Of course you order the pasta al pomodoro at The Ponte. You must. You’d be a maniac not to. It’s possibly the best spaghetti dish in the city, and it hasn’t lost an iota of quality since chef Scott Conant took it from Scarpetta to The Ponte, the Italian restaurant on Beverly that opened earlier this year. I can’t do better than Jonathan Gold in describing it, so here are his words:
“It is awfully good spaghetti, made with fresh plum tomatoes cooked down for 45 minutes, and tossed with grated Parmesan cheese and a slug of good butter right at the end. It is swirled into a column and served in a modest-sized bowl. It is a little soft for some tastes, but it does that magical thing where it is impossible to tell where the pasta ends and the sauce begins. There are strong, clear hints of chile, garlic and fresh basil, which apparently come from a splash of infused olive oil, and a subtle touch of creaminess from the butter.”
A photo won’t do it justice, but here’s a photo anyway because the Internet demands visuals.
My wife and I finally want to The Ponte last week, and we luxuriated over this pasta for as long as we could, and when it was finally gone we ordered a dessert, which we had no idea was about to add a second layer of insane decadence to our evening.
We order the budino (an Italian pudding) pretty much anytime we see it on a menu anywhere, and we have never had a really bad budino, but we’ve also never had a standout budino that we were still talking about a day later, which is maybe why we always get it. It’s reliably good. Pastry chef Betty Park has gone a level beyond. Again, a photo can’t do it justice, but the Internet (*shakes fist at Internet*) is unrelenting.
You’ve had coconut and chocolate together before, but never like this, in such harmony. Much like the pasta al pomodoro, we tried to make it last as long as we could, and still it was gone too quickly. Park told me they went with a coconut budino in June as a nod to summer, and wanted to retain the fun, whimsical quality that everyone loved in the original banana budino.
The layers of the coconut budino are broken down as follows: at the bottom, a simple custard made from coconut milk, cream, sugar, vanilla and yolks, which is then topped with a spiced chocolate ganache. It’s made with a Mexican hot chocolate and cream, which acts as the “sauce.” The budino is topped with whipped cream, which adds to the creamy quality, and a sprinkle of sea salt to balance the sweetness. Finally, it is garnished with a baked, spiced chocolate meringue, which is made from egg whites that have been whipped with sugar and spread thin with tad bit of Mexican chocolate grated on top, baked until crisp.
“I love the combination of different flavors — that is what makes a dish more interesting,” Park said. “We knew that coconut played well with chocolate, and Chef Freddy [Vargas] and I wanted to add something extra to the tried and true combination. Using Mexican hot chocolate not only delivers a spicy kick but also brings the dessert to another level. I was also inspired by the cultural diversity of Los Angeles, which has exposed me to so many different ingredients from different cultures. Finally, Chef Freddy always says that he loves desserts that remind him of childhood, so that was also a thought I had as I was developing it.”