It’s difficult to find “unpretentious” in Los Angeles. Especially in the trendy newly gentrified “hipster” areas like Eagle Rock, Mar Vista, and even pockets of Venice. Every so often, though, one may serendipitously find himself in a spot so cozy and friendly it feels inherently like home. This is the vibe at the humble Italian fared Cosa Buono. And the food is just as impressive!
Nestled on an unassuming corner in Echo Park, the pint sized establishment seems to be a perfectly kept secret. An adorable bull dog named Happy Jack and his owners wait for their to-go order just outside the front door. I always love restaurants that are friendly towards four-legged companions. A welcoming hostess directs patrons inside, where the area somehow feels more spacious than it actually is. Conversation inside is easy. So easy, in fact, within minutes we are talking with the couples to our left and right. At one point we even all shared food! The clientele in this bistro are diverse and sociable and the GM, Cesar, immerses himself into the crowd, talking with each guest as if they are old friends. Everything about this place enhances the approachable familial climate.
Once seated, our attentive waitress is with us almost immediately. She effortlessly navigates us through the menu, honestly explaining which dishes could be missed and which should not be missed. The kitchen at Cosa Buona is so efficient that my one suggested heads up is to tell your waitress to bring each dish out one at a time. We barely had a bite of our mozzarella sticks and the next course suddenly appeared! Our waitress was extremely accommodating regarding a slow down.
We started with the Smoky Mozzarella sticks. They are lightly breaded and fried. I haven’t had a mozzarella stick since I was probably 11 years old and I remember them being extremely greasy and heavy. At Cosa Buono I was pleasantly surprised. The cheese is stringy, not rubbery, and has a fantastic smoky aftertaste. The dipping marinara has a touch of heat that really seals the deal regarding taste.
The Blue Crab Clams Oregenata is a beautifully presented appetizer served in the half shell. It could be considered a bit heavy but is DELICIOUS. With a hint of parmesan and quintessential Italian flavors, it’s definitely a good one to share with a table of four or more.
The Chopped salad is crisp and light though a touch bland compared to chops at other Italian spots. There is just something missing but I can’t quite put my finger on it. After adding a squeeze of lemon and some pepper the flavors open up a bit and the salad becomes more satisfying. Though the chop is good, if your looking for abundant flavors I recommend trying a different salad. I plan on trying the chop again though. Maybe it needs some red pepper flakes, or maybe it was an off day….I will figure out whats missing and the adventure will be fun!
The pepperoni pizza is out of this world AMAZING. Perfectly crisp, with delicious bite sized pieces of sausage and that delectable marinara with hidden hints of well-balanced basil and oregano! Voila. It’s gorgeous. As if improvement is possible, apparently the pizza is even better the next day (my cohort took home the leftovers and ate it for breakfast).
Throughout the dinner we share a bottle of Chianti that looks like it came right from a pirates ship. The wine list is fantastic. The beer list is SUPER fun and covers every option (blonde, IPA…up until porter, which would be too heavy for the food here anyways). I didn’t notice any offering of aperitifs, but there is an apricot brandy on the dessert menu that smells and tastes FANTASTIC. Cesar was nice enough to let the table sample it, but I inadvertently drank the whole thing myself (ha ha!).
The friendly fun atmosphere, fantastic food, and moderate prices make Cosa Buono a place to visit time and time again. I would and will definitely return.