Brentwood is famous for two things: OJ Simpson and having the highest concentration of overpriced, mediocre Italian restaurants in the entire country. Ok, fine, it’s really just OJ, but if you’ve ever set foot in this Tesla-filled Westside neighborhood you know you can barely walk two steps down San Vicente without encountering a place serving $30 bowls of spaghetti to people who’ll probably only have one bite. Italian food is Brentwood’s lifeblood and in many ways, it doesn’t really matter if it tastes good or not.
But if you’re a person who cares about food, there’s only one Italian restaurant in Brentwood you need to know about: Vincenti.
In many ways, Vincenti is just like the other 29 Italian places down the street. The space is big - with a bar up front and a dining room that’s part kind-of-fancy restaurant, part neighborhood meet-up. The crowd is a mix of older couples on date night, groups of parents celebrating the fact that they got babysitters tonight, and younger couples having dinner with in-laws. It’s expensive, the menu comes across as entirely standard (pasta, burrata, giant pieces of meat), and there seems to permanently be some sort of celebrity in residence. So far, so Brentwood.
The difference at Vincenti is that the food is truly excellent. Sure there’s fried calamari on the menu, but here it’s relatively light for something that involves so much oil. And anything that comes out of the wood-fired oven is worth paying attention to - they’ll rattle off a list of specials when you arrive that makes picking just one difficult. The simplicity of the food just highlights the quality - you can’t really get away with serving a $58 veal t-bone with not much else unless it’s the best damn veal t-bone around.
Given that you can’t really get out the door for under $100 a head, Vincenti isn’t exactly your neighborhood Italian. When you’re looking for the opposite of that, though - a place that feels like a celebration, but also isn’t trying too hard to convince you it’s cool - this is it. If you’re going to eat Italian in Brentwood, you shouldn’t go any further than Vincenti.
Fried calamari can easily become chewy and heavy, but Vincenti knows what they’re doing. Which is coating very fresh squid (and some zucchini) with a light batter, frying it quickly, and giving you plenty of tartare sauce.
Oversized rigatoni with a cherry tomato, shrimp, and lobster sauce. Expensive, and needs a touch more salt, but otherwise, very good.
A wild boar ragu that comes on that green spinach pasta you thought was both cool and gross as a child and a big dollop of burrata. Turns out, greens can be delicious.
For entrees, we usually stick to ordering something wood-fired from the long specials list. On any given night it could be the giant veal chop, or butter-covered langoustines about the size of a small child. Or, ideally, both.
This duck is regularly on the specials rundown, but it’s important to know that if your server doesn’t mention it, you should still ask. They usually have one or two waiting for those who’ve heard the legend of Vincenti’s mind-bogglingly good duck.