Classic Tables: Vincenti

This Brentwood stalwart is still a neighborhood favorite

With so many Italian restaurants on Brentwood's San Vicente Boulevard, it takes something special to stand out. At Vincenti Ristorante, it's the warm charm of owner Maureen Vincenti and the talents of chef Nicola Mastronardi.

Vincenti, known for her bear hugs and generous laughter, just might be the best hostess on the Westside. Open since 1997, the unassuming neighborhood spot quickly gathered a die-hard following. The comfortably stylish room hasn't changed much, but the food has only gotten better.

Pasta ranges from classics like thick bucatini pasta with zesty tomato sauce studded with salty, house-cured guanciale ($16) to homemade orecchiette with clams and cuttlefish. The chef makes great use of the wood-burning oven: The flames add depth to house-made lamb sausages with a vegetable stew ($18), or perfectly moist and flaky branzino sided by creamy artichoke purée ($20).

That oven works overtime on Monday nights–pizza night. You'll see the slightly charred, thin-crust pies on just about every table. The ones topped with prosciutto, wild arugula and mozzarella ($20), and rich potatoes, onions and fennel sausage ($20), are house favorites.

And on any night, pray that the butter-lettuce salad ($15) is available, just to taste the addictively soft fried polenta croutons, which are made to order.

In a place like this, it's the little things that count.

Vincenti Ristorante, 11930 San Vicente Blvd., Brentwood; 310-207-0127 or vincentiristorante.com