Four Seasons’ Lobby Lounge Says “Delicious” in Italian

For a special occasion, you could do a Sunday brunch.  To get authentic Italian food, you could go to an Italian restaurant.  Or even Italy.

But why bother with any of those things?  Right here in Westlake Village, the Four Seasons Hotel’s Lobby Lounge creates an Italian marketplace every Saturday night.  To encourage you to try everything on offer at their weekly Mercato Italiano, they offer a prix fixe menu and a varied and colorful array of different foods.

A marketplace buffet is laid out in a square in the middle of the Lobby Lounge, complete with umbrellas even though you’re all inside.  Along one edge is the salumi bar, where the chef puts the plates together and calls out “SALUMI!” when a plate is ready.  The salamis and pungent cheeses are brought to your table on slate slabs.  You can nosh on this while you nibble on the fresh bread served in little paper bags.

Continue along the right side of the square through the salads and antipasto bowls full of fresh market vegetables and freshly made pastas, to the bruschetta bar, where a server makes your bruschetta from scratch for you.

 

 

Take a left after the bruschetta to the pasta bar, which is reminiscent of an omelette bar at a brunch, except this is way better.  Any kind of pasta you want with your choice of toppings and sauces.  The butternut squash risotto was just the right combination of flavors, and used squash grown on the premises for the California Health and Longevity Institute.

And look at the wonder on my child’s face as he orders and receives that most wonderful of childhood delicacies…

…plain pasta with butter and parmesan cheese.  Look how happy!

Along the fourth edge of the square are the prepared entrees – you serve yourself here buffet-style.  A piping hot lasagna Bolognese, a tender pork loin dish, salmon nestled in pillowy mountains of garlic mashed potatoes, and lamb osso buco – something I had never tried before but looked so delicious I had to taste, and it indeed tasted just as good.  Come hungry to this meal, friends, because you’re going to want to taste everything.

The atmosphere of the evening is lively with Italian music playing loudly on the speakers, giving kids license to be their noisy selves.  Seatings are at 5pm and 7pm, so there is the early option for families with little ones.  Our kids enjoyed the bread and pasta and one of them even ate from the salumi plate, but the best part of the night for them was making pizzas with Chef Manny.

Along with salumi plates, bread, and beverages, the pizzas are brought to the table, and Chef Manny shouts the names of the pizzas as they leave his prep station so that the servers will come get the pie, walk it outside to the wood-fired oven, and return with a plate of delicious pizza.

This handcrafted artisan pizza has garlic aioli instead of tomato sauce, and is topped with butternut squash, spinach, and goat cheese.  Since our son made it, the taste was even more wonderful.  Of course, by the time it was done, the adults were filled with all of the other treats, and we still had to save room for dessert:

The gelato cart was serving up a variety of flavors.  We tried peanut butter and jelly, salted caramel, and pumpkin.  The PB&J was the grown-up favorite, while good old chocolate was a tried and true hit with the kids.  We also sampled the tiramisu (perfect) and one of each of the fancy tarts.  See that tray of shot glasses toward the middle of the bottom of the photo above?  Those glasses hold vanilla custard served in eggshells topped with tiny diced strawberries.

I was so delighted by the presentation that I forgot to get a close-up before I gobbled it down.

Also with dessert I tasted the special authentic limoncello that restaurant manager Massimo Cibelli told me is made from lemons grafted from Sorrento in Italy.  They are grown in Ventura, where the limoncello is made.  Served chilled, alone it is tart and powerful.  Poured over ice and mixed with sparkling wine, it would be a perfect dessert cocktail to sip by the pool in the summer.  Alas.

On this night it was snowing outside the Lobby Lounge.  It was manufactured snow, but it was snow nonetheless.  We shall have to return on a warmer evening and test my theory.

Executive Chef Mario Alcocer (below, left) conceived Mercato Italiano as a one-time special event, but it was so popular that the feature is now weekly with no end in sight.  The restaurant fills both seatings regularly, so reservations are recommended.

Not Italian, but very good with his delizioso.

Mercato Italiano happens every Saturday evening starting at 5:00 pm.  Prices are $45 for adults and $25 for children.  My family and I were guests of the hotel at this meal to facilitate this feature.

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