Food & Wine People Restaurant Review To Do in L.A.

Ago Fantastico

The scene at Ago: We love the bar to grab a bite, meet some interesting people or enjoy a couple glasses of wine

What makes a restaurant last? Why do some restaurants continue to prosper while other are a flash then they burnout?

In the Restaurant Issue we dive into some of the more revered dining establishments of Los Angeles and we also explore some of the new restaurants who are currently hot, but we wonder if they will be here next decade.

First up is perennial favorite, Ago. We love this restaurant and are not surprised that they are popular as ever — thirteen years after opening! Ago is the perfect restaurant because of their immense graciousness, super-fun atmosphere and delectable cuisine. You know that you are welcome, that you will be well taken care of, and that you’ll have a great time. You’ll be whisked into your table or you can hang out at the bar — either way, their first line of business is to make sure that you are comfortable and that you have everything you need. This atmosphere of graciousness could be pinned on Italian hospitality and it’s a welcome reprieve from “Hollywood” attitude. The team at Ago are professional and efficient with warmth and kindness oozing from their every pore.

The steak!! Amazingly delicious

After you are seated with your favorite glass of wine to enjoy, prepare to taste food that is just downright delicious. It is decadent yet feels healthy. The langoustine appetizer is served with steamed greens and the flavor and texture combination of a bite of the langoustine mixed with the delicate fresh greens is absolutely divine. A light shower of lemon juice and you’ve got food perfection. The specials at Ago are consistently exciting. Gentle folds of delicate homemade pasta envelop asparagus tortellini, in a light creamy cheese sauce with shaved black truffles on every bite.

Delightful pasta

Another great thing about Ago is the scene. There’s always an interesting crowd filled with power and beauties. There are frequently famous people — we’ve spotted everyone from Meredith Grey to Jodie Foster. Everybody who’s anybody is drawn to the positive energy of the place. There is some of the usual Hollywood ridiculousness with bizarre body parts, really short skirts on some ladies and guys with lots of hair gel, but the people watching is half the fun.

This January 2011, Ago will close for the first two weeks while undergoing an exciting and transformational remodel.  The patio will stay the same – of course – but prepare to see booths in the main dining room.  The kitchen will be partially closed off with new cabinetry, there will be a new soundproofed ceiling, and the bar will change.  They are even installing a flat screen television behind the bar so you’ll have a new place to watch the game.  You’ll hardly be able to recognize the place with their new look but, thank goodness, the amazing cuisine will remain the same.

General Manager Stefano Carella with legendary chef Agostino Sciandri

Ago was started over a decade a go by renowned chef and restaurateur Agostino Sciandri. “We have the best clientele in Los Angeles,” Sciandri says. “We do Hollywood, but we also cater to businesses, hotels and tourists.”

He notes that he’ll never stray too far from his roots — authentic Tuscan-style Italian cuisine. Sciandri says. “What people really want is the delicious, high-quality but basic food that Italians eat every day.”

The 65-year-old Sciandri was born on a farm in the countryside of Aulla, Italy, between the food-famous regions of Tuscany and Emilia Romagna. There his family grew everything from wine to grains and raised chickens, ducks and pigs. “My mother was a terrific a cook,” Sciandri says. “She made everything fresh from our farm. She made pasta and ravioli, chicken, lots of soups.

“I wasn’t interested in cooking then,” he adds, “but I learned from her what good food should taste like.”
Sciandri left home at 18 and went to cooking school, but not because he was interested in learning to be a great chef. “I was young, and country life was boring,” he says. “I didn’t have any idea what I wanted to do. I took a cooking class and it turned out that I was kind of good at it.”

After graduating in 1961, Sciandri moved to London, where he worked for nearly a decade, mostly at French restaurants, including at the Savoy Hotel. He then moved with his wife and three small children to Forte dei Marmi, a seaside Tuscany resort near where he had grown up, and spent the next 13 years there as a chef in one the area’s top hotels.

Seeking an adventure, a challenge and a change of pace, Sciandri moved to Los Angeles in 1985. At the time, there were not a lot of Italian restaurants in L.A., and those that did exist were of the red-and-white-checkerboard-tablecloth, chicken-parmesan, spaghetti- and-meatball variety.

“Lots of garlic and lots of grease,” Sciandri recalls. “I wanted to open a Tuscan-style Italian restaurant and really add something different to the restaurant scene.”

The famous patio - where love and business deals bloom

Seeking an adventure, a challenge and a change of pace, Sciandri moved to Los Angeles in 1985. At the time, there were not a lot of Italian restaurants in L.A., and those that did exist were of the red-and-white-checkerboard-tablecloth, chicken-parmesan, spaghetti- and-meatball variety.

“Lots of garlic and lots of grease,” Sciandri recalls. “I wanted to open a Tuscan-style Italian restaurant and really add something different to the restaurant scene.” Which is exactly what he did!

Sciandri went to work for three years as Executive Chef at Il Gardino in Beverly Hills, the city’s first Tuscan-style restaurant. He then opened Toscana in Brentwood, where he was executive chef and co-owner for 13 years.

Both restaurants had a huge impact on Italian dining in L.A. “When we first came to L.A, the old-style, southern Italian cooking was all people knew about,” says Piero Topputo, executive chef and partner with Sciandri at Caffe Roma in Beverly Hills. “Agostino brought the Tuscan style of cooking here — very light, very simple. He introduced new food items that we imported from Europe, things like buffalo mozzarella, branzino, radicchio, arugula, porcini mushrooms. This influenced how people in L.A. thought about Italian food.”

While at Toscana, Sciandri also launched the highly successful Rosti chain of restaurants, based on the popular deli-style rosticcerias in Italy.

In those days, Toscana was considered the top Italian restaurant in L.A. and, as it happened, it was a favorite dining spot of Robert De Niro’s when he was in town. The actor, who already owned, among others, Nobu and Tribeca Grill in New York, was exploring opening a restaurant in Los Angeles, so he approached Sciandri. And in 1997, the two of them, along with Hollywood heavyweights Bob and Harvey Weinstein and Tony and Ridley Scott, opened his namesake trattoria, Ago, in West Hollywood on the fabled Melrose Avenue.

Ago became an instant success, attracting a Hollywood hipster set that gathered for late-night dining. Over a decade later, its bustling bar, charming patio and elegantly casual dining room still draw crowds night after night.

Now Serving Happy Hour:
3 pm – 7 pm Monday – Friday

Ago Restaurant
8478 Melrose Avenue,
West Hollywood, CA 90069
(323) 655-6333
www.agorestaurant.com

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *