Dining With Grace: Casa Nostra

If you think that fine Italian dining is far away, then think again, as this Highlands restaurant is a local gem. The setting is attractive with an outdoor enclosed patio to keep out the breeze during cool weather, and a large indoor dining room decorated with paintings and an array of comfortable tables to accommodate dining duos as well as large families.

Just have a glass of their special Santa Barbara chardonnay as you try the breads with the olive oil and excellent balsamic vinegar. The crisp breads, as well as the soft, got things started well.

We were treated to the tuna tartare with avocado as one starter, and artichoke leaves steamed with Italian herbs and white wine as a second. Each was delicious; the tuna tartare was perfect on the crispy bread, while the artichoke leaves had superb flavor.

Antipasti dishes vary from Mediterranean mussels in a light tomato or a white wine sauce ($11.90) to bruschetta of toasted ciabatta bread topped with fresh tomatoes, basil and garlic ($6.90) to an eggplant soufflé stuffed with fresh mozzarella ($8.90).

Ten salads are listed but after our scrumptious starters we did not need a salad.

The Dover sole topped with capers and lemon was not only beautifully presented with asparagus, zucchini and tomato, but the fish was superb and filled with flavor ($35.90). My friend had the Osso Buco—a large serving of veal shanks braised with olive oil, white wine, stock, onions, tomatoes, garlic and anchovies on a bed of saffron risotto. This dish was scrumptious ($37.90). Portions were large so that each of us enjoyed the leftovers the next day.

There are numerous dishes for any appetite from a roasted duck breast served with steamed green beans ($23.90) to a veal scaloppini served with sautéed spinach and rosemary potatoes ($28.90) to grilled salmon with a lemon caper sauce and steamed broccoli ($25.90).

If pasta or risotto is what you desire there are many, including homemade meat lasagna ($15.90), Italian sausage and mushrooms in a white-wine and mushroom sauce, and linguine with fresh Manila clams in a white-wine sauce ($20.90). There’s also a risotto with shrimp, calamari, clams and mussels in a light, spicy tomato sauce.

And, of course, like any good Italian restaurant there are pizzas. You may even make your own pizza with add-on toppings for $1 or $2 more depending on your selection. The simple Margherita pizza of fresh Roma tomatoes, basil and garlic is $12 for the regular size, and $16 for the large.

Best of all for the many Highland families who dine here, there is a “Kids Menu” that includes pizzas and penne pasta with butter and cheese ($5.90), or with tomato sauce ($6.90).

Desserts are $7 and range from tiramisu to sorbetti served in a fruit shell to a gelati ice cream. We were treated to Vulcano Di Cioccolato, a decadent chocolate cake topped with vanilla ice cream and whipped cream. Absolutely delicious!

Hours are 11:30 a.m to 10 p.m. Lunch is served from 11:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. with special Panini sandwiches for $11.90 accompanied by French fries, or a small green salad.

Restaurant Editor

1515 Palisades Dr., Pacific Palisades • (310) 454-8889

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