I am always fascinated by the names entrepreneurs choose for their establishments and La Traviata is no exception. The name is inspired by the opera of the same name by Giuseppe Verdi, set to an Italian libretto by Francesco Maria Piave. Based on La dame aux Camélias, the 1852 play is adapted from the novel of the same name, first published in 1848. The opera's title La Traviata literally means "the fallen woman," or even more provocatively, "the woman who goes astray." Fortunately, there is nothing astray about this spectacular ristorante.
La Traviata is the brainchild of the passionate and ingenious owner, Mario Nazav. He has fashioned an atmosphere that reflects the grandeur of old world Italy, designed in a 19th century opera house style, contrasted with a contemporary urban flair. Escorted upon arrival to the Cedar Lounge, which had a classic, well-appointed décor with elaborate window draping, comfortable chairs and striking chandeliers. The electric blue lighting behind the bar accented the silhouettes of the shapely bottles, adding to the sexy dynamic ambiance. This locale is so refreshing, even if just to hang out with friends for a drink and to listen to the live music.
We arrived just in time to catch the opening number of Friday evening's weekly live entertainment, The Juliette Band; (Julia Harriman, Devin Norris and J. Johnson), a young, cute and talented ensemble well received by guests. We chilled for a bit enjoying their versatile jazzy/bluesy musical choices and I sipped a delicious Pomegranate Martini (Absolut Raspberry Vodka, pomegranate juice, lemon juice) while Janet, my guest, enjoyed a glass of the house Chasing Lions Cabernet Sauvignon, North Coast 2008. Check out their Saturday evenings when the versatile Sheryl Smith takes stage belting out jazz, Broadway, opera and cabaret standards. La Traviata's website has more information on their other nightly acts.
Mario suggested in lieu of ordering an entrée, that we enjoy a sampling of some signature dishes. We were in the lounge at that point, so it was fitting to nosh on appetizers from the Bar Menu. We tested the yummy Baja Fish Tacos topped with cabbage, Serrano aioli, avocado and the Al Pastor Tacos filled with tasty pork and pico de gallo-we loved both combinations. They also offer Veggie Taco along with Flatbread Pizza, Mozzarella Caprese, Calamari Fritti Crab Cakes, Antipasti Prosciutto and Tuna Tartar and much more. Next we sampled the Lobster Tortellini which was absolutely out of this world, creamy with fresh pasta and melt-in-your-mouth lobster.
So good, I dipped the homemade Sourdough Rolls (baked fresh as needed) into the succulent remaining sauce. Jorge was our server while in the lounge-he was very attentive and professional.
The stellar service continued once we moved to the dining room, where Banquets and Special Events Director Jose Mario Duarte treated us well. I was quite impressed by the entire crew; owner Mario has over the past 15 years assembled an excellent team. Entering the spacious dining room which is accented with wonderful artwork, my friend Janet remarked that she appreciated the creative use of space, flowing from room to room and that it felt like she was in an Italian mansion.
The food was prepared and presented impeccably by another longtime associate of Mario's, Executive Chef Jose Betancourt. He and Mario have been working together since 1994 at the House of Madame Jo Jo and clearly they are a winning-combination in the culinary world.
There is only one word to describe their Sea Bass; divine and cooked to moist, succulent perfection, it was by far my favorite sampling of the evening and I have been craving it ever since. Next, we were swept away with the Surf and Turf, a premium center cut petite filet mignon flawlessly cooked and a luscious lobster tail. Other options include their Veal Chop, which is grilled and finished with a Porcini mushroom demi glaze, the Steak and Mac, grilled flat iron steak, served with La Traviata's mac 'n' cheese, a Mediterranean Mixed Grill, consisting of grilled lamb, chicken and pork with vegetables and Mediterranean fries and finally, their Pork Chop, grilled and finished with an orange mustard sauce, polenta sticks and seasonal vegetables.
To conclude we both had Cappuccinos. I am not a big coffee aficionado, but this was the most delicious I have ever had and a perfect complement to their decadent desserts, the Cheesecake Monterrosa and Tiramisu.
La Traviata is open for Lunch Monday through Fri- day, 11:30 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. and Dinner Monday through Saturday from 5:00 p.m., with a happy hour Monday through Friday from 5 p.m. to close. They are closed Sunday but they are in the process of coordinating cabaret shows music and such for the future.
La Traviata Ristorante is located in the historic Willmore building at 301 Cedar Avenue in Long Beach. For Reservations and more information call 562.432.8022 or go to latraviata301.com