La Traviata, 301 Cedar Ave., 432-8022.
• Hours: Open from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. for lunch and 5 to 9 p.m. for dinner Monday through Friday, from 5 p.m. to whenever Saturday and Sunday for dinner and fun.
• Location: La Traviata is at the corner of Cedar and Third Street. Valet parking is available as well as lots nearby.
• Staff/Service: The staff is amazing, knowledgeable and attentive; service is professional and as you require.
• Food/Drinks: The menu is referred to as nouveau Italian.
Appetizers include Mushroom Strudel, Crab Cakes, Kumquat Coco Prawns, Trio of Ravioli, Seared Tuna, Calamari Fritti, Foie Gras and Scallops, Beef Carpaccio and a Cheese Platter. Salads include Della Casa, Traditional Caesar, California Meadows and Spinach.
Entrées vary depending on market conditions. At La Traviata only the best and freshest ingredients are used. On any given day, entrées might include Capellini Checca, Chicken Tortelli, Lobster Ravioli, Veal Ravioli, Vegetable Risotto, Chilean Sea Bass, Porcini Risotto, Chicken Violetta, Filet Mignon, New York Steak, Roast Rack of Lamb and Mustard Roasted Pork Tenderloin.
The wine list is Wine Spectator approved and ranges from California greatness like Altamura and Opus One to astounding Bordeaux like Chateau Petrus, Latour and Margaux. There is a wide range of Italian classics as well as interesting wines from around the world.
• Atmosphere: The atmosphere is one of opulence, yet it is very comfortable, easy to linger over a glass of port listening to a fine singer or pianist. Décor is similar to a grand vision of Italian classic opera house.
• The Taste: Mario is back! There are a handful of true restaurateurs in Long Beach, and Mario Nasab is one of them. He is a force of nature, generous, a true lover of Long Beach, and the proprietor of one of the best restaurants in town.
Sadly, for a few years, he had to step away from his beloved La Traviata. But his absence is over and he is back. And back with him is the quality of cooking that was always a hallmark at any of Mario’s restaurants. Not just the quality of cooking has returned, but the imagination, the excellent service, the unparalleled atmosphere; all have come back with Mario.
Jennifer and I stopped on a rainy Saturday evening. Mario treated us to a tasting menu, which was spectacular.
We began with an appetizer duo: Lobster Ravioli and Mushroom Strudel. A tender ravioli was built around a large chunk of sweet fresh lobster with a touch of mascarpone cheese. It was topped with a drizzle of porcini and black truffle cream sauce. The earthy sauce was a wonderful counterpoint to the gentle sweetness of the lobster.
Wild mushrooms are baked in phyllo pastry with spinach and Swiss cheese forming a savory strudel surrounded by drops of port wine reduction. It was so good I asked Jennifer if we could have it for our Christmas dinner.
Then we sampled the Chilean Sea Bass. This rendition is topped with a miso glaze and after cooking a splash of ponzu-soy sauce. The fish is cooked to perfection. La Traviata prepares the best Chilean Sea Bass in town. The fish is the best quality and everything is done to showcase that quality.
Then came a spinach salad. Baby spinach was topped with lemon-Parmesan vinaigrette, toss-
ed with toasted almond slivers, shaved Parmesan, and heirloom cherry tomatoes. It was the best spinach salad I’ve ever tasted.
Finally, we sampled medallion of filet mignon topped with green peppercorn and mustard brandy reduction.
The steak was cooked to a perfect rare: tender and tasty. The sauce was exquisite. Like all of the previous dishes, the tastes and textures of every component were evident. And like a Bach contrapuntal masterpiece, the flavors blended into harmony.
Every plate was a picture for a magazine cover. The presentation was wonderful.
We finished with Crème Brulee topped with fresh fruit. It is one of La Traviata’s signature desserts and was perfect with a freshly caramelized sugar top over cool creamy vanilla custard.
Our dinner was like something from the movie “White Christmas.” A wonderful soprano sang Christmas carols and opera.
I started looking for Bing Crosby.
La Traviata is classy and classic. Mario has done all this and kept prices down. Wonderful and reasonable, too.
Give yourself a present and stop by La Traviata during the holidays. Give Mario a hug and welcome him home and just maybe he’ll sing a little Bocelli like the old days. If not, you’ll still enjoy a fine meal in a unique space with a wonderful host.
Once again, thank you Mario, Chef Betancourt, and the staff of La Traviata for a winter wonderful, magical evening and dinner.
• Price: Lunch for two is $25 to $40 and dinner for two is $50 to $75+ with appetizers and wine.