon closer inspection, is actually, after a key point, morally identical to the West, with many gradients of proof in between.

What makes one telling witch-hunt special is it propagated actual hypocritical bad guys.

It's why all the assumptions based on judging will continue to produce hypocritical bad guys, monopoly masquerading as capitalism, and leave us with a world where it's O.K. to say go ahead, keep destroying our planet at our expense, for your benefit. We'll just put up solar mirrors in space.

http://goo.gl/sQjDy

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