By The Roving Restaurant Reporter
I was driving down Moorpark and crossed over Tujunga when I noticed people tucked behind lush greenery on a patio, with an inviting double door entrance open to the summer night, with a mysterious bar in the foreground. I took the last spot in their lot to give them a try.
I came through the opening into what is a laid back, hip, mellow watering hole for a very relaxed crowd of locals who have obviously discovered this newly opened spot. I took a seat on one of their standup bars and gave the place a careful look. High ceilings, open kitchen with a huge pizza oven, circular bar, TV monitors glowing overhead (with no volume which I love) and all mutes colors of grays and black, offset with chrome table bases. 8 ½ Taverna comes off very much like the pubs in the heart of St. Tropez. This is a place where you can spend a lot of time, drink a lot of wine, eat a lot of great local fare, and meet plenty of strangers along the way. I knew I was here for the night.
I started with two of their small plates, Ahi tuna bites, and steamed mussels in a saffron and fennel sauce. The tuna bites were fresh and tasty and obviously high grade Ahi, as I know when someone is giving me yesterday’s Ahi, and this was not the case. A real hit was the mussels in the saffron and fennel sauce.
I ordered two glasses of wine: one a Merlot and the other red Bordeaux. Both were excellent, and although they were $10 and $12, I must admit, I would certainly have them both again.
Next came a pizza called the Rustica: tomatoes, ricotta, artichoke, and eggplant – and here I was ready for pepperoni, sausage and mozzarella! Okay, this is Gucci pizza, and Wolfgang no doubt would have been proud. As the real judge of pizza is the crust and not what is layered on top, let me be embarrassingly honest. I would have taken home his pie crusts to lather peanut butter and raspberry jam on!
They have a massive daily blackboard special list on the wall loaded with fresh specials, and when they run out, the chef takes his chalk and makes a dramatic sword-like swath through the item. Oh, how I like this kind of drama.
As a true test, I choose a halibut special, and I never order halibut, or buy halibut for home. In fact I have never even caught a halibut, as I have no love for the lowly halibut, but Enzo the Chef and owner totally surprised me. I do not remember how it was prepared, except it was succulent, fresh, and tantalizing.
The Roving Restaurant Reporter is hooked on 8 ½ Taverna – like an old halibut trolling the bottom for undiscovered niches in the scenery we call LA.