If Celestino Drago believes one thing should never be compromised about Italian cuisine, its freshness.
“This morning, we had to take the burrata off the menu because the cheese guy hasn’t been here yet,” Drago said with a laugh. “We try to get everything here fresh every single day.”
Drago is the founder of the Osteria Drago, located at 8741 West Sunset Boulevard, in the heart of the Sunset Strip. And having opened restaurants under his name in Downtown Los Angeles, Beverly Hills, and Santa Monica, Drago is hoping to cater to an important Southern California clientele with his newest Italian creation.
“I love West Hollywood,” Drago said. “I’ve always loved the people here, the excitement, the energy that West Hollywood has, and when this location came along, I said, ‘I have to have it.’”
In the location formerly occupied by Il Sole Ristorante, one of Sunset Boulevard’s many celebrity-drawing eateries, Osteria Drago hopes to become a staple in the Weho community after reformatting the restaurant into a quaint, “hometown” Italian space.
Osteria Drago incorporates a bar area, as well as three separate dining areas, one of which is a patio facing the Strip. And after recently shutting the doors on Drago Ristorante in Santa Monica, Drago believes the methods that he used for 20 years at Drago Ristorante will translate effectively to Osteria Drago.
“The first thing you do when you open a restaurant is look at the area you’re in and the demographic you want to reach,” Drago said. “Here, really what I what I did is assemble the dishes I had in at the Santa Monica restaurant for a long time. I know people will still want to find those dishes.”
Osteria Drago officially opened for business on August 1, open Monday through Saturday, 5:30 p.m. to 11 p.m. and Sunday, 5:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. But in recent weeks, Drago began a lunch program that runs Tuesday through Friday, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
“Being in Los Angeles for 30 years, a lot of people have become familiar with Drago,” Drago said. “The responses we’ve been having are people coming from everywhere. They’re excited to support us.”
In order to put somewhat of a twist on his traditional Italian dishes, Drago says that he has challenged himself to uncover unfamiliar or neglected dishes from his home country, and bring them to prominence in his newest restaurant space.
“I try to find some recipe in Italy that has been kind of forgotten in any region and have fun with that,” Drago said. “And try to make them more the way people want to eat now, which is not the same way people wanted to eat 50 years ago.”
Incorporated in many of those dishes are products that Drago picks up from the Sunset Strip Farmer’s Market, which happens to be less than a block away from Osteria Drago.
“What we focus on the same in every restaurant is the quality,” Drago said. “Quality is very important. Whatever is being produced at the farmer’s market, we get it. The best of the best.”
“What we started doing was going to the Sunset Strip market to buy stuff on Thursday,” Drago added. “And so many people walk by on Thursday and see the restaurant. Thursday night is a good night. The farmer’s market is so great for West Hollywood and for us in this location.”
Aside from offering unique and fresh Italian dishes, from baby octopus to deversol, Drago maintains that the dining experience, including customer service, is just as important as the meal.
“To me, Italian food is special because you have to have the passion to create the dish,” Drago said. “Ingredients are very important. The hospitality is very important. Customers want to feel like they are in Italy and we try our hardest to provide that.”
Osteria Drago Featured at Taste of Italy Event
The Italian American Museum of Los Angeles (IAMLA) will hold its 4th annual Taste of Italy cultural event Saturday in Downtown Los Angeles from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m.
The event features 50 of Los Angeles’ best Italian restaurants and wineries, and one restaurant will be awarded the Marchio Ospitalita Italiana award.
Osteria Drago will be one of the 50 restaurants featured at Saturday’s event, which will also provide live entertainment.
All proceeds will go to IAMLA organization. Tickets can be purchased here.