Best Italian Restaurant: Ingredients treated with grace
Christopher Lee's love for northern Italian cuisine approaches reverence. As you'd expect of someone who cooked at Chez Panisse for sixteen years, Lee is obsessed with purity -- not in the sense of authenticity but of approach, Californian ingredients treated with grace and subtle magic. His menus read like poems, spare and evocative. "Fritto Misto: razor clams, cardoons, lemons, and rock cod" gives no sense of the ephemerality of the batter they're coated in. "Tagliatelle with white shrimp, spring onions, and pepperoncino" only hints at the wheaty bite of the pasta, the electric play between the shellfish and the peppers. This is the place to take your in-laws from Riverside when they "just want Italian" and you just can't stomach the thought of spaghetti with meatballs.