Best Thing We Ate

Hot Dish: Marrow Cavatappi at Love & Salt

By Lesley Balla  |  May 21, 2015
Credit: Lesley Balla

No one ever said you needed rich bone marrow in a bowl of curly cavatappi pasta, but the combination is undeniably fantastic. This is just one of the creations of chef Michael Fiorelli at Love & Salt, the super popular Italian-leaning spot that opened in the heart of Manhattan Beach late last year. Out of the array of handmade pastas, pizzas, salads and other small plates, it's probably the most talked about, and for good reason. The pasta comes to the table relatively plain, but the server brings a roasted bone marrow along with it. They scrape out the rich, melting marrow, top the pasta with breadcrumbs, parsley and cheese, and tell you to mix it up. The result is a grown-up, richer version of that butter-and-cheese spaghetti you ate as a kid. It's not to be taken lightly. "Everyone is serving marrow, but no one is doing anything new with it," Fiorelli says. "I thought this would be a great way to introduce it to Manhattan Beach. It's fresh and fun, the theme of Love & Salt." And, yes, Manhattan Beach is totally eating it up.

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It's really no surprise Love & Salt is always busy (seriously, a table even on a weeknight is challenging to get): the location was previously Cafe Pierre, which fed the neighborhood for 37 years. That kind of longevity rubs off, and it helps that Pierre's owners, father and daughter team Guy and Sylvie Gabriele, partnered with Fiorelli and chef de cuisine Rebecca Merhej to change their restaurant completely. It still has great bones but a more contemporary look. There's a serious bar program (curated by Vincenzo Marianella) and a fantastic wine list (overseen by Guy). There's a whole pig's head as an appetizer, and little mini lamb's tongue reubens, not to mention of-the-season dishes like creamy burrata with perfect English and sugar snap peas, and family-style platters of rabbitchetta. It easily fits in the burgeoning culinary scene in the South Bay, one of those restaurants that even Valley dwellers are willing to fight traffic to get to. If for anything, for that cavatappi.