I went to Scott Conant’s new L.A. restaurant, The Ponte, and didn’t order the chef’s famed pasta al pomodoro—in some circles that’s such a blasphemous statement to the point that I feel like I have to confess this right off the bat. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a very good pasta dish. The spaghetti is always perfectly al dente and the tomato sauce is cooked down to the ideal sweetness just as his grandmother would’ve done—a tangled twirl of love. It’s classic Conant, but I’ve had it before. There are simply so many other dishes to explore at the new Beverly Boulevard spot than to have the tried and true again.
Let me set the scene: The Ponte arose from the ashes of the relatively short-lived Terrine, opening only a few months after the French-inspired restaurant closed at the beginning of this year. Before it was a brasserie, the location was a long-standing Italian favorite with one of the most coveted patios in town. The patio, centered by a gorgeous bishopwood tree and filled with strands of lights and flickering candles, is as gorgeous as it ever was—it’s in high demand on the warmest, and, sometimes, even the coolest, of nights. Inside, the dining room and bar received a few touch-ups, like green velvet booths to replace red leather ones, sexy geometric lights instead of heavy mirrors, plus dividers adding to the intimacy. It’s less brasserie and more ristorante.
Conant made a name for himself in New York with modern interpretations of classic Italian cuisine at places like L’impero and Scarpetta. He came west and opened the latter (which has since shuttered) at Montage Beverly Hills, and over the years, has been on countless TV shows, penned several cookbooks and opened additional dining concepts around the country. He became synonymous with that pasta al pomodoro. It’s safe to say that someone who has restaurants in Phoenix, Miami, New York and Las Vegas can’t always be in any one of those kitchens all of the time. To steer the ship at The Ponte, he brought in his longtime local chef de cuisine, Freddy Vargas.
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