When I was a little girl, my dad didn’t have the means for fancy restaurants, but his boss sure did. Every once in awhile, he would take my parents out for a special dinner in Beverly Hills. My mom would have her hair sprayed into an immovable up-do, and slather herself with Avon products. Dressed to the nines, my parents would leave behind the squalor and police sirens of Wilmington and disappear into a world of luxury. A world I could only imagine by the glamorous chocolate-dipped candy reception stick I would find on my pillow in the morning.
The first time I walked into La Scala, I recognized it as exactly the kind of place I used to imagine my parents floating off to – red leather booths, spotless white tablecloths, and ugly but expensive-looking English paintings. Although La Scala has changed locations during its long reign in Beverly Hills, it feels like it has always existed within these brick walls, lovingly watched over by the multitude of celebrity charicatures.
I ate lunch at La Scala again last week, during the lull between the lunch and dinner rushes. The employees were relaxed and smiling as they joshed around with each other. In spite of the fastidiousness, this is not an uptight atmosphere. A jacketed man stood near the bar, slowly inspecting the room with his hands on his hips. When he was satisfied that every glass sparkled and every napkin was correctly folded, I saw him take a deep breath of pride. He caught me watching him, and as our eyes met I spontaneously winked at him.
I consider the bread basket a harbinger of things to come, and their French bread is crispy, hearty and addictive. For antipasti, their crab cakes are delicately fried, and definitely more crab than cake. The lemony sour cream sauce is a little odd, but it works.
Although La Scala is known for their chopped salad, their minestrone, and their Spaghetti alla Bolognese, there is no dish I can recommend more highly than the Spaghetti al Cognac. The spaghetti is topped with a generous portion of tender shrimp which are flambéed with cognac and tossed in a perfectly balanced pink sauce.
The Cannelloni alla Gigi is pure heaven – homemade crepes with an unbelievably light beef and veal filling. They are swimming in the richest bechamel I have ever encountered, beribboned with just a few streaks of red sauce. I actually had to stop eating this dish before I was finished, and I have an unusually high tolerance for cream and butter. I would definitely recommend splitting it along with a lighter entree. The Chicken Parmigiana is crispy on the outside and tender on the inside. The coating did not become soggy even after sitting in a take-out container. With pasta on the side, The Parmigiana is a huge portion that easily serves two. For dessert, a chocolate cake layered with a cocoa mousse and intense ganache will satisfy even the worst chocolate craving (And if not, there is always the Edelweiss Chocolates Factory next door).
A surprisingly affordable splurge, a half-salad runs around eight dollars, pasta dishes average sixteen, and an all-out entrée will set you back twenty bucks. At lunchtime La Scala runs a brisk take-out business from the bar, with a convenient 10-minute parking zone just outside. But in the middle of a stressful day, there is no greater treat than to lean back in a comfortable banquette seat, order a glass of champagne and allow the solicitous staff to make you believe for just that moment that you are the most important person in the world. I can almost smell my mother’s Emeraude perfume.
La Scala 434 North Canon Drive, Beverly Hills, CA 90210 (310) 275-0579