Chi mangia bene, vive bene.
Translation: Who eats well, lives well.
That’s the phrase that welcomes guests to Louise’s Trattoria. It’s included in a memo provided to guests that tells them about the recently revamped menu. It also gives them a glimpse into President and CEO Rob Serritella’s vision for a neighborhood Italian trattoria.
Here’s an excerpt:
Since we opened our doors back in 1978 in Brentwood, California, Louise’s has always placed our focus on quality ingredients and great service at a reasonable price. We begin each day by using sweet plum tomatoes for our sauces, real Italian cheeses, lean cuts of meat, and local organic herbs and lettuces to create the meals that you have come to know and love. Our legendary Focaccia bread is still made from scratch every morning and baked to perfection, one pan at a time. Nothing new, just a culture that has become the standard of who we are and what we do.
Great food. Great service. All at a good price. What more could you ask?
It was just a few months ago that Louise’s went through its first radical menu change in eight years. According to Serritella, it involved a new menu, new plateware, new portions, and six new menu items.
“It was triggered both by what our customers wanted, and the economy,” he says.
The Chicken Pomodoro is new, for example—it’s a Serritella family recipe for a Parmesan and herb crusted breast of chicken, pan fried and topped with fresh pomodoro salsa, and then served with basil spaghetti.
Also new on the menu is the Roasted Tomato and 3 Pepper Sausage, a spicy mix of roasted tomatoes, Italian sausage, mozzarella, fresh oregano and red chili flakes . . . and a few “secret seasonings” as well.
One thing hasn’t changed—the Focaccia bread that is a signature item at Louise’s. “’We love the bread’ is what we hear from everyone,” says Serritella.
He is upfront about the deliberate steps taken to improve the quality of the food at the restaurant.
Serritella says, “Eight years ago, our sauce came in a bag. The pizza dough was frozen. The salad dressing came in a container. We had no mixers, no braiser. It was a cookie cutter operation.” He adds, “In a small neighborhood cafe, you can’t do that.”
So the first revitalization of Louise’s took place. “We brought in chefs from Italy,” recalls Serritella. “I pulled my grandmother’s recipe book off the shelf to get her meatballs. We went back to 100 percent fresh, and went back to the oils and cheeses direct from Italy.” He smiles as he says, “Now I freeze three things in the whole restaurant, and one of them is the ice.”
The move, in Serritella’s words, “brought the chain to life again. The old recipes, especially the homemade sauce, gave new life to the brand.”
And, it’s a brand with staying power.
Turns out there really was a Louise, who opened the Brentwood restaurant in 1978. Since then, it has grown to seven locations, each one distinctly “its own neighborhood store” in the style of a trattoria. “It’s really a typical Italian cafe,” says Serritella. “serving local and regional items.”
In keeping with the tradition, Louise’s uses all local herbs, fresh pasta made locally, organic beets roasted in the store, and all California vegetables. The wines are either Californian or Italian, and cheeses are made especially for them in Italy. It’s a combination that leads to great flavors and what Serritella calls a “Cal Italian” dining experience.
“We’re definitely Italian, with a California flair,” he says. “Jambalaya and BBQ Chicken Pizza are not typically Italian, but they work here.”
Other things on the menu include the Burrata & Beets—fresh local Burrata cheese and oven-roasted red beets with pesto oil and aged balsamic. It builds on the hot trend toward updating an old vegetable like the beet, and gives it a new twist with the use of a premium cheese.
And, we loved the Grilled Tomato with Goat Cheese, which is pan-seared, crusted Sonoma goat cheese cakes served over a ripe grilled tomato (pictured) and drizzled with Louise’s focaccia oil.
The Grilled Atlantic Salmon is stacked on top of a bed of garlic mashed potatoes and finished with a light Chardonnay sauce and fire-grilled vegetables. Or get the Fusilli & Sweet Sausage for another on-trend dish that is new to the menu . . . especially if you are a fan of roasted garlic cream sauce (and who isn’t!).
Each restaurant has its own personality, usually defined with the help of local artists. “Some of it is commissioned,” says Serritella, “but at least half is from local artists. Every six-eight weeks we do a new art show and tasting with wine and cheese. In that way we become part of the community—we’ve been doing that since day one.”
About half of the business is from call ins for pick up or delivery. “Some call orders in every day,” he says. “It helps celebrities. We’re big enough and small enough that Hollywood loves us.” In fact, he says, there is a picture of someone inside or outside the restaurant almost every other month in magazines such as People.
Desserts come locally, too, from the Sweet Lady Jane Bakery on Melrose Avenue. “She’s the best boutique baker in town,” says Serritella. He particularly recommends the Hummingbird Cake, which is a marriage between carrot cake and banana cake—and one in which Serritella and his wife had a hand in creating.
Louise’s is open from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily, with lunch offerings includin Paninis, Lasagna, Pizza, and great Soup & Salad combinations. There is also a selection of wines, beers and non-alcoholic beverages.
The restaurant is also known for its catering services, party packs and party hosting. It’s truly a neighborhood place, designed to serve the neighborhood for all its food and entertaining needs.
After all, as they say, he who eats well, lives well. And may it ever be so.
See our blog from the Los Angeles tour, Like Grandma and Grandpa Used to Make.
Hear more from Louise’s Trattoria here.
Visit Louise’s Trattoria when you are in the Los Angeles area:
1008 Montana Avenue
Santa Monica, CA 90403
264 26th Street
Santa Monica, CA 90402
232 N. Larchmont Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90004
4500 Los Feliz Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90027
2-8 East Colorado Blvd.
Pasadena, CA 91105
12050 Ventura Blvd., #A201
Studio City, CA 91604
10645 Pico Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90064
This is a Raves & Faves Featured Restaurant.