A Hal-LAGO-Ween Good Time

In the heart of Santa Monica's infamous promenade is Locanda Del Lago, a restaurant with class, but more importantly, with delicious food. They are currently, for the limited time until Oct. 31, offering a creative Halloween-themed menu. Paired with the "creepy cocktails" the restaurant conjured up, a meal there is the perfect way to begin celebrating Halloween before the partying begins.

Tagliolini della Transylvania, Transylvanian black pasta, is one of the dishes Locanda Del Lago offers. Executive Chef Davide Vedovelli described the dish as "fresh cuttlefish in bloody tomato coulis."

This small description, however, does no justice to this dish. A tasty sauce complements the pasta that the chefs make themselves at the restaurant, with a perfect balance that leaves no unwanted fishy taste that other seafood pastas sometimes have. Vedovelli emphasized the "balance of the flavor," when describing all of his dishes.

The price is expensive for a struggling student, but don't let that scare you away. The above dish is $23.50, but worth the price, especially as it is only offered this week of Halloween. The least expensive dish, however, is also well-worth the price and only $9.95. It is the "Witch's Stew," or pumpkin soup with a parmesan bread crouton. The soup is basically pumpkin seasoned with various ingredients such as shredded parmesan, balsamic vinegar, and the crouton. It is smooth and flavorful, thick with the rich flavors of the pumpkin.

Also, if you do venture to Locanda Del Lago, you will notice the importance of presentation with their food. Vedovelli described the importance of the order in which the senses observe the food and the importance of the visual aspect. "First you have the view. Second the smell, and third, the taste." Everything is neatly arranged on the plates, making your mouth water as you see the dishes being served. As you walk in, you even are treated to see four to five of the chefs cooking in the front kitchen. When asked what he requires of his chefs, Vedovelli said, "Passion. Passion for the food."

Also, Vedovelli gets whatever he can from the farmers market which is hosted right in front of his restaurant twice a week. The inspiration for his food is directly from Italy.

He has been at Locanda Del Lago for five years. "Every time I go back to Italy, I go to as many restaurants as I can." He described his dishes as "real food from Lago," and explained that the Halloween-themed menu is derived from Italy as well.
For dessert, there is the Pan dei Morti, or "Bread of the Dead," which he also said is directly from the Lago, Lake Como in Northern Italy. It is bone-shaped amaretto-almond biscotti, with a zabagione-cream sauce on the side. Basically, the sauce is vanilla-flavored with wine, and the biscotti includes, "raisin, flour, sugar, eggs, hazelnut," and more.

One of the biscottis comes topped with powdered sugar, and the other with cocoa powder. A sliced strawberry sits by the biscotti as well. It is all as delicious as the main courses.

For the "creepy cocktails," one of their bartenders recommended the "Headless Horseman." "It has Brazilian rum, pineapple... it's my favorite - just enough to take it down." The key to a good drink is similar to that of the food.

He said the fruit they use is fresh, the drinks are strong, but balanced. The Mojito is the most popular, but he also recommends "Dracula's Revival" which is "not too sweet." As far as the food, he described it as phenomenal. "I don't go to any other Italian restaurants,." Looking over at Vedovelli, he corrected himself, "unless I'm with him." He also added that they are very critical of the other restaurants.

He described Locanda Del Lago as an "eclectic mix, local, family-owned, relaxed and good food."

Some other dishes they have for the Halloween menu include Merluzzo al Sangue di Pipistrello, or "Black Cod in Bat Blood," which is grilled black cod with black mussels, as well as Manzo di Lupo Mannaro al Sangue, "Bloody Werewolf Bones," which is beef tenderloin stuffed with roma tomato.

Coming up for Christmas and Thanksgiving is a dish which Vedovelli describes as having sausage and chestnut. They are located at 231 Arizona Ave. in Santa Monica, Calif.