Bed First, Dinner Second – La Terza

vanilla bean panna cotta with apricots and almond brittle

La Terza
8384 West Third Street (@ Orlando Avenue)
Los Angeles, CA
323.782.8384

I didn’t know much about him.

He lives in San Francisco. He’s a big-time successful lawyer. And the thing that gripped me right from the start – he knows his restaurants, food, and wine like the Tribe knows their giant village.

Or so that’s what I was told.

That’s all I knew about Jason. Just the basics. Gawd, I didn’t even know Jason’s last name, and before I even got to really know him beyond just “Jason the foodie lawyer from San Francisco,” I found myself stumbling into his apartment in the City with a bottle of wine and jumping into his bed without even thinking.

You delicious little slut, you!

Oh, please. *chuckle*

Jason is a co-worker of a friend of a friend of a….who would be off travelling when we made a trip to San Francisco. Somehow, it worked out that Jason generously offered his apartment for the weekend to spare us the ridiculous hotel prices in the City. He just sent down a spare set of keys along with his own personal “Jason’s Guide to the City” that is a goldmine of information. If you ask nicely, maybe I’ll share.

I slept in Jason’s bed, but he wasn’t in it. Besides, it takes a little more than one bottle of wine. ;)

Eventually I learned more about Jason, mostly through group email chains and second-hand stories from friends. He even sent me screeching like a monkey when he agreed to contribute to my very first Dine & Dish, Bar Fly, with a trip to Town Hall in San Francisco. Of course, he refused to take any pictures of the food, but I forgave him since his superb writing tells the story vividly enough without visual aids.

It happened that Jason was coming down to LA for a weekend wedding trip and did I have Friday night open to meet up for dinner? *gasp!* Meet Jason for dinner?!?! Um, let me take a peek at my PDA. Hm *tap* my weekend *tap* looks pretty tight, but I think I can *taptap* shuffle my schedule if I postpone making my monthly chicken stock to *tap* Saturday night instead. There, done. Sure, Friday night will be fine, for meeting Jason for the first time ever over dinner.

Ohmigod, dinner with Jason! I felt….weird. It was like flirting with that guy for three months in hope hope hopes that he’ll ask you out, and when he finally does, it’s almost too much and you have no idea what to do with yourself. I have to get my hair highlighted. Nails done. Eyebrows waxed. Wait, no, I don’t have real eyebrows, but if I did, I’d wax them, too. And most importantly…where are we going to eat?! This is Jason. He who executed a Southern Belle Debutante Ball dinner party menu that, when I saw a copy of it via email, pratically made me faint. He who goes to some obscure central California location on the personal invitation of some uber-secret winemaker for a “what-happens-in-the-vineyard-stays-in-the-vineyard” weekend food and wine orgy. He who calls down to markets in LA to arrange for a bag of groceries to be picked up and taken to a sick friend. Jason. Oh the pressure to make the perfect reservation. For four days, I was sweating like I was slurping down yook-gae-jahng in the main room at Beh-buh-lee Hot Springs.

I was afraid to pick one of my favorite restaurants. What if I rave about how much I love it, we go, and it turns out that Jason doesn’t like it at all? My horrible taste would be exposed and I’d be consigned to fine dining at KFC, or worse, the Cheesecake Factory, for all eternity. The best bet was to select a place I had never been before. If it’s awesome, it’s awesome and Jason will think me a respectable restaurantfuntime heroine. If it’s miserable, then I can just chalk it up to bad luck with a new place. Then again, I might look stupid anyway for not being able to choose a restaurant. *pressurepressurepressure* Jason isn’t really that shallow at all, but that’s how I felt. You know how we second generasians put all kinds of weird pressure on ourselves. We narrowed it down to three and let Jason make the final decision.

la terza restaurant, los angeles, ca
font=”murdershewrote”

Jason selected La Terza.

La Terza is in the ooh-la-la Orlando Hotel at the corner of Orlando and Third, that’s so chic it now goes by just “The Orlando.” The space used to be Cava, which I visited a few times back when saying “tapas bar” a little too quickly in L.A. raised an eyebrow and required follow-up clarification. No, we’re not going to a strip club. It’s tah-pahs. Cava wasn’t outstanding, but only one of a few tapas restaurants in LA, and I was a teeny bit disappointed that it closed. I got over it pretty quickly, though, when I found out it was going to be the baby sister of Angelini Osteria. The Osteria is awesome, and now I finally get to try La Terza.

la terza restaurant, los angeles, ca - vjb 2003 syrah
que syrah, sarah?

When we got to La Terza, Jason and Colleen were already there, waiting in the teeny bar area behind the hostess stand. Jason was holding a bottle of wine that he brought just for this occasion, because he most certainly couldn’t trust the wine list of a restaurant he didn’t know ;) It was a syrah, because as I recall, Jason was really “getting into syrah” at that time. VJB 2003 Syrah. It’s from the Dry Creek Valley. Sure sounds like a wine orgy to me . Yummy.

The restaurant doesn’t look anything at all like its former incarnation. I would have loved to have dined in the light, airy, windowed front section with ceilings that extend through the second floor, but the pretty little hostess seated us at a small square table about halfway to the back of the restaurant. Tables are topped with white cloths and small candles. Simple wooden chairs are just uncomfortable enough to keep your proper. The decor is simple with white walls, strategically placed potted plants, and an interesting light fixture here and there. Overall, fairly non-descript, like the living/dining room in a starter tract home somewhere in Tustin. It wasn’t bad, but it was clear that the focus at La Terza would be on the food.

la terza restaurant, los angeles, ca - white bean spread with bread
like hummus, but more italiano

The menu looks like one of those pleat
her-tone expandable file folders that attorneys and accountants drag around on wheeled carts. I’m not quite sure what effect La Terza was going for nor why, but the font was old-school typewriter and the paper was antique ivory. With the decor and the menu, it felt like Murder, She Wrote in The OC. As we looked over the menu, the same feeling I got when we were figuring where to eat returned. Pressure. What to order? It made me so nervous that I couldn’t stop tearing at the bread that came to the table with a garlicky white bean puree (mental note: try to make this at home instead of hummus one day). Jason asked the server to please open the wine? Dang, that is hard core. Jason is preparing. And could the server also please do something about the legs because the table top is uneven? Dang, pressure. Pass the bread.

la terza restaurant, los angeles, ca - salumi
that would make a killer sandwich
la terza restaurant, los angeles, ca - tuna in endive
next time, skip the starkist

We started with the antipasto plate. Easy enough, and delicious, as well. I am not fond of mortadella because I cannot get it out of my head that it is the original ancestor of baloney. I know it’s not Oscar Mayer and for God’s sake it has pistachios in it, but I couldn’t do it. Instead, I focused on all the other supremely salty cured prosciutto, bresaola, salami, olives and cheeses. Lovely. I could have poured myself a glass of Jason’s wine and snacked off that plate all night. But I don’t think the wine was ready. LOL!

Though service is knowledgable and friendly, it is painfully slow. Had it been any other night, I might have taken more notice, but Jason is not only a fantastic writer, he is also an engaging conversationalist, keeping us all very well entertained in the would-be-noticeably long lapses between our server’s appearances. Even when the eldest daughter of the family next to us swatted a tabletop bottle in some sort of overexuberant pre-teen princess fit and sent it down to its messy balsamic-marinated mess of glass shards all over the floor behind me, Jason eased what could have easily been a very tense moment.

la terza restaurant, los angeles, ca - bone in ribeye
textbook medium rare
la terza restaurant, los angeles, ca - fish
it sure ain’t Dover sole

Colleen ordered pasta, and shamefully, I don’t remember what it was at all. In fact, it might have been a risotto, so that’s just how deliciously horrible my Citron/soda was. Braised tuna and vegetables in endive was as good as it should have been, but I must have forgotten that tuna cooked anything beyond seared tastes like Starkist to me. It was a reminder for next time. My own eyes widened at the size of the bone-in ribeye that was charred on the outside and cooked to a textbook medium-rare. Well rested, the meat didn’t even taint the pristine plate by bleeding oily pink. Though Jason knows that the special del giorno is always the way to go in a restaurant, he can’t stand Dover sole, so he went with a halibut. I think. I can’t say I know for sure what the thick, meaty white fish on his plate was because I couldn’t keep up with his rapid-fire cross-examination of our server. Jason is a lawyer. They do that, you know. ;)

la terza restaurant, los angeles, ca - nectarine tart
very silverton-esque
la terza restaurant, los angeles, ca - Vanilla bean panna cotta
ooh la la – panna cotta

Normally, the dessert selection at Italian restaurants don’t make me hot, but La Terza’s desserts go beyond tiramisu and gelato (not that there is anything wrong with either of those desserts – they are desserts, after all.) Nancy Silverton is the consulting pastry chef for La Terza’s dessert menu, so I had to try something. I practically survived on leftover La Brea Bakery pastries and Campanile desserts for almost a year and a half shortly after college. I know that Jason wouldn’t have gotten up from the table without at least trying one, even if that meant ordering it and taking no more than half of a bite. We ordered two, and both the peach tart (which Jason made the server swear wouldn’t be anything like a Paula Deen peach pie) and vanilla bean panna cotta with apricots were very Silverton-esque, which I can’t describe, but if you know Silverton and La Brea Bakery and Campanile, you know what I mean. I wasn’t blown away by either one, especially since I’m no fan of panna cotta, but that doesn’t mean I ate more than just my fair taste ;)

I paid attention to the details of the food, wine, ambience, and service at La Terza as closely as I could, but there are times when you forget to stash a copy of the menu in your purse and you leave the camera flash “on” because the entire experience is such that you just don’t care to wait! hold still! for the long shutter. Dinner with Jason at La Terza was one of those times. The food was good. The company was better. I know I’ll be back to La Terza for dinner. Back to Jason’s bed, though? Guess that’s up to him…

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  • Sam

    cheeky girl
    next time you can stay in my bed ;]

  • Tana Butler

    Well, will the elusive Jason allow you to publish his wit online in your blog? Or are you going to keep him all to yourself?

    I can’t believe Sam just called you “cheeky” and offered you her bed. And she said “stay” and not “sleep.”

    Ooooweee.

  • Anonymous

    You slept in his bed?! Another reason to hate attorneys! ;-)

  • MEalCentric

    Foodie Lawyers (though u hate the word “foodie”)– seem to be a lot of them out there. Wonder what the connection is?

  • djjewelz

    DURRRTY GIRL!!!! Food pr0n rocks. Your boys are opening up at Spundae tonight, look forward to seeing them and the rest of the lineup there.

  • sarah

    sam: careful what you offer! i may take you up on it!!

    tana, are you jealous? maybe we can convince sam to have a slumber party?!? ;)

    oh anonymous, you’re just mad because you have to work with them all day

    l.a.c.: come one now, i pay attenion, but that doesn’t mean i take your recommendations, LOL!

    m.c.: i think it’s that food has absolutely nothing to do with law stuff so it’s a good escape.

    dj: how were s.a.i.??!?! i missed them, but i’m not sorry that i did – i am not too fond of circus (the venue) haha!

  • Foodie Universe

    I love panna cotta! I’ve actually only had it once, at Osteria Latini. I wasn’t overwhelmingly impressed with their food overall, so I imagine even better panna cotta experiences lurk in my future.

    God it’s hard to take photos of your food and postpone that first bite!

  • sarah

    oh, amy, tell me about! especially when it’s dessert (though i wasn’t chomping at the bit for these two, so that’s okay)

    )

  • dospeak

    ahh it turned into rated R!!

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  • Lester King

    Jason is so kind then. Good luck to both of you. I had fun reading your post. Thanks for sharing the story.

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