Anyone who’s ever opened a bag of Gardetto’s knows one thing - the brown rye chips are the best part. The rest of the contents are fine, but it’s also just a bunch of seasoned pretzels and you could get that from almost any bag inside the vending machine. Making those little chips the priority is the only way to do it. And when it comes to maximizing your dinner at Pace, the classic Italian restaurant in Laurel Canyon, a similar strategy should be taken. Concentrate on the brown rye chips and don’t fill up on the pretzels.
So what are Pace’s rye chips? For one, the cedar wood grilled salmon. While a piece of salmon sitting on a wood plank shouldn’t be memorable, this one is. Then you’ve got the soul-curing tortellini, the rigatoni, and the Zeus’ pizza with enough fresh prosciutto on top to feed an Italian family of four. These are all pretty traditional, but they taste like a really good home-cooked meal and that alone will make everyone at the table happy. Is the rest of Pace’s menu inedible garbage food? Definitely not. But knowing the highlights is key to having the best meal possible.
Now that the food portion of your night is settled, you can concentrate on the real reason you’re even here: the space. Pace is legendary - an unofficial landmark of the old Laurel Canyon before it became the traffic-clogged shortcut you take to get to the Valley. The old, rustic building looks like the kind of place you pass by driving around Tuscany. And even though you’re in the center of the city, this part of Laurel Canyon feels like you’re in an enchanted forest where love and magic are still possible. Also, the people-watching is second to none. Pace pulls a more local crowd, but guess who the locals are? Celebrities. The kind of 90’s television celebrities who are now talking very loudly about their invasive sciatica pain. And that more than makes up for the not-mind-blowing food.
Use Pace for a left-of-center date night, and it’s going to go well for you. Use it for a wine-drenched friends dinner on a Wednesday night, and it’s also going to go well for you. There are very few ways to fail at Pace - even if you end up with a few pretzels on your plate.
It takes a lot for us to get worked up about a piece of cooked salmon, but this is one of those times. Topped with just herbs and lemon juice and olive oil, it’s a remarkably simple dish, but one that is done perfectly. Get this.
Another must-order, this is one of our favorite plates of old-school pasta in town. Roasted butternut squash and ricotta packed into giant tortellini, topped with a glorious white wine sauce. It’s not a light dish, but you aren’t here to drop a pant size.
Props for putting some sort of vegetable on your table here, but the reality is this chopped salad is very mediocre.
Not just a good pasta to order in its own right, this is also the perfect complement to the white-sauced tortellini. The al dente on the rigatoni noodles is perfect.
Pace’s pizza isn’t so much pizza as it large flatbread, but if you know that going in, you won’t be disappointed. With just prosciutto, arugula, and mozzarella, the Zeus is simple but good, and ideal for sharing with the table.
This is basically an Italian shrimp stew, and while you won’t be mad if you order it, it’s pretty hearty and you’ll fill up fast. Save room for the rye chips instead.