'Hood Adjacent: Rediscovering Oliva Trattoria

Returning to an old friend.

Did you ever reconnect with an old friend? One you hadn’t seen in a few years? I’m sure you have. But was that old friend a restaurant?

We all know that restaurants come and go in our tri-‘hood area (Studio City-Sherman Oaks-North Hollywood/Valley Village). I’ve written about a couple for this column. Even bid farewell to an old favorite. Well, recently I rediscovered Oliva Trattoria.

Eleven years ago when Oliva first opened my husband and I fell in love with this new restaurant in the ‘hood adjacent of Sherman Oaks… a friendly neighborhood two room affair with a welcoming décor of dark wood bars, white table cloths, charming Italian murals (one room even has TVs over its bar for you sports fans), a good wine list and a menu filled with a variety of dishes.

But, as times changed and new restaurants popped up, like old friends often do, we drifted apart until recently when we decided to go to one of Oliva’s wine pairing dinners. Memories of past dinners of good food came flooding back as we ate our multi-course meal and sipped the various wines provided for each dish.

Naturally, we had to go back.  Naturally, I had to write about it.

Chef Giorgio Pierangeli, Oliva’s owner, studied in Italy and worked in Europe before coming to America where he initially worked in restaurants “over-the-hill” before settling in the Valley and opening his own place. A proud new father at the time, Giorgio used a picture of his baby son for the cover of his menu. Now eleven, his son is still proud of being “part” of the restaurant, though Giorgio says he won’t be surprised if his son changes his mind when he’s a teenager. Not every kid wants to have a naked baby picture on public display.

As I sipped some nicely chilled Hess chardonnay, we looked behind his son’s picture at the extensive menu filled with salads and appetizers, soups, pastas and pizzas, chicken, meat and fish dishes, sides and specials… a bottle of Le Volte Dell’Ornellaia 2010 Toscana sat “breathing” on our table as we decided.

We started with the appetizer special of fresh artichoke hearts, sautéed, then topped with parmesan cheese and baked. Healthful and delicious... can’t miss.

We decided to share two entrees: 

Pappardelle Tartufo is a wide flat egg noodle pasta with wild mushrooms and proscuitto, tossed with white truffle oil in a light cream sauce. Can I say that this is my new favorite pasta on the planet? OK, I just said it.

And, of course, we had to try “Oliva’s Famous Italian Brisket” – we didn’t know it was famous, but as Giorgio explained, this dish is always on the “specials” menu because of popular demand. Patrons have even been known to order it for Passover or pick it up for an everyday dinner. Made with a de-boned beef short rib, the brisket is cooked slowly over four hours in red wine and spices and is served with Oliva's "Italian" sauce and truly creamy mashed potatoes and al dente broccoli. OK, I’m a believer. I can see why it’s “famous” in the eyes of Oliva’s customers.

The dinner and wine (which was excellent) was everything I hoped it would be.

It was time for dessert.

My husband loves peanut butter, so he had to try the Bomba, a peanut butter gelato ball with a caramel center, wrapped in chocolate. Peanut butter ice cream?!  I, of course, had to have a taste. It was the bomb!!!.

We finished dinner with a sampling of two dessert wines – a lovely Moscato 2010 d’Asti Tenimenti Ca’ Bianca which was light and slightly effervescent, and a Passito Di Pantelleria 2010, a delicious “rose” dessert wine that was the perfect taste to end a perfect dining experience.

Check out the menu on Oliva’s website. There’s something wonderful for everyone.

And, if you don’t feel like cooking this Thanksgiving, try Oliva.  The restaurant is open from 11:30am to 10:00pm and offers their full menu, plus an herb roasted turkey breast, served with those creamy mashed potatoes and green beans ($19.95) and a “turf & turf” turkey-brisket combo ($23.95), again with those yummy mashed potatoes and green beans.

With life in our ‘hood (and ‘hoods adjacent) ever-changing, I was so happy to rediscover an old dining friend. I can’t wait to go back.


OLIVA TRATTORIA-Pizzeria-Italian Grill

4449 Van Nuys Blvd.

Sherman Oaks, CA 91403



Richard Camp November 16, 2012 at 06:16 AM
A little touch of Italy in the Valley. Great evening. Great article.
Irene DeBlasio November 16, 2012 at 10:40 PM
Ilona, Thanks for making my mouth water for some pappardelle (love them with a true Bolognese sauce). Being of Italian descent this description sends my brain on auto-pilot back to the Jewish quarter of Roma where the antipasti specialties are deep fried artichokes (they use the tiny Jerusalem type) and stuffed zucchini flowers. The pappardelle and bucatini are among the most popular pastas, which not many of our local Italian restaurants use on their menus. Thanks so much for yet another terrific offering. Sounds delicious -- I'd love to try it. You done good!
Ilona Saari November 17, 2012 at 07:35 PM
Thanks, Irene... Love stuffed zucchini flowers - now you've made my mouth water. ;o)
MickMil November 18, 2012 at 04:03 AM
I had never heard of Oliva's before, but thanks for the recommendation. Sounds lke a perfect place for some of that beloved Italian cuisine. Pappardele is my favorite pasta and the way you described it, I'm ready to drive over the hill any moment. Good article!


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