I spend a lot of time thinking about why I am drawn to Italian wine, food, and culture in a world of abundant choices. I never get a comprehensive answer. But I do get little glimpses from wines I taste, people I meet, and sometimes the meals I eat.
SAOR Italian Food opened its doors quietly this winter. Despite a prime location on the Hermosa Beach pier plaza among the pubs and taco shops, I did not notice it at first. It’s housed in a small yet inviting space right before you hit the beach and pier.
When I did notice the owner Gianluca Zago opening his glass doors I said hello in my broken Italian. I glanced at the menu of pizzas, pastas, and Italian comfort food staples. Then I noticed the imported foodstuffs lining the walls inside. I ordered a pizza and suddenly I received a perfectly pulled espresso while I waited. As I smelled the fresh pizza dough baking, I knew something delicious and special had landed in my little beach town.
I rarely eat out, but I’ve been to SAOR at least six times since March and not a single bite has disappointed. I believe this type of consistency only comes from a dedication to quality ingredients and commitment to slower ways of making food. For example, SAOR’s two types of pizza dough rise for 72 hours each with their own specific moisture level.
Gianluca comes from the northeastern region of Friuli Venezia-Giulia, bringing a unique northern flair to the Italian classics he dishes up. He also ran an Italian food import company so toppings like prosciutto, speck, and nduja sausage are impeccably sourced. The tomato sauce practically sings with its bright acidity. Whatever it is that makes everything taste so good in Italy, SAOR has captured it in Hermosa Beach.
I also occasionally hear Italian spoken among the patrons. Crucially, it means SAOR meets a true standard for good food. But SAOR is much more than simply a place to eat. It’s a place to stop by and say hello every time you pass. You might stop by for just an espresso and some conversation with your fellow bar patron. On another day you might linger longer for a full meal complete with dessert. It helps that SAOR the best tiramisu I’ve had in LA and just added a gelato cart out front.
Gianluca and his team make you feel at home in a way that few other restaurants or even pubs can match. They bring a passion for food and hospitality to every experience. Even a humble espresso and cornetto is an event to be celebrated.
While I write primarily about wine here, Pondering Italy is about more than just the distinctive wines of Italy. Those wines are diminished without the people and food who so naturally coexist with them. If you are in the greater Los Angeles area make a point of coming down to Hermosa Beach for a pizza and a reminder of why you’re missing Italy so much these days.