A trio of Roman restaurateurs brings authentic Italian cuisine to Riviera Village with Bottega Romana.
Written by Constance Dunn | Photography by Paul Jonason
Compared to other American cities, such as Boston, Philadelphia and New York, Los Angeles is fairly underpopulated with spots offering exceptional Italian fare. Enter a culinary gift from Rome in the form of three expats—Tony Cotrugo, Valerio Carollo and Giulia Marascialli—who in late 2014 opened up Bottega Romana, a fresh-air Italian eatery in Riviera Village, located at the former site of sushi restaurant Casa Arigato. All three happen to hail from the seaside district of Rome, which gives them a unique level of comfort in offering the many seafood dishes that populate the menu, from tuna tartare and seared scallops to polpo alla griglia (grilled octopus) and a fresh catch of the day.
“This was the perfect spot,” says Tony Cotrugo of the restaurant’s location. The trio’s eldest and most industry seasoned member, Cotrugo moved to the States in the 1990s and is proprietor of other restaurants, including the wonderful Caffe Pinguini in Playa del Rey. Partners in his Redondo Beach venture, Carollo and Marascialli are a young couple who were introduced to the South Bay during a trip to the area back in 2008. “We fell in love with this place,” remarks Carollo. “And we came back three times in a row for vacation.” The two, who were involved in the restaurant business back in Rome, connected with Cotrugo, a friend of Marascialli’s father, and Bottega Romana was born. Praising the relaxed vibe in Riviera Village, and its spaciousness relative to the more condensed Manhattan Beach and Hermosa Beach, Cotrugo says of the neighborhood, “We can get all the people in the area, along with people from Palos Verdes—everyone who wants a good restaurant.”
Bottega Romana spans an intimate dining room and a spacious patio where a charming cadre of Italian servers offers traditional white-tablecloth service and creations by chef Pier Paolo and his staff, from antipasti dishes of beef carpaccio and platters of prosciutto, mortadella and other meats, to a handful of salads, including one starring beets and Fregula (a couscous-like grain from Sardinia). Not to miss are traditional pasta dishes, such as mushroom risotto, fettuccini bolognese and linguini tossed with fresh clams and shrimp. Many of the items, the owners point out, from pasta to desserts, are made in-house and from scratch.
“We have an Italian chef,” says Cotruga. “And our food is simple and good.” When it comes to his personal favorites, the restaurateur is likely to order “a nice piece of filet mignon, and if I go for fish, Chilean sea bass is the best here.” To start, he recommends the Burrata Ortolana, an appetizer of grilled zucchini and eggplant that’s layered with creamy burrata cheese and topped with basil and heirloom tomatoes. “Italian cuisine is very simple,” remarks Carollo. “One of the most simple cuisines in the world. But if you overdo things, you can mess it up.”
Nearly impossible to mess up is a choice from the wine list, which features Italian selections, notably hearty reds from Tuscany and Piedmont. And the list will expand and be more varied with the impending opening of the adjacent bar and lounge, where Bottega Romana will offer small plates of Italian dishes along with wines from around the world and beers from local breweries. “The people like that we are Italian and that our chef is Italian,” Marascialli says, adding that she and her team have been pleased by the welcoming spirit of the community, and the positive reception of the restaurant, which is busy most nights and days (lunch is served during the week).
“We are as Italian as it gets,” chuckles Carollo about the restaurant, before pointing out a sentiment also echoed by Marascialli and Cotrugo: that living in the South Bay, near the ocean, reminds them of being back in Rome’s Ostia district, a community also poised along the water (the shores of the Tyrrhenian Sea, rather than the Pacific Ocean), and the place in Italy from which they’re from. While these days they might be far from Ostia, the scenic parallels between the two places— and now with Bottega Romana, a culinary link—is enough to make the South Bay feel quite like home.
215 Avenue I
Redondo Beach CA 90277