UPDATED: You can find Nerano and BG Lounge on Postmates and Grubhub!
With room for only about 30 seats, BG Lounge above Nerano is found upstairs through a retro red illuminated alley walkway with secret entrance (follow the neon sign COCKTAILS) and at first appearance, BG transports me to the old-school Italian dining establishments I’m familiar with on the east coast. A place in Providence, Rhode Island quickly comes to mind.
BG was created as an ode to the best mid-century Italian-American restaurants in New York and Hollywood where well-prepared food doesn’t mean pretentious but could mean you are seated next to a godfather, Italian great grandfather from the old country, and in LA-fashion, most likely a movie star or a mogul.
Above beloved Nerano, BG Lounge’s second story space is dimly lit and packed on a weekday night. The small space lined with the zinc bar is outfitted in vintage Ferrari red with brick walls, red leather seats, black linens, a cozy red love seat against the back wall, and bold modern art curated by the Marc Selwyn Gallery. A piece catches my eye – EMPATHY FOR EVERYONE – never a truer statement for our time and something I have myself cultivated in 12 years of living in LA. Another piece seems to show the Italian immigrant story but I am soon quickly distracted my my jovial girl dinner – and what we should order first.
Like a private club from yesteryear, we start with cocktails and then move to wine. Exquisite $16 cocktails are concocted by Chief Mixologist Dorian De Tappan and a rotating selection of quality Italian and California wines are curated by BG Sommelier, Davide Matarazzo. In dramatic style, the Spaghetti Western with bourbon, lemon, and tobacco bitters arrives with a smoking cinnamon stick and a signature ice cube engraved with the BG logo. Since Mezcal is always my drink of choice, the Coppa D’Oro does not disappoint with smoky Los Vecinos mezcal and spicy carmalized yellow bell pepper puree with honey, lemon, and a rim doused with volcanic salt. As our dinner progresses we move into a $30 Barolo from Piemonte that I share with my girlfriend who also appareciates the finer things.
Executive Chef Michele Lisi elevates traditional Italian-American cuisine with staples like Spaghetti and Meatballs but with Wagyu meatballs and Linguine Vongole with a hearty bowl of Manila Clams – all perfectly shareable. My favorite dish surprises me – the Baked Italian Eggplant – a dish my own Italian great grandmother knew how to do as a beloved cook making homemade Italian food to-order at a Connecticut hospital for over 30 years.
Dishes we began our meal with include the dramatic shrimp cocktail – so fresh and big – appearing in a dry ice smoke ambiance of fun. The Arancini balls quickly disappear with a surprise soft medley of Carnaroli Rice, Black Angus Beef Ragú, Peas, Rustic Tomato Sauce, and Parmigiano Snow. And at least the Iceberg Wedge tricks me into thinking I had my greens with its perfect pairing of Campari Tomato, Blue Cheese, and Crispy Pancetta. I’m in Italian heaven here. I’d like to think my Italian ancestry has been passed down through my adoration of good food and great ingredients. The leftover Chicken Parm comes home with me.
Upon my return, I already know I will be ordering the Ministrone Soup, Marinara Pizza with Anchovies, Zuchinni Fries, and black pepper Spaghetti Cacio e Pepe. For dessert, BG doesn’t mess around either employing cult favorite Doan’s Bakery in Woodland Hills to amp our waistlines with Vanilla Coconut Cake, a personal Tom Cruise favorite. He gifts this cake to all his famous friends. We manage to share one more slice too – the airy absolutely perfect not too dense Cheesecake with berries.
BG is certainly ‘A Love Triangle’ between food, wine, and cocktails. As I leave, I wonder what BG means – Be Good, Big Guts, Big Guns, Brave Goomba, or most likely the initials of the owners’ last names – Andy and Carlo Brandon-Gordon. BG is the 5th iteration of the Toscana Restaurant Group.
Open Thursday – Sunday, BG dinners and cocktails begin at 6 PM. The space is also perfect for small customized private dining events by appointment.
9960 Santa Monica Boulevard
Beverly Hills, CA 90212