Earlier this month, Barolo Grill's owner, Ryan Fletter, and chef, Darrel Truett, announced plans to open a quick-service pasta counter called Chow Morso inside Avanti Food & Beverage at 3200 Tejon Street. Those plans have nearly come to fruition: Fletter and Truett hope to open Chow Morso sometime next week, possibly as early as Wednesday, October 5 (depending on final inspection sign-off from the city).
While a little hammering and installing are still in progress in the ground-floor space that the eatery will occupy (which was previously Bixo Mediterranean Bites), the opening menu has been hammered out — and it will allow diners to customize meals by pasta, sauce and portion size.
Starters include Italian street-food bites that Truett often uses at Barolo as amuse-bouche offerings or passed appetizers at special events: airy little herbed doughnuts topped with porchetta, fried polenta cubes served with "Tuscan ketchup" (red pepper agro dulce), and a fritto misto of crunchy calamari and veggies served in paper cones.
The house pasta dish is agnolotti coated in sage brown butter, but customers will also be able to choose between tagliatelle, rigatoni, gnocchi or polenta topped with Bolognese, pesto or crimini mushroom sauce. All of the pastas will be made fresh daily at Chow Morso, and dishes — including the salads and appetizers — will be available in large ("chow") and small ("morso") sizes.
Chef Don Gragg, an alum from the early days of Barolo Grill, will be heading the Chow Morso kitchen; Fletter says additional items could soon become part of the menu rotation.
Avanti's overall concept is to give chefs and budding restaurateurs the opportunity to test ideas before moving on to bigger things (as former Avanti tenant Farmer Girl did earlier this year), but Fletter says he's doing things a little backwards. Comparing Chow Morso to a successful businessman returning to college dorm life, Fletter notes that his team will need to adjust to the smaller space and limited cooking equipment compared to what they have at the long-established Barolo. "We want to bring the food to the people, not bring the people to the food," he explains.
But like the 22-year-old original, the spinoff will use high-quality ingredients to make everything from scratch — from that selection of pastas to seasonal giardiniera to housemade gelato and biscotti. And because of the shifting customer demographic at Avanti, gluten-free, vegan and vegetarian diners were taken into account during menu planning.
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Avanti F & B recently rolled out a happy hour with bar specials from 2 to 6 p.m.; restaurants will also have food specials, so look for Chow Morso's happy-hour deals soon after the opening next week.
In keeping with the incubator theme, three of Avanti's food stalls have already turned over this year. Farmer Girl, Poco Torteria and Bixo have moved out, while the Regional and Bamboo Sushi have moved in.