Bottega Louie, the oasis on 7th and Grand

(March 24, 2010)

Wednesday morning saw my mom and I driving on a beautifully un-congested freeway on the way to our LA outing! My mom hadn’t yet told me our exact location – but had enigmatically stated that it was a total surprise of LA’s downtown. Oh my goodness. And to think of how clueless I was to how fabulous it was going to be.

I was walking close behind my mom on the sidewalk before she turned around and told me to just look right. And I had been obliviously walking past tall, wide glass panels that revealed an enormous, bright and beautiful inside. I literally gasped at the Italian-tinged plaza of a restaurant that is Bottega Louie. It’s one of the most wonderful places I have ever encountered in Los Angeles. You step through the wide double doors onto white marble floors, a golden “Bottega Louie” engraved beneath your feet, and tall ceilings and completely window-ed sides create endless height and light. There’s just no way to remember you’re still in an enclosed space. Not to mention the almost-cinematic sense of marvel you get from the rows and rows of gorgeous delicacies that look like they are just floating on air.

The selection is truly astounding, and everything looks masterfully crafted. These are from a display further back. Really, you almost forget you might want to eat some of them when looking at them is this much fun.

And the space just hits you in the face. The large section closest to the baked goods and market food serves more of the cafe diners. But to the right of this picture is the part of the restaurant, equally as large, that has larger tables and black leather booth-like bench seating. A host at a little table welcomes you into this second section of Bottega Louie. There’s a brick oven where pizzas are made that is set apart by only glass, perfect for staring. Same goes for a really unique kitchen area where all the food is prepared – this part, too, is just closed off by glass so you can watch exactly what’s going on. Louie really puts on a show.

I had not eaten a sandwich in forever. I suppose I just haven’t been in the mood. But if only I could bring you right into this incomparable portrait of Louie’s offering. There are traditionals, like chicken pesto and tomato mozzarella panini, that looked fresh, crisp, honest and simply ravishing. But there are also creative twists, like smoked salmon with capers and thinly-sliced cucumbers and cream cheese on a black (almost chocolate-colored) multigrain bread.

And can you see why my mom and I really had to deliberate? Brussels sprouts with almonds, roasted carrots, shrimp and garbanzo beans, roasted asparagus in olive oil, pesto penne, yellow curry chicken… all prepared in such a refreshingly transparent, clean and simple manner.

I got the sandwich I mentioned briefly (haha) before. I loved how well-balanced the amounts of salmon and cucumber were, as well as how perfectly the sharpness of the capers set off the cream cheese. Mom took the cool Thai-style noodles with cucumbers, shrimp, carrots and peppers. Our vegetable of choice was the Brussels sprouts – the best I’ve ever had. Somehow every bite was a new experience, like each one was the essential taste-definition of ”Brussels sprouts,” if that makes sense.

I had to get up from our table twice to scope out the pastry-dessert scene . I really couldn’t decide whether we should split a fruit tart or muffin, or each have a croissant or gold-foiled cupcake or eclair. But my mom particularly enjoys scones. Which was that necessary tipping point for going with the lemon cranberry scone, perfect for its happy yellow flecks of lemon, the really crisp outside encasing a soft and only slightly crumbly inside. It was complemented perfectly by the coffee, which Bottega Louie gets from Intelligentsia, the Venice Coffeebar of which we had just gone two days ago! The coffee we had at Louie was even better, though. Nuttier.

The amazing experience we had at Bottega Louie had so much to do with the service. It’s a big restaurant, making even more surprising the number of people in uniform behind the counters and around all the tables. But we never had time to request anything, because we almost always were provided for first. First of all, free coffee refills. For Intelligentsia coffee? Yeah, exactly. While we were choosing our lunch, a woman approached us, waited for us patiently, expressed a really gratifying approval of our combination, and specified the amounts we wanted before welcoming us to pick any table we wanted. Later, the man I asked for a definition of “brioche” went off to investigate before returning and explaining, since he said he didn’t quite know himself. (What’s more, we were given our own large pitcher of water, which was totally amusing, because Edie has strong opinions about how every good restaurant should do this!)

The eclectic music selection was eventually drowned out by the din of crowd. My mom said that when she passed by earlier in the mornings, she would see a scattered collection of individuals at different tables, quietly beginning their day in peace with a coffee and a pastry. Brunch time, however, we saw girlfriends in gold sandals and designer jeans chatting over salads, businessmen decked in monogrammed apparel, and friendly-looking groups of old friends. Bottega Louie is grand, to be sure. But it has an air of accommodation that could easily have been overlooked for the stereotypical LA standoff-ishness. My mom and I left Louie feeling quite elated, setting off for a walk through the downtown streets and boulevards. And I surprised myself by realizing that I was starting to appreciate a side of the City of Los Angeles I had never really known before.

Restaurant

Mon – Fri 10:30 a.m. – 11 p.m.

Sat – Sun 9 a.m. – 11 a.m. breakfast, 11 a.m. – 2:45 p.m. brunch

(2:45 p.m. – 5 p.m. limited menu, 5 p.m. – 11 p.m. full menu)

Gourmet Market

Mon – Fri 6:30 a.m. – 9:00 p.m.

Sat – Sun 8 a.m. – 9 p.m.

Patisserie

Mon – Sun 10:30 a.m. – 9:00 p.m.

Bar

Mon – Fri 10:30 a.m. – close

Sat – Sun 9 a.m. – close

location

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