Trastevere – Travesty on the Promenade

trastevere, santa monica, los angeles, ca - spaghetti carbonara
It’s tragic.

I mean really, it’s just heart-breaking.

trastevere, santa monica, los angeles, ca

The stone facade is impressive, the Italian name carved across the top, so striking. Tourists are charmed by patio seating out front. White tablecloths. Baskets of bread. Wine. They are seduced by the idea of sitting glamorously under the southern California sun with their sunglasses on. How very Cal-Italian.

Hooked. Reeled in.

And then Trastevere ends up being…a travesty.

I am not a tourist. Nor was I deceived in any way into thinking that it would be a delicious surprise. I figured that I would have to eat there at some point during my career on The Promenade. Might as well get it out of the way.

The host gave us the option to sit outside, but we asked to be seated inside the dining room because 1) the freaks come out at night on The Promenade, b) I was curious about the interior since I see the patio every day, and lastly) the freaks come out at night on The Promenade.

Trastevere’s lofty interior matches the grand exterior. We walked through a front dining area, past a bar (bar!), and into the back dining area. There is nothing particularly remarkable about the decor.

Though the restaurant was crowded for the middle of the week, we had options with respect to seating. We chose a small table against a wall that afforded private awareness. I like to see what’s going on, but don’t necessarily like others to know who/what I’m doing. Our very friendly, somewhat oddly loud server took our drink order.

trastevere, santa monica, los angeles, ca - bread
unbad bread
trastevere, santa monica, los angeles, ca - antipasti
bad and ugly

Bread is always nice, but I wasn’t interested. I tasted a piece only so I could try the herbed olive oil, which was fine.

The rest of the food, however, was not fine. If I had to choose one thing that I had to order for the rest of my life in an Italian restaurant, it would be an antipasto of roasted, marinated vegetables, olives, salumi and cheese. It is very difficult for a restaurant to serve this poorly, since most of the items are not cooked by the kitchen. However, I was surprised by Antipasto del Contadino that Trastevere presented to us. The vegetables, bitter zucchini and overly woody eggplant, were bad, which is surprising for a restaurant that is one block away from a twice-weekly farmers’ market. Though the other elements – prosciutto, mozzarella, olives – weren’t inedible, their haphazard presentation on the plate was not very appetizing.

Spaghetti Carbonara was oddly dry and something about the texture was “powdery.” I picked at a few pieces of the bacon, and left it at that. While the carbonara at the very least had an un-ugly presentation, twirled and piled high on a plate, the Gnocchi didn’t even look promising. Rather than having a pillow-soft texture, the individual gnocchi were gooey on the outside and gummy on the inside. I’ve never made gnocchi before, so I can’t guess at what the problem might have been. I can’t even guess why they would make their sauce so bland, either.

trastevere, santa monica, los angeles, ca - gnocchi
gnummy gnocchi
trastevere, santa monica, los angeles, ca
dinner, imho

We only ordered espresso and tiramisu for dessert to buy ourselves some time to linger over conversation. The tiramisu wasn’t the worst I’ve ever had, and is probably the only thing I would ever order at Trastevere, if ever the occasion forced itself upon me to eat there again.

1360 3rd Street Promenade
Santa Monica, CA 90401

** a year ago today, shin sen gumi was grills gone wild **
** two years ago today, i had respect for sell-outs: wolfgang puck, cheesecake factory, and CPK **

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  • Simon

    Hi Sarah, is this carbonara? It looks like a somewhat poor rendition of it.

  • KT

    Ew! I know that’s not your camera, because you take good pictures. Tragic, indeed.

  • Cate

    Definitely a most unusual Spaghetti Carbonara. We had a Cinnamon Pancetta Carbonara the other night that was OMG good.

  • GT

    Ah Trastevere! The first time I ever had risotto. Wasn’t memorable as in can’t remember anything about the experience. More so now since I make a damn good risotto, if I do say so myself.

  • Anonymous

    We had the one of the worst meals in memory at Travestere. Everything from the waitress spilling red wine on us to the meals coming out 15 minutes apart and cold.

    Then the manager shrugged it off saying “there’s nothing I can to. It’s the waitress’s problem.”

    I’m surprised they’re still in business.

  • Taste-Buzz

    They were decent about ten years ago, but they’ve been in steady decline ever since. I currently have them as the worst restaurant in LA, by my estimation. Never again.

  • sarah

    simon: yes. a somewhat strangely powedery textured carbonara.

    kt: it IS my camera, but the lighting in the restaurant was really…romantic? LOL!

    oh, and HI! i haven’t seen/read you in a while!

    cate: oh, to have a spaghetti carbonara at home…envious!

    gt: will you make some for me?

    anonymous: wow. that’s horrible! such a waste of wine! :) they’re still in business because they don’t rely on repeat business, so if they screw up, they don’t need you to come back. they have fresh tourist victims every day.

    tastebuzz: worst restaurant? of all time? in LA? that’s quite an accomplishment given that they’re right there in the heart of the Promenade where there are more than a few contenders for that same title! ;)

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