Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Around Town: Another year, another dinner - LA Canada

After Yom Kippur services at Adat Ari El, a group of us from La Cañada decided to break our fasts at Far Niente restaurant in Glendale.

Adat Ari El is about 12 minutes from La Cañada and Far Niente is about four minutes away, so it all made sense.

Yom Kippur services are an all-day event. Earlier that afternoon, we attended a class on some 12th century texts written by Maimonides, the great medieval Jewish scholar, on the religious requirements of health and fitness. Our bodies are a gift and we are required to nurture them. It was interesting to read, in Hebrew with an English translation, the 900-year-old argument that we can accomplish this by avoiding sweets, eating healthy foods and exercising. These are subjects that resonate 20 hours into an annual fast.

By the end of the day, there is an air of goodwill. The shofar, a musical instrument comprised of a ram’s horn, is blown. Candles are lit. People hug and leave to celebrate.

When we arrived at Far Niente, the owner, Antonio, greeted us with his usual warmth. We asked for water and the servers graciously and frequently filled and refilled our water glasses while we pondered the menu.

In the spirit of the day, I ordered the baked salmon, with the sauce on the side, on a bed of spinach, plus a Caesar salad.


“No thank you.”

I was being so good! My friend’s martini came with its own little stainless cocktail shaker. There were two olives on a pick.

Note to self: Next time, order the martini.

While we waited for our orders, we scarfed down plates full of the hot-from-the-oven, paper-thin pizza bread, possibly setting a record for the most plates consumed in the history of the restaurant.

As for its history, Far Niente has become a Glendale fixture in the 24 years since its creation, all due to Antonio’s attention to detail, hospitality and fantastic menu. There are daily fish specials and Far Niente, according to my friends, has a way with steaks and chops.

More importantly, the tablecloths are white and crisp. The servers are swift and unobtrusive. The wine list includes a half-dozen types of Brunello di Montalcino, which I plan to try as soon as my horse comes in. In the meantime, there are a variety of California wines, including Silver Oak, Cakebread and Beaulieu’s Georges De Latour.

The server brought our soups and salad. My Caesar salad was perfection itself. The lettuce was crisp and fresh-picked. The dressing was exquisite.

As for the main course, there’s something wonderful about salmon baked in an extremely hot pizza oven, on a bed of spinach, with a small scoop of mashed potatoes.

We ate a while and then we talked. We talked about American politics, the La Cañada school board election, American foreign policy, and the newly-discovered Israeli oil and gas fields. One of our group, a 16-year-old whom I adore, will spend second semester abroad — in Israel. She invited us all to come visit her.

Another year. Another wonderful dinner. And then, we all drove home, back to La Cañada Flintridge.

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