North Italia is one of the cornerstone restaurants at El Segundo’s newest shopping center, The Point. With a modern take on traditional Italian cooking, North Italia’s menu has items poised to please all tastes.
To keep selections fresh and in step with the season, North Italia offers seasonal dishes along with their regular menu items. In this review, we’re looking back on items from the fall menu and a few regular menu favorites.
One of the best ways to get familiar with a restaurant’s menu is to sample a beverage or two…or three! The ones sampled on this visit said “hello, friend!” with the first sip.
The Spiced Plum Martini ($13) was an interesting spin on what I would call a bubbly sangria with a seasonal twist. The brandy kept the drink on the stiff side while the mulling spice kept the fall flavors present. Plum bitters, pomegranate, and what I’m guessing is a slightly dry bubbly wine keep the drink on the “no so sweet side”. If you’re looking for a martini that drinks like candy then you won’t want this one. If instead you’re looking for something that’s a little out there but fruity and refreshing it’ll be a perfect fit.
The perfectly made Apple Bourbon Punch ($13) was like drinking a cold glass of apple pie. I’m a bourbon fan so I’m biased but this was a perfect blend with apple and vanilla infused Buffalo Trace, lemon, clover honey, an chai tea. If you’re not a fan of brown liquor — yes, Old Fashioned and Manhattan cocktails can be over powering at times — I beg you to try the Apple Bourbon Punch; it might just change your mind.
Its rare that I wish I ordered an appetizer as an entree but that was certainly the case with the Seasonal Vegetable Salad ($12). This hearty and toothsome blend was a combination of all things fresh and savory with the perfect amount of sweetness. Butternut squash was at the forefront with the kale following behind nicely. The crunchy cauliflower and Brussel’s sprouts balanced the veggie flavor with a bit of charred, smokinesss; and the dates here and there had me digging in to find more of them. Honestly, I had a hard time sharing this salad. I wanted to claim it all for myself!
The Black Mediterranean Mussels ($14) make for another great North Italia appetizer. Served in bowl along with grilled bread, the mussels were pleasantly scented of the ocean, butter, and garlic. There’s plenty of garlicky sauce in the bowl as well — use the bread to scoop that up — to pair with the earthy flavor of the mussels. One thing to note, this dish is also served with a spicy salumi, which is a salted meat used for flavoring. If you’re a devout pescatarian, you may want to ask for the salumi to be substituted. Otherwise you’ll have to sit back and watch as your tablemates scarf down this appetizer right in front of you.
There are plenty of proteins to choose from under the “Mains” section of the North Italia menu; on this visit seafood seem to be a theme so the Diver Scallops ($29) were in order. Now, I’m a fan of scallops and enjoy when they are perfectly cooked: golden and crisp on the outside, fork tender in texture, and just turning opaque on the inside. Its no spoiler for me to tell you that these scallops were indeed “perfectly cooked”.
The one hesitation for me on this dish was the celery root risotto. Celery as a singular flavor can be bland at times if its not balanced so I wondered how the risotto would fare. Any fears I had were dismissed with the first bite. The risotto texture was delightful while the flavor was just as good with hints of celery, cream, and fresh pepper.
Playing the role of the seasonal entree was the Burrata Tortelloni ($17), an amazing little pasta tossed with butternut squash, mushrooms, and Brussels leaves, all drizzled in sage brown butter sauce. The butternut squash for this dish was grilled which was a pleasant diversion from the Seasonal Salad’s steamed or braised variety. The mushrooms added earthiness and indeed the butter was the perfect touch to bring all the flavors together.
It can be easy to get stuffed at North Italia on the appetizers and entrees but I highly recommend saving room for dessert. Even then, you’ll have a tough decision to make when faced with their Dark Chocolate Tart ($9), Tiramisu ($8), Bombolini ($8) which are cute little Italian donuts served on bed of lemon curd.
It will be of no assistance to help make up your mind but I will say this: all of the deserts are delectable.
If you’re dining with kids, get the Bombolini for sure. They’re fun to eat and — even with the tart lemon curd — the flavor is certainly approachable. For a more refined finish, I would choose the Dark Chocolate Tart. Its topped with Nutella Mousse and Pecan Toffee which could both be desserts all by themselves. Indeed though, the bitterness of the dark chocolate finds perfect accompaniment in the bits of candied nuts and light, airy mousse.
The Tiramisu is the classic that doesn’t lean left or right on this dessert scale but brings some fun to the final course. The addition of crunchy little chocolate balls on the top deliver a flavor reminiscent of malted chocolate. Tiramisu purists might scoff at the Whopper-like garnish but the rest of us can revel in in the tasty silliness of it all.
Elevated and Approachable Italian
I appreciate the fact that North Italia stays true to Italian dining; if you dine there and you want spaghetti and meatballs, you’ll find it. But I also applaud the menu items that invite diners to try other classic dishes that have been — as their logo states — “Handmade with love.” And with a menu that seeks to change with the seasons, it could be easy to become a regular and find something new with each visit.
Large groups will find themselves right at home in the main dining room. For quiet dates, I would suggest sitting outside on the patio area; the inside can get a bit boisterous during busier times. There’s also bar seating as well.
North Italia is open for lunch Monday through Friday from 11 AM – 4 PM with brunch service running from 10:30 AM until 4 PM on the weekends. Dinner service starts at 4 PM and runs until 9:30 PM on Sunday and Monday through Thursday. Friday and Saturday add an extra hour with dinner served until 10:30 PM. Reservations are available through Open Table.
- North Italia, El Segundo
- 840 South Sepulveda, Suite 110, El Segundo, California 90245; (310) 469 – 7695