Chef Santino Coccia serves up puttanesca from a wheel of Parmesan, a specialty at Trattoria Farfalla. (Photo by Michael Owen Baker)
Santino Coccia is 22 years and 6,600 miles from his native Italian village, yet to taste the fare coming out of his kitchen at Trattoria Farfalla, you'd swear the chef had never left home. An appetizer made with buttery burrata cheese and halved cherry tomatoes and drizzled with pesto. Grilled polenta piled high with Italian sausage, Swiss chard and garlic. A tempting mushroom risotto served tableside from a wheel of Parmesan wheel. "I want to present dishes that are healthy - not heavy food or sauces with cream or butter," Coccia says in his charmingly accented English. "I try to serve attractive plates that are simple and clean. I garnish, but not too much."
With wine expert and sommelier, John Borghetti, Coccia opened Trattoria Farfalla about a year ago at The Promenade in Westlake Village.
The Westlake Village bistro offers an warm and inviting atmosphere. (Photo by Michael Owen Baker)
It's one of four restaurants owned by the 43-year-old chef, and the one where he spends the most time. "I am cooking there most nights," he says.
At other times, you might track him down in the kitchen of Galletto Bar & Grill, the Westlake Village bistro he and Borghetti have owned for 15 years. Coccia's two other restaurants - Tropicalia, a Brazilian-Italian grill, and Vinoteca Farfalla, a wine bar - are in Los Angeles.
Trattoria Farafalla exudes a warm and comfortable vibe with dark wood floors, an open kitchen and small bar and indoor and patio dining. The extensive menu features an eclectic array of dishes reminiscent of trattoria fare from all over Italy. "We make our own pizzas, fococcia, gnocchi, lasagne, ravioli and other fresh pastas along with tapenades," he says.
An in-house pastry chef creates such tempting offerings as a feathery-light tiramisu drizzled with chocolate sauce or a rich torte filled with pastry cream and sprinkled with pine nuts.
Coccia was born in the Puglia region of Italy, just above the heel of the country's "boot," and started his culinary career at age 16 in a restaurant in Milan. When he immigrated to the United States, he worked for a short time at a restaurant in Northern California before moving to Los Angeles in 1988.
Favorites at the trattoria include pasta fagiloi, rigatoni with mushrooms and grilled polenta. (Photo by Michael Owen Baker)
He worked as a chef for two years at Trattoria Farfalla in Los Feliz, and then left for an Italian restaurant in Beverly Hills. He later returned as executive chef to a relocated Farfalla and eventually began acquiring his own properties. And he hopes to expand his portfolio of restaurants in 2010, with the opening of a Trattoria Farfalla in Encino. "I wanted to be a chef because I like the ambiance," he says. "I love my job. I like being inside a restaurant, cooking, being at the bar and with people."
160 Promenade Way, Suite A
Westlake Village; 805/497-2283