Vic Casanova's free-range Italian is still where it's at

By Tracy Ng

The most memorable meals aren’t always the most elaborate. Evocative of a time and space, often they are simply crafted gems that are familiar enough to spur a smile, while incorporating small surprises that sound notes of revelation. In his intimate Mid-City space, Vic Casanova—former chef of Culina at The Four Seasons Hotel Beverly Hills—masters this culinary sweet spot, and dubs the results “free-range Italian.” Casanova’s menu is indeed rooted in its own time and place, made up of inventive new dishes triggered by whatever inspires the chef this season, balanced out by a selection of soul-stirring classics based on his fresh, house-made pastas.

There’s no resisting the crostini to start, its local burrata offset by roasted grapes, rosemary, and balsamic. The crispy pig’s head Milanese, built around Sweet 100 tomatoes and arugula topped with Parmigiano-Reggiano and lemon, heralds the warm weather with a refreshing yet robust union of elements. Meanwhile, the cappellacci packs a light filling of English peas, ricotta, and Parmigiano-Reggiano into “sailor’s hat”–shaped pasta packets.

With yolk swirled tableside into a divine bowl of beautifully simple creamy pasta, the bucatini carbonara may produce audible moans at the dining table, and haunt your dreams long after. Likewise, flavor-bomb meatballs, steaming hot in perfectly balanced sauce, will ruin all others thereafter. To finish, there is a refreshing coconut gelato pie with graham cracker crust, chocolate fonduta, and toasted coconut, or go traditional with the fantastic budino.


Sun–Thu 6 PM–10 PM; Fri–Sat 6 PM–11 PM

price range

$16 (tonarelli) to $27 (pork chop)