• Rosti Tuscan Kitchen: A little bit of Tuscany on your doorstep

    February 7th, 2011mr meanerLA restaurants, rosti tuscan kitchen

    The Leaning Tower of Pisa, Puccini, Truffles and Chianti: Buildings, music, food and wine respectively are all synonymous with Tuscany in Italy, probably one of the most beautiful places on earth. Boasting a similar climate to Southern California with a natural beauty and centuries-old architecture and culture, Tuscany is a place that you know you’ll always go back to after you’ve been once.

    I am, therefore, glad that I don’t have to travel for 18 hours to experience a little bit of Tuscany thanks to Rosti Tuscan Kitchen, a traditional Tuscan-style casual dining restaurant with two locations in Santa Monica and Encino. The owners have also taken great steps to accommodate their vegan, gluten-free and vegetarian guests, and we each have our own menu in addition to the main omnivorous menu.

    Hungry for some vegan Tuscan cooking, we dropped by the Santa Monica location and were greeted by the owner, the super-nice restaurateur Kevin Goldfein who was kind enough to tell us about his restaurant concept and advise us on ordering a bunch of items from the vegan menu.

    Like me, you’ve probably noticed Rosti’s prominent corner location situated on trendy Montana Avenue directly across the street from one of our favorite bars, Father’s Office, but other than a quick visit there a few years ago for a take-out sandwich I had no idea of the amazing food and superb dining experience that lay within. First off, Rosti is very much like a small-town eatery in Italy where high quality food is promptly prepared and served for casual in-house dining or packed up to go. Of course, in American style, Rosti has table service and an active home delivery operation so you’re pretty much covered however and wherever you want to eat the food.

    Mr. Goldfein explained to us how most of the fresh produce is produced from local farms, and that he recycles aggressively (even the cooking oil) in an effort to establish a more sustainable footprint on the environment.

    For us vegans, though, we’re very well covered with an all-encompassing menu of very tasty, traditionally produced food.

    First off, we had an order of the freshly baked ciabata bread with some house-brand olive oil.

    Yes, that bread is as good as it looks (or probably even better), and it provided the perfect appetizer to get us excited for what was to come.

    Veggie Chopped Light: Mixed Field Greens tossed with Fresh Tomato Checca, Cucumbers, Pine Nuts, and Reduced Oil Balsamic Vinaigrette $7.75

    Next up we got two salads from the vegan menu: The Veggie Chopped Light with Greens, Tomato Checca, Cucumbers, Pine Nuts, and Reduced Oil Balsamic Vinaigrette which was a wonderful execution of simple ingredients prepared to perfection.

    Vegetarian Antipasti Salad: Shredded Romaine, Black Olives, Tomatoes, Cucumbers, Fresh Basil, & Garbanzo Beans, tossed with Fresh Thyme Vinaigrette $7.75

    A notch higher in taste was the Vegetarian Antipasti Salad with Romaine, Black Olives, Tomatoes, Cucumbers, Fresh Basil, Garbanzo Beans and an out-of-this-world Fresh Thyme Vinaigrette. This was one of those dishes where one can really taste the freshness of everything and the dressing (made from scratch) really set this salad on a high plane indeed. Probably one of my favorite salads in the LA area.

    Talking of making things from scratch, Rosti makes basically everything from the ground up in their busy kitchen including all dressings, doughs, soups and sauces (that’s how they can be 100% sure about what’s vegan), and even something normally as run-of-the-mill like Penne All’ Arrabbiata (penne pasta with spiced-up tomato sauce and garlic) tastes completely unique: the sauce is nothing like you’ll find anywhere else, and has been prepared freshly that day by the chef.

    Penne All’ Arrabbiata: Spicy Tomato Sauce with Garlic & Herbs $10.50

    Remember that most restaurants (especially casual dining within this price range) buy virtually everything in bulk from Sysco or some large-scale restaurant supply company, meaning that your pasta dish or whatever will taste almost exactly the same in many different restaurants.

    Thank goodness for restaurants like Rosti who preserve the art of from-scratch food preparation yet don’t charge the earth. It’s no secret that we had our eye on a pizza, having heard from non-vegan friends how great the crust and sauces are (again, everything is made in-house).

    One of the reasons for such a wonderful crust is the presence of a wood fired pizza oven tucked against the back wall of the kitchen. It’s here, in searing temperatures, that the crust gets is signature crispy texture yet remains moist inside.

    There are a couple of vegan pizza offerings, and you can create your own using a ton of fresh ingredients. We went for the awesome-sounding Marinara Mushroom & Onion Pie with Mushrooms, Caramelized Onions and Fresh Thyme.

    Marinara Mushroom and Onion Pie: Mushrooms, Caramelized Onions, & Fresh Thyme $10.50

    As this was served with no cheese (not a vegan substitute either) the end result was more like a flatbread than a pizza, but the crust and sauce lived up to their reputation and we were blown away with the taste and freshness. The caramelized onions in particular deserve a call-out for being so well prepared and extremely tasty.

    One thing you notice about non-cheese pizza is that you can eat a lot more of it before filling up (and to those who are watching the calories, the absence of even the least fatty vegan cheese drastically reduces the calorific value of the pizza). This is a good combination: more pizza for less calories? SIGN ME UP! Rosti are experimenting with some vegan cheeses, though, and we hope they adopt one as that crust and sauce does deserve a little more on top on occasion.

    Finally, just as we were full to the brim and ready to leave, Kevin suggested we try the Lentil Soup. We initially declined, but he insisted, saying “we’re quite proud of it!”, so we capitulated on the understanding he would serve it to us in a small espresso cup.

    Homemade Lentil Soup

    Oh boy, this soup was wonderful – very healthy tasting and supremely filling. Next time I visit Rosti I’m going to get a bowl of this with some of the fresh ciabata bread and fill up on this goodness. Again, the soup is freshly prepared daily to a unique recipe. This ain’t your mother’s lentil soup, for sure!

    Other goodies we didn’t get to try include some amazing paninis, hummus, roasted vegetables, and there’s a “Tuscan Vegetable Plate” on the vegan menu that allows you to choose three different freshly cooked vegetable servings from the selection.

    If you want to get your drink on, the Encino location has beer and wine, whereas Santa Monica does not.

    Of note, the staff here are friendly and polite with a great knowledge of the menu and food items. One of our servers had been with Rosti for over ten years which says a lot about how they treat their people and customers.

    If dining al fresco is your thing, Rosti has a pleasant outside patio seating area adjacent to a garden they planted with herbs and spices native to Tuscany.

    Seriously: If you like Italian food and want to experience some great vegan dishes in a nice atmosphere with friendly staff do pay a visit to Rosti. I hope that plenty of vegans show up there and support their efforts to introduce a special vegan menu – the more of us that do, the more they will add to the menu and the more other restaurants will take notice and do the same.

    Hats off to Kevin and his team for some great vegan options in a part of town that’s notorious for a lack thereof.

    Rosti Tuscan Kitchen
    931 Montana Ave
    Santa Monica, CA 90403


    16350 Ventura Blvd.
    Encino, CA 91436
    (818) 995-7179

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12 responses to “Rosti Tuscan Kitchen: A little bit of Tuscany on your doorstep” RSS icon

  • The Vegetarian Antipasti Salad, the Homemade Lentil Soup, and the vegetable selection look great! (And, for those living in Santa Monica, how neat that they DELIVER!).

  • fritz, they also have a gluten-free and vegan pizza crust that they cook on separate pan!

  • I love that they have a separate vegan menu. I will be sure to give this place a try. It would be nice to see some vegan cheese options, though.

  • Great! I looked at their gluten-free online menu, but didn’t see it. As I recall, it only lists pastas, which, I would think, most likely contain eggs.

  • The street view of the Encino location in Google Maps shows an empty lot with a construction crew in front! LOL

  • My experience with Italian restaurants is that if they have an eggless pasta as an alternative option for vegans, it’s also the gluten-free option (i.e., rice noodles).

  • Yes, I love Sante La Brea’s Sante Alfredo with rice noodles! And of course Sante La Brea states right on the menu that this substitution is available….

  • Gauri Radha गौरी राधा

    This looks awesome.

  • I just read this again. I love the gluten free pasta with pink sauce there. The lentil soup is gluten free

    Nice pictures in your story

  • I love Rosti and I was stocked when they added the vegan and gluten-free menus! Believe it or not, you can have both at the same time and it’s really good. Been meaning to write my review for a while, and now I’m inspired to finally make it happen. : )

  • I was thrilled to discover the vegan menu on Rosti’s website, though I’m not sure it is yet on the printed menus inside of the restaurant, but I’m sure that’s to come.

    I recently stopped in at the Encino location and was fortunate enough to run into the owner on the day before he met with you (yes, I asked if he’d made it onto any of the vegan sites, particularly this one). He was quite indulgent with all of my questions and we even discussed sodium content, a subject very close to my heart (pun intended). When he told me that there is no salt added to the vibrant and luscious looking cooked vegetables, I had to order the rosemary potatoes to go along with:

    “The NO B: Just L.T.A. Sandwich
    Arugula Lettuce, Tomatoes, Avocado with Balsamic Drizzle”

    I do not like raw tomatoes so we substituted radicchio. The perfect balance of placement and proportion of ingredients on the delicious ciabatta was heavenly.

    I will return next week for more…

  • Just make sure they realize you’re ordering off the vegan menu. I got a roasted veggie salad to go and they gave me one with feta on it because I guess I wasn’t clear enough. But when I called to tell them about it, they delivered a vegan one for free (I still tipped, of course!)

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