TomGeorge: FROM BUDAPEST WITH LOVE

There are many words in the English language that naturally go together; up and down. hot and cold.  sugar and spice. But Italy and Hungary? With the exception of the occasional History Channel war documentary, those are two words that rarely appear in the same sentence.  So how did DTLA become the home of an Italian restaurant by way of Budapest, on the prime location of 7th and Grand?  Welcome to the world of TomGeorge, a popular new denizen in DTLA’s robust dining scene.

With a theatre-like marquee above the dark wood double door entrance keeping in tune with the aura of “big city” Tom George is easily on par with any of the well established fine dining options Yet, seasoned restauranteurs, Tom and George chose DTLA to present their gastronomic sensations to the New World.

Tamas Sztano and Gyorgy Leftovicz opened their first Italian restaurant in downtown Budapest in 2002, and it’s been a hot spot for locals, jet-setters and European glitterati since.  More locations followed and then it was time to come overseas and conquer the West.  This time, though, the Italian fare is peppered with a Hungarian accent to produce a rich continental cuisine that is keenly aware of California food sensibilities.

The European influence is immediately visible upon arrival through the aforementioned mahogany entrance. Though not quite as opulent as the train station in central Budapest, (a must see, if you haven’t already), the geometric Euro-chic décor is made all the more inviting with a ménage of warm copper and orange tones as if sprinkled with paprika. A bold red moped audaciously adorns the stairway, while oversized windows beckon the sunlight.  The extended bar has become one of DTLA’s most coveted watering holes for aperitivo and savvy cocktails.  The wraparound patio where a wall allows for a scenic sidewalk view beneath plentiful heat lamps.  What really shines, however, is the stellar service.  Manager Omar Rodriguez, a Wolfgang Puck veteran, vows that hospitality is the main ingredient to a great restaurant.

Chef Jager Shook agrees emphatically.

“Our kitchen staff takes great pride in what they do,” he says. “Love is poured into every dish.”

This dedication shows with smiles and an aim to please from the moment you arrive.

The menu consists of popular items that fill the tables around you.  For starters, try the eggplant Bruschetta – an Italian staple transformed into a flavorful Hungarian appetizer or the Charred Octopus with romesco,  On the leaner side, the Kale Apple Salad and Ahi Tuna Loin in a piccata and citrus sauce are all deliciously light and generously portioned.  One of their best-selling items, the Budapest “Lecsó” Ratatouille Pizza features a spicy homemade Hungarian sausage, chives and sour cream. Hardcore spice lovers, however, may wish to add dried chili flakes or chili oil to earn the (S) icon on the menu. Traditionalists will likely devour the hearty Spaghetti with Lamb Meatballs. So vegans will not go hungry, Tom George offers ample choices, which include vegan pizza and Roasted Cauliflower with roasted eggplant, pickled onion, dukkha, and mint. If you have your heart set on Goulash, you will swear their’s taste just like your grandma’s.

Dessert ranges from the oozing chocolate lava cake to a refreshing citrus tarte.

They also offer a popular weekend brunch and a weekday power lunch that has become a favorite for downtown professionals.

The bridge from the heart of Europe via Italy to California can be a tricky one to navigate, but TomGeorge does it with finesse at every step.  And while the streets of DTLA are not exactly quaint cobblestone alleyways, TomGeorge brings Europe’s charms a little closer. TomGeorge. 707 S. Grand Ave. Los Angeles, CA 90017. www.tomgeorgela.com