Archive for the 'Drago – Santa Monica' Category


Drago has been a favorite restaurant of ours since it first opened.  In those days we had a system where we had our friends to our house for a drink about 30 minutes before our presumed reservation.  But, we did not go to Drago until we called and found out if they had our table ready…no reason to stand outside. The lines used to be that long at Drago.
Drago’s service team were always Italian guys who were really knowledgeable about the food and really brought an Italian sensibility plus personality plus.  That is not the case now. I would call it generic servers who could be in any mid-level restaurant in Los Angeles.
BYO Wines
An amuse from the kitchen – Arancini. This used to be served with bruschetta with tomatoes and shaved parmesan – no more
Salumi – proscuitto, salame, mortadella, speck – we ordered this knowing that there was no way the kitchen could mess up cured meats
The salumi was served with fritto gnocco – excellent
Sous vide egg, parmesan espuma, proscuitto chip, toasted brioche, spinach souffle cubes – this was the dish of the evening – inventive and well-prepared
Spaghetti, cured tuna (bottarga), oil, garlic, lemon zest.  The bottarga dish was awful…this is a dish that has had a special, distinctive taste since the restaurant opened.  Last night it tasted like pasta in badly made dishwater…all of the unique character of the bottarga was missing. Jason, the new manager, came over to ask how everything was and my husband said he couldn’t eat one bite of the bottarga. Jason sought to explain this change to us by saying, “We knew you probably would order this and knew you would be disappointed.  We can’t get the original bottarga and this one has to have lemon zest added to try and replicate the original bottarga.  Sorry about that.”
The question, why not tell me?   Why compromise?  Why represent the dish as the “old standard”?
Small rigatoni, pancetta, onion, tomato – adequate
Sweet corn ricotta pillows, white truffles, parmesan cheese – the white truffles made this a $36.00 entree. The white truffles were tasteless and basically non-existent.
White corn agnolotti at Spago – what a difference.
The bottom line, not withstanding the delicious egg dish, we won’t go back — too many disappointing dishes and the whole feeling that we loved at Drago is gone.

Drago – Santa Monica

One of our favorite lunch places is Drago in Santa Monica.

We always start with Arancine as an amuse.

Gooey and gorgeous inside of the Arancine

Mozza’s Arancine – little balls of nothing

BYO White Wine

Grilled Shrimp with Citrus Vinaigrette, Mandarin Orange, Fennel and Frisee – delicious

BYO Red Wine

Spaghetti al Cartoccio “Seafood Spaghetti, light Garlic-Tomato Sauce -this dish can be a disaster if the seafood is overcooked – not at Drago – perfect mussels, excellent shrimp, tender scallops and squid

On the left Fettuccine alla Bolognese and on the right Risotto with Sausage – my husband always asks for a split order and they are more than accomodating.

Cheese to finish the red wine

A perfect lunch.

Drago – Santa Monica

Drago in Santa Monica is one of my favorite restaurants, particularly for lunch. The food is always well executed, the service couldn’t be better and the ambiance is soothing and calm.

BYO Wine

No photo – Arancini amuse

Beef Carpaccio, Arugula, Parmesan Cheese, Truffles – we tend to order this alot – excellent beginning

Polenta, Mushrooms, Fontina Cheese, Summer Truffles – very rich and very delicious

Grilled Marinated Quail, Gorgonzola, Walnut Salad – we haven’t ordered this before and we should have this on our most haves.

BYO Red Wine

Small Rigatoni, Kobe beef meatballs, Tomato and Romano cheese – another first for us – excellent at Drago and excellent as leftovers at home.

Drago- Santa Monica

An early quick lunch at Drago.

drago server

Salvador was our waiter. Interesting to note that he works at Drago at lunch and will be working at Bouchon at night. We will see him Saturday night at the family and friends dinner at Bouchon – “stay tuned”

drago red wine

BYO Red Wine

drago arancini

Arancini amuse – always perfect

drago speck

Salumi Misti – Proscuitto, Salame, Mortadella served with Gnocco Fritto – this was perfect – a generous serving of cured meats with addictive gnocco fritto

drago crispy

Close-up (blurry) of the gnocco fritto 

Recipes for the gnocco fritto here:,2498,FINE_22197_5749210,00.html

drago calamari

Calamari Fritte

To be honest the calamari is better at Vin Bar


Vin Bar Calamari

drago bolognese

Fettucine Bolognese

drago john's favorite

Risotto with sausage and Spaghetti Bottarga – cured tuna roe, garlic, bread crumbs, EVO- this is my husband’s favorite combination and Drago always does a split of the two.

A good lunch with wonderful front of the house staff

Drago – Santa Monica

Drago is our neighborhood go to restaurant. We have known Celestino Drago for years and not only  has he aged very well over the years, but he is as gracious as ever.



drago tuna

New amuse – tuna tartare on a potato crisp – good, but I do miss the Arancini

drago prawns

Grilled Santa Barbara prawns on caponata with basil oil, drops of balsamic, topped with crispy garlic strips- the prawns were head on and just meant for sucking every bit. The caponata was perfect and a great compliment to the prawns.

drago john pasta

Risotto with sausage and Spaghetti Bottarga – cured tuna roe, garlic, bread crumbs, EVO- this is my husband’s favorite combination and Drago always does a split of the two.

drago liz pasta

Tortelloni filled with pumpkin, sage, butter and Parmesan cheese – October food and “homey” delicious.

byo wine - drago

BYO wine

A quick lunch that just hit the right notes.


What do you do after waiting one full hour in a doctor’s waiting room and then spend another hour with a technician and finally see the doctor for 10 minutes?  Remedy : Eat and drink!

Drago is our go to restaurant for restorative nourishment plus pampering.

Drago Aranicini

Standard Amuse: Arancini and Bruschetta with tomatoes and shaved parmesan – Drago makes the best Arancini in Los Angeles


Drago Shrimp

Grilled Shrimp, Mango, Watercress and Endive – this is a half portion as we split – I love this dish and always order it.


Drago red wine

BYO Red wine



Risotto with sausage – not on the lunch menu, but we asked if they would make it. Delicious.



Wide Pappardelle in a Pheasant and Morel Mushroom sauce – Also not on the lunch menu, but again we asked if they would make it. This was excellent and the morels were perfect.

Think of Drago as Hospitality with an A+.



Who needs valium – a glass of grappa infused with camomile


As I have mentioned before, we have been very frequent diners at Drago and the restaurant is our go-to neighborhood Italian restaurant. 

The room at Drago is civilized. This is not scene dining. You can actually talk to your dining companion.





The standard amuse – Arancini and Bruscetta with tomatoes and shaved parmesan – My son loves Drago’s Arancini and had 4 last night!



Carpaccio di Tonno con Insalatina di Granghio 

“Ahi tuna Carpaccio, Dungeness crab salad, Lemongrass-ginger dressing” – very nice and light 



Carpaccio di Bue, Insalata Riccia, Pere, Parmigiano e Tartufo 

“Beef Carpaccio, Summer Truffles, Pears and Parmesan cheese Salad”

Never did taste this, although I have had it in the past and it is always good.




Costata Di Bue “Piemontese” Alle Erbe, Tortino Di Funghi e Patate

“Pan Roasted Piedmontese Beef Rib Eye, Aromatized with Herb Pesto, Potato Mushroom Tart”

Also didn’t taste this (my son is not a good sharer), but he ate every bit of the meat, but have to work on him re the veggies.



Doggie Bag Veggies




Coniglio all’Agrodolce

“Pan Roasted Rabbit in a Sweet and Sour Sauce” – Excellent

Italian Pastries for dessert (not pictured)

And then Marolo de Barolo, Grappa and Chamomile – I have never had this before, but my son and Silvio absolutely insisted I try it. Marolo is made by distilling leftover Barolo solids. While the grappa is aging in French oak barrels, fresh, local, chamomile is added. Incredible stuff.