Travel Tuesday is back, thanks to a recent trip to LA. These trips have been to visit family, so I prioritized being able to spend as much time with family, particularly my new niece who turns 6 months old at the end of March, and her schedule of feedings and naps. Generally this meant food at home via delivery or take out and leftovers from lunch – and I try to keep my asks reasonable at maybe 2 restaurants I want to try out each visit. Recently, the big one on my list was to eat pasta in a cheese wheel, which I found is offered at lunch and dinner at Forma Restaurant in Santa Monica.
Forma is named after cheese and all about the cheese. Their cheese bar offers more then 50 cheeses, breaking up the cheese sectiosn based on hardness (soft ripened, washed rind, semi-soft, semi-hard) and a whole section for just truffled cheese (cheese with white or black truffle). They have a few US cheeses from California, Vermont, Wisconsin, New York, and Oregon, but most are imported from Italy, France, Holland, England and Spain. This does not count the fresh cheeses like burrata and the mozzarella knots that you can also find in their small plates section. Of course I got burrata. This is the Burrata Stracciata with creamy burrata, prosciutto, plum ad citrus conserva, and micro basil.
We ordered another starter of Filet Mignon Tartare, a dish of avocado, fresno chile pepper, capers, shallot, parmigiano, on grilled bread. I was really happy to see them go to the cheese bar in the back to freshly shave the parmigiano from the cheese wheel and bury these toasts in them!
Besides the expert cheese selections, Forma Restaurant also offers something really unique: a few pastas served Dalla Forma. This is where freshly cooked pasta is then finished in large cheese wheels prior to being served by someone grating cheese and mixing it all up in melty goodness in the cheese wheel.
They don’t do this tableside as the restaurant is too intimate for the requisite cart to lug the cheese wheel from table to table to do so, but there is an open view of the cheese bar in the back and you can totally go up to watch the cheese magic happen like I did.
In terms of the pasta in the Dalla Forma section, there are four options:
- Chitarra Cacio E Pepe, a dish with home made spaghetti, black pepper, extra virgin olive oil tossed in pecorino romano cheese
- Fettucini Bolognese, a fettucini pasta in beef ragu tossed with butter in parmigiano reggiano cheese
- Risotto Milanese, a risotto dish with rice, saffron, and veal ossobuco then tossed in grana padano cheese
- Tortellini, a dish of tortellini pasta with mushrooms, light cream, truffle oil then tossed with bella lodi cheese
We ordered the first and last on that list, as these two were vegetarian so one of my sisters (who is vegetarian) could also eat it. I also kept in mind and controlled my gluttony to leave room for a visit we would be making after this lunch to a friend’s place where we knew there would be some home-cooked Thai food. But I’ll gladly be back again for more, especially that truffled cheese section.
Here are the Chitarra Cacio E Pepe dish of homemade spaghetti, black pepper, extra virgin olive oil tossed in pecorino romano cheese and the Tortellini pasta with mushrooms, light cream, truffle oil then tossed with bella lodi cheese, once plated. The tortellini pasta doesn’t look like much visually but the pasta itself stuffed with cheese and mushrooms inside were my favorite, while I wish there had been a lot more pepper in the cacio e pepe.
We also tried the Trofie Al Pesto, a dish of fresh pasta, basil pesto, vegetables, pine nuts, parmigiano cheese (my other sister, the mother of my niece, is a pesto lover!) , and shared a dessert dish of the bombolone alla crema with chocolate sauce, which the waiter described as a bit like an Italian jelly doughnut, but was decidedly much better then a jelly doughnut. Although it is fried it isn’t as sickly sweet to me as most doughnuts on the outside or the creamy inside.
Have you ever heard of pasta in a cheese bowl before, which of the four dalla forma pastas would you have picked? What’s your favorite pasta usually?