Maximiliano Italian | Highland Park, Los Angeles

Shades of old-school Italian at Maximiliano

Having dinner on York Boulevard usually involves standing alongside a likely illegal trompo, eating just-sliced al pastor pork wrapped in fresh tortillas.

So with its walls splashed in a graphic representation of spaghetti, the tangle of dangling Edison bulbs echoing those strands, the newly opened Maximiliano is a departure for the Highland Park dining scene.

The restaurant, run by The Oinkster's Andre Guerrero, has some newfangled Italian dishes to fit its classy d├ęcor and "kinda old-school Italian" credo. Think "organic" Scottish salmon piccata. But the restaurant is at its best when operating in red-gravy mode.

A side of baked eggplant ($7) was resolutely old-guard, the small dish a molten mess of tomato sauce, ricotta and soft eggplant. The dish is a delightful challenge to eat, the cap of browned mozzarella stretching out like telephone wires.

If you're a diner who thinks of Italian eggplant in Northeast Los Angeles and envisions no place other than Casa Bianca, let Maximiliano entice you with pasta. A bright tomato sauce is utilized on many of these dishes, but the version that's amped up with pancetta and rings of squid and served over chewy cavatelli (pictured; $15) is what we'll be coming back for.

Maximiliano, 5930 York Blvd., Highland Park; 323-739-6125 or