Jonathan Mitchell - General Manager of Locanda del Lago in Santa Monica
When Lago opened in April 1991, the upscale Italian restaurant quickly established a reputation as having perhaps the only menu in Los Angeles to focus on the cuisine of Bellagio on Lake Como in Northern Italy. Today, celebrating its 20th anniversary, Lago maintains that unique identity and attracts an eclectic crowd of foodies, celebrities, locals and travelers. With its warm, inviting interior, expansive windows and a sidewalk patio overlooking Santa Monica's colorful Third Street Promenade, the restaurant is consistently lauded for imaginative Italian cuisine spotlighting seasonal flavors and the freshest local ingredients. Co-owner West Hooker, who was born in Milan and has lived and worked in Bellagio, presides over the popular restaurant with General Manager Megan Sheehy, who has been with Lago since 1996.
Plaudits from the press include this comment from one critic: "Lago is a warm and welcome respite. As exotic as it is delicious, the food is among the city's very best." Another described Lago as "Casually classy... the authenticity of the place is clearly one of its assets." The Los Angeles Times insists that the Antipasto Bar "… is one of our favorites," and the Hollywood Reporter refers to Lago as a "chic, authentic Italian bistro." Metromix raves, "With the warmth of an old Italian inn and the cool factor of a Santa Monica hot spot, you'll never even know you're on the Third Street Promenade. Lago has a loyal base of regulars because the customers are treated like kings, and the bustling restaurant is run with astounding ease." Frommer's promises, "There’s no better place to people-watch than at the outdoor patio," and Gourmet Magazine advised, "Italy meets the Pacific -- authentic cuisine of Milano, Como and Stresa served up in the most California of settings. Don't miss the Ossobuco alla Milanese."
Lago is dedicated to providing the ultimate dining experience with exceptional selections coupled with meticulous, friendly service. Chef Maggioni offers the most flavorful ingredients available in conjunction with traditional and innovative recipes, and menus feature produce and other foods from the Santa Monica Farmers' Market (right outside Lago's front door). Every Wednesday and Saturday, Chef Maggioni seeks the freshest, organic, most flavorsome selections available from Windsor Farms, Harry's Berries, Weiser Farms, Garcia Farms, Coleman Farms, JJ Loned Daughter Ranch, and Lilly's Eggs, while Scarborough Farms delivers fresh organic goods on non-market days. All pastas, focaccia bread, desserts and gelato are made fresh daily at the restaurant. The wine list, featuring nearly 400 selections from Italy and California including verticals, half bottles and large format bottles, has received an "Award of Excellence" from Wine Spectator magazine every year since 1995, and Luigi Veronelli's The Best Italian Restaurants applauded its "vast and intelligent selection."
Michael Zislis - Shade Hotel & Michael Silacci - Winemaker of Opus One Wines
Every year, hundreds of wine enthusiasts descend on Shade Hotel in Manhattan Beach, when the boutique property hosts California’s top winemakers at its “Ultimate Wine Festival.”
Ultimate Wine Festival goers will enjoy a generous selection of elegantly presented, tray-passed hors d’oeuvres, along with wine tastings of the latest vintages from the various wineries and mingling with winemakers and other wine industry personalities from 4 to 7 p.m. for $125 per person, general admission. Also available, at $200 per person, are admission tickets that include a Reserve Magnum Tasting that will be held just ahead of the Festival, between 3-4 p.m. As the festival is expected to sell out, interested festival goers are advised to purchase tickets in advance.
Participating wineries are (in alpha order here): Alpha Omega; B Wise; Byron; Cade; Cambria; Cardinale; Ceja; Chappellet; DeLoach; Duckhorn; E&J Gallo; En Route; Faust; Flowers; Franciscan; Grgich Hills; Hewitt; Justin; La Sirena; Lokoya; Lobo; Louis M. Martini; Mario Bazen; Mira; Mt. Brave; Mumm Napa; Murphy-Goode; Nickel & Nickel; Opus One; Paruduxx; PlumpJack; Pride Mountain; Provenance; Quintessa; Raymond; Reynolds; Rocca; Rombauer; Round Pond; Seghesio; Silver Oak; Simi; Stanton; Terra Valentine; The Prisoner; Titus; Tobin James; Trefethen; Trinchero; Twomey; V12 Vineyards; and Villa Creek.