When I first met Mario Sabatini we were both waiters in Brentwood. I was a young college student studying at UCLA and he was in his late 20’s and new to LA. A lot of water, and pasta, under the bridge since then, and Mario has unquestionably established himself as one of the pre-eminent restauranteurs on the west side. His first restaurant, Pecorino, was opened over a decade ago in the heart of Brentwood. Since then, he has gone on to open one of Santa Monica’s essential eateries, and one of my personal favorites, Forma.
Located on 16th and Montana, Forma is a west side staple, and its recently opened sister restaurant, Forma Venice (in the old Chaya Venice venue), has quickly become a local favorite. The name Forma comes from the ‘dalla forma’ style of preparing pasta.
This common technique used in Italy takes warm and ready to go pasta and finishes the dish in a wheel of cheese, softening it and adding a hint of cheese flavor, which makes it impossibly delicious. Every time I dine at Forma, the entire experience transports me straight back to Rome. Perfectly prepared pastas, fresh fish, extensive wine list, and Mario’s warm Italian hospitality that makes you feel as though you are family.
Weekend brunch at both locations offers some unique options like salmon pizza, brioche French toast, and frittata pancakes. The mid-week lunch menu serves up a lighter list of staples from the regular menu.
Forma’s happy hour is fantastic! Perfect small bites to accompany the house selection of wines. The misto is a natural go-to favorite – a plate of bread, salumi, cheese and accompaniments. Other yummy bites include the gnocco fritto, mussels, the panzerotto pugliese and my personal favorite, the arancini, which Forma makes exquisitely.
Dinner of course is where Forma truly shines. The handmade pasta and gnocchi are authentic and all worthy of a cheat meal. Every dish has been beautifully imagined, classically prepared with elegant twists. The burnt spaghetti assassina, the pappardelle with wild boar ragu, and the risotto with asparagus and black summer truffle are absolute must-tries.
It might be an impossible task but try to leave room for the cheese selection- no one does it better than Forma. The beautiful cheese bars in both locations boast several massive wheels which are used to craft the ‘dalla forma’ pasta dishes and the full cheese menu offers over 70 varieties.
Dining at Forma isn’t just a meal, it’s an experience. Mario and his staff make you feel at home in his restaurants. He is present, attentive, outgoing and charmingly Italian in every good sense of the word. And of course the food is outstanding and the wine list fabulous. See you there!