Mamma Mia … It’s Time For Fia!
Fia – Santa Monica, CA
California Cuisine (with an Italian Influence) – Last Visit: August 2020
Looking online for L.A. County dining establishments where we could enjoy a meal outdoors, we came upon Fia, a Santa Monica restaurant that seemed to check all the boxes. The photos of its patio looked enticing, and a few reviews stated it was socially-distanced enough to feel comfortable, so on a (plagiarizing Neil Diamond) “hot August night” we headed to Fia, where we would be joined by our temporarily-masked friends Jeff and Cecilia.
We had booked an early 6 p.m. time slot to avoid any over-crowding later in the evening. The quaint patio area was surrounded by tall pine trees and a nice ocean breeze. Our temperature was taken upon arrival, and all staff members wore masks and shields.
An aesthetically designed outdoor bar area awaited us, but we did not belly-up on this visit, as it was just as easy to order the well-crafted cocktails at our table.
An upstairs dining area had a couple dining above us for a short while, but no one sat at that table the rest of the evening, which was comforting in these crazy times.
Instead of menus, the servers provide guests a card with a QR Code. Take a photo of it with your phone, and voila, you have your menu. This is one time it’s acceptable to look at your phone during dinner. We also always don our masks when chatting with the server.
Jeff and I started with Milano Manhattans; bourbon, house-blend of amaros, vermouth and bitters ($16). An excellent cocktail, indeed. Next time we are going to try the Smoke Show; mezcal, passionfruit, clement d’orange, fresh lemon juice and pepper heat ($16). It was highly recommended by our personable and helpful server. He explained that most of the starters were big enough for two people, and the Fia Italian Chopped Salad; personally dressed table-side with truffle vinaigrette ($20), was large enough for four. We saw this at an adjacent table and it looked great … and huge.
The wine list was fairly expensive, so I brought a bottle of Cab Franc from my favorite winery, Ramazzotti (they have a terrific tasting room in Geyserville, CA). Corkage was a rather steep $45, but after one sip, who cared.
As the four of us are not sharing dishes (well, for the most part) during this time of Covid, Jeff and Cecilia started with the burrata with charred corn; farmer’s market peaches on a polenta gaufrette (made with cornmeal and buckwheat) and prosciutto ($17).
They also ordered the chicken liver mousse; toasted brioche crumpets (6) and cherry marmalade with gherkins ($19). Wow! This was the best of the starters (yes, we stole some from them), although the burrata and peaches dish was a very close second.
I had spied some amazing looking dishes arriving at the table next to ours, so I went with the Spicy Chili Tuna on Crispy Arancini; four pieces ($20) from the In the Raw section of the menu. Following Jeff’s lead, Tracy went with the burrata and peaches. The peaches tasted as if they were picked that afternoon, and the pairing of ingredients was spot-on. Wonderfully creative … and super delicious!
By the time we finished those dishes, we wondered how we could possibly eat our dinner and dessert, but, as usual, we found a way.
For our main course, Tracy, Cecilia and I selected from the pasta portion of the menu. Tracy and Cecilia opted for a stupendous duck ragù; handmade tagliatelle, duck ragù with hints of orange and parmesan ($28). Wow!While I, never being able to pass on a fresh truffle dish, ordered the handmade cavatelli; parmesan, brown butter and freshly shaved black truffle ($32). The truffle was grated onto the pasta at the table, just like when we visited Bovio in Piemonte, Italy, in 2018.
From the Entrée portion of the menu, after consulting with our waiter, Jeff ordered Mary’s Organic Chicken ‘Parmesan’ with mozzarella di Bufala and pomodoro sauce ($30). This was an extra-large portion and while it was good, Jeff wished he’d been more adventuresome, because of the abundance of great looking dishes we saw coming out of the kitchen.
There were eight items on the Entrée menu the evening we were there, and the Beef Wellington ($60) and Short Ribs ($42) called our name to share. Maybe next time. Our waiter said the Nova Scotia Halibut ($36), White Sea Bass ($34) and Black Cod ($34) were also fabulous and very popular menu items. We saw the Prime Export Bone-In Ribeye (MP) arrive at the table next to us. On this evening it was a 32-ounce steak for $145. The kid who ordered it did not appear to be sharing and ate the entire steak himself. If four shared (and it looked large enough to do just that), it’s only about $35 a head.
Speaking of the table next to us, their dessert arrived while we were perusing the dessert menu and it looked magnificent! A Chocolate Dome filled with caramelized dark chocolate mousse, coffee cream, almond praline and cocoa biscuit ($20)! While we did not have room for that masterpiece, Tracy and I shared the Amalfi Lemon Mousse Cake; vanilla mousse, lemon curd, Limoncello granita, and meringue ($15). The Limoncello Granita was very tart and tasty and perfectly offset by the meringue crumble. Yum!Jeff and Cecilia wrapped up their meal with the Plum and Verbena Cheesecake; plum compote, brown sugar crumble, plum and verbena sorbet ($15). The candle was put there because Jeff and I were both celebrating birthdays, albeit two weeks late (a pandemic can really throw off your schedule). Both desserts hit the spot.
If we didn’t have to drive, we would have downed a Wake Up Call; Fia’s signature espresso martini made with vodka, freshly brewed espresso and vanilla bean. Of course, as people of a certain age, espresso at night means no sleeping for us, so I might just try the house Limoncello. As the saying goes, “You’ll always feel mellow after a good Limoncello.” OK, I might have made that up.
On the way to the restroom, Tracy took a photo of the charming restaurant interior, which she said “looked rather rustic.” Hopefully, in the not-too-distant future, indoor dining will return.
Fia’s cuisine has been called “California fare with touches of Italian influence,” and “a menu inspired by the Amalfi coast with a focus on rustic dishes, local seafood and fresh house-made pasta.” Whatever the description, each one of our dishes received unanimous accolades, and we can’t wait to sample more of Fia’s fabulous food.
Fia will be a must-return restaurant for us. Tracy and I are deciding on whether there should be a Mai Tai Tom Restaurant Of The Year during these trying times for all dining establishments, but if there is, Fia is a certainly a top contender. Be sure to reserve Fia in advance, and bring a healthy appetite (and your mask!), because you will want to try a number of dishes when you visit.
2454 Wilshire Blvd.
Santa Monica, CA 90403
Monday – Saturday: 5 pm – 10 pm
Sunday: 5 p.m. – 9 p.m.
Sunday Brunch: 11:30 a.m. – 3 p.m.
Happy Hour: 3 p.m. – 5 p.m.
Corkage: $45 (two maximum)
Covid Management Fee (helps offset Covid-related costs): 4%
Parking: Street (metered until 6 p.m.), Valet $12