Original Article: Ventura County Star
Written by: Rita Moran
The once small but pleasant eatery at Lindero Country Club in Agoura Hills has grown up a lot since we first visited a few years ago.
Now with a new name, Osteria Orto, signaling a change in style to a casual Italian gathering place for fans of fresh, well-prepared food, the site is blessed with a new chef, Francesco, whose previous culinary experience includes working at a Michelin Star restaurant in London. We found innovative and attractively prepared food bolstering that background.
While the interior room we previously dined at is still there and looks welcoming, we were very happy sitting on the roofed patio on a balmy day and could look out at the equally enticing garden seating.
2 for lunch
Starters: Roasted beets ($13) + piccola frittura ($18)
Entrées: Fettuccine with ragu ($18) + lasagna ($19) + Scottish salmon ($20)
Desserts: Rum BaBa ($10.50) + fritelle ($12)
Tab for two: $28-$40
Osteria has a modest lunch menu but one that took us a while to narrow down our choices because everything sounded good. We started with roasted beets ($13) that came with black olives, arugula, olive vinaigrette and toasted pistachios. A particular delight was that after ordering it to “share” among the three of us, we were brought three separate plates with the ingredients combined equally on each. We had asked for a spare plate or two, but the result was much classier.
Our other starter was piccola frittura ($18), which was as delicious as it was beautiful to look at. The plate combined lightly battered and fried calamari, shrimp and zucchini, the last in delicate slivers, with a spicy aioli dip.
Fettuccine with “Six-Hour Braised Beef Ragu” ($18) was a hearty and vividly flavored entrée, and traditional lasagna from the Marche region of Italy ($19) was another satisfying dish.
Our friend who chose the pan-roasted Scottish salmon ($20) opted for the roasted cauliflower soup, $2 extra, instead of the Caesar salad that ordinarily comes with the dish. The soup was light and creamy in texture, with a distinctive cauliflower zest. The only drawback was that the excellent strip of salmon looked a bit lonely on the plate without the Caesar salad.
We were sipping tea and lemonade during the early part of our meal but management noticed that our very helpful but new young server hadn’t presented us with the house Signature Drinks menu. One look at that and its unusual offerings and we had to taste a few: the orto margarita ($11) with pineapple, cucumber and sage added to the usual ingredients; Annette’s Champagne ($12), which included Malibu rum, fresh blackberries, lemon and prosecco; and Isabel Vision ($12), whose ingredients included blueberry, basil, lime juice, jalapeños and a splash of prosecco. The creative touches certainly make the drinks stand out, in addition to being refreshing.
5719 Lake Lindero Drive,
at Lindero Country Club, Agoura Hills. 818-889-1158.
11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesdays through Thursdays and Sundays;
11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays
Impressions: Very comfortable and attractive interior, patio and garden settings; excellent service; fresh and unusual Italian specialties plus traditional American favorites
What’s hot: Roasted beets, piccola frittura, fettuccine with ragu, Rum BaBa
We finished with desserts of the house Rum BaBa and fritelle, both of which are versions of balls of fried puff pastry, one with a creamy rum filling.
There were lots of other menu items that we’d like to try sometime: a salad with organic mixed greens, cherry tomatoes, watermelon, radishes, celery and carrots, or Tuscan kale with shaved fennel, radish and ricotta salata. For shellfish and seafood fans there are starters that include Kumamoto oysters, hamachi, mussels and a chilled Spanish octopus salad.
And of course for the casual golfers and such there are sandwiches, burgers and more. Among the former are grilled chicken, ahi tuna and grilled ciabatta sandwiches. There is also a steak frite, five ounces of Reserved Beef, seared and served with heirloom tomatoes and arugula. All include “skinny fries” or salad.
Osteria Orto offers preparations beyond the usual. Patrons who seek to savor something well-prepared and different will find it at the forward-looking spot’s serene setting.