Terzo°MDR Unveils Dynamic Italian in Marina Del Rey

Where the famed Settebello established the groundwork for killer Neopolitan pizza, Terzo°MDR has launched as an alluring new concept and one of Settebello’s first expansions beyond pizza. Homemade pastas with rustic Italian additives and wildly creative Mediterranean antipasti highlight this case study in restaurant rebrands, along with a reinvented pizza menu that boasts Settebello’s tried-and-true crust. 

Located in Marina Del Rey’s Villa Marina Marketplace Mall, Terzo°MDR (The MDR stands for Marina Del Rey, for those not in the know) sits just a short stroll from the ocean and the luxury hotel-esque apartment complexes that house some of LA’s finest. Each element of the restaurant plays to its native crowd, reflective of its namesake—‘Terzo’ comes from the Italian idea of having a ‘third place’ to spend one’s time (think Starbucks, but with delicious Italian fare). Bright, homey décor gives off an elegant feel, complemented by an open-air kitchen with the wood-burning stove inherited from Settebello as the centerpiece. The patio is lined with outdoor lounge furniture and a multitude of fireplaces. A quaint but very well stocked bar invites patrons to cozy up for some inventive drinks.

Executive Chef Brian Lavin, named one of Zagat National’s ‘30 under 30,’ moved from across the country to take the helm. Hailing from Baltimore, MD with extensive travel through the Mediterranean, Lavin created a menu that pays homage to his love for seafood, olives and sweet corn, as well as classic Mediterranean flavors with just the right amount of modern invigoration. Case in point with the seared sea scallops, timed to just about the second with a perfect sear and an addictive sweet corn puree. The roasted U-5 head-on shrimp (read: 5 shrimp per pound) are absolutely massive and do quite well in a chickpea purée complemented with shishito peppers and olive vinaigrette. And, not only is Lavin’s chicken liver mousse creamy and indulgent, but it comes out in massive quantity.

Pastas integrate new-age creativity with age-old flavor, with nothing as surprisingly novel as the corn and ricotta cappelletti, or sombrero-shaped pasta cooked al dente—to the point of popping in your mouth, releasing an eye-fluttering compilation of smooth ricotta and sweet corn essence. Close behind is the squid ink gnocchi, with tomato—braised calamari and spicy breadcrumbs. The ricotta cavatelli boasts wild boar sausage and just a touch of Fresno chile for a bit of heat.

When it comes to great meat, however, Lavin’s roasted squash & n’duja, a classic Italian sausage spread, takes the cake. It’s the star of the show alongside roasted corn and thyme cream to highlight Terzo’s pizza menu. 

For dessert, the ricotta doughnuts are a house favorite. What makes them so special though, is—wait for it—corn ice cream, bringing out that same addictive flavor that lines the savory menu with even more sweet woven in. 

The cocktail menu is equally creative. Try the Royal 75, with gin, amaretto, lemon and prosecco, or Hemingway’s Rare Tale, with rum, Chile Ancho liqueur, maraschino, grapefruit, lime and Grenadine. A thoughtful wine and beer list rounds things out. For more information visit TerzoMDR.com. 

Georgia’s Gives Long Beach Some Great Southern Soul

Georgia’s is a breath of fresh air for LA’s food scene. In an age where global fusion, hyper-seasonal menus and quickly revolving food trends have gotten chefs and owners so entrenched in trying to catch ‘the next big thing’ that their restaurants lost their identity in the process, Georgia’s is a place that stays true to its roots. This steadfastness has secured the restaurant’s authentic dedication to Southern comfort and soul food, unaffected by the ever-shifting food tides on the surface. Now with two locations across Long Beach and Anaheim, Georgia’s has made its name in family recipes served in generous portions at fair prices, paired with some of that amazing Southern hospitality.

Co-Owner Nika Shoemaker-Machado is the type of restaurateur you might see more of in the movies than in real life. What a rare treat to have the owner not just walk the dining room floor, but actually sit down at virtually every table and strike up a conversation with Georgia’s regulars and newcomers alike. Her warmth is contagious and the pride she takes in serving her mother’s recipes should be the envy of anyone in the business. Everyone on staff is much the same, providing unparalleled service for a fast-casual restaurant, and tending more to guests’ needs than you’ll even find at most full-service restaurants. She must take after her mother, Gretchen, who despite approaching 80, is known to be a hoot and a holler at the table, and of course a mastermind in the kitchen. 

Gretchen inspired a broad and delectable menu with the recipes she learned to make with her grandmother. I grew up visiting my grandparents in Atlanta, with soul food becoming a childhood staple and a source of deep nostalgia. So upon biting into Georgia’s signature fried chicken, where powerfully rich, juicy meat melds with a perfectly light and crunchy cornmeal crust, time stopped. I found myself in a simpler time, a better time, where carbs weren’t a crime and fried wasn’t an F-word. Then, as the clock began to turn again and I returned to the contemporary world around me, I sought deep relief in knowing that a place like this provides that kind respite 2,000 miles away from where it typically exists.

Nika admitted that while she and her sister did get to grow up with her mom’s recipes served at home, they were only reserved for special occasions and sadly, not every-day occurrences. And with dishes like Gretchen’s special jambalaya, red beans and rice with andouille sausage, pulled pork and of course that fried chicken, such a reality seems to be both a crime (for missed opportunity) and a blessing (for arteries’ sake). Dishes like these escalated Gretchen to culinary fame within her social circle, bringing her to cater weddings, business lunches and other events for many years. To this day, Gretchen comes into the kitchen from time to time and cooks almost entirely from memory.  Actually getting her recipes written down to execute at scale was a challenge. 

It’s safe to say, however, that Nika and team got those recipes down pat. Biting into that heavenly cornbread with a generous slathering of honey butter is the perfect segue into a meal where nutrition just needs to take a back seat. Because after a few of those BBQ pork ribs, velvety mac ‘n’ cheese and thick mashed potatoes, you’ll agree it’s worth it. Yes, you can pair it with beer, wine or even hard lemonade, but I prefer a sweet tea: teas are made quite properly here.

Save room for some sweet potato pie at the end, and maybe another round of cornbread. For more information, visit Georgias-Restaurant.com.

Daphne’s Builds on Decades-Long History with Evolving Menu 

Daphne’s California Greek has been household name across Southern California for decades. With humble beginnings in San Diego, the Mediterranean fast-casual concept quickly evolved into a franchise with locations across the state. Now owned by Elite Restaurant Group, with brands such as Slater’s 50/50 and Paxti’s Pizza also under its wing, Daphne’s has gotten a facelift in both its modern décor and new menu novelties.

Growing up in North County San Diego, Daphne’s was a family staple for me. I was one of three children, and we had very different palates. Daphne’s was one of the few places my entire family could agree on, and our go-to dinner before or after catching a movie just across the way. It didn’t take long for me to find my ‘usual’: the spicy gyro pita, with Daphne’s signature fire feta—a creamy, spicy feta cheese mix—that’s simply addictive. And so it goes with the typical Daphne’s customer, coming back time after time for those lifelong favorites.

The historic customer base also poses a challenge for Daphne’s, which in turn is also looking to attract new customers with a revamped menu that reflects more of today’s food trends. Balancing the new and the old puts Daphne’s on somewhat of a tightrope, yet one that they’re getting pretty comfortable with.

Daphne’s added chicken shawarma to their menu not too long ago, and it’s been a smashing success. Cooked using a centuries-old technique and served with roasted bell peppers, feta and pesto, generous layers of succulent and just-spicy-enough meat go quite well wrapped in Daphne’s perfected warm pita bread. Then there’s the new pita burger series, which subs out a traditional bun for two of those warm pitas, with a grilled burger patty plus a variety of Mediterranean toppings, from gyro meat to that iconic fire feta.

The gyro fries are a must if you’re looking for Mediterranean-American indulgence, cooked with red onion and fire feta and topped with gyro meat. And if you’re wandering, you’ll find fries on menus all across Greece. On the more traditional side, Daphne’s plates and bowls bring a bit of old and new as well. Shrimp has recently made its way onto the menu, with a quality and excellent smokiness that you’d never guess would come from a fast-casual setting. 

Daphne’s has held onto its classics as well, keeping their long-time loyalists happy. Their gyro meat is as good as ever, shaved from a vertical rotating spit that will have your mouth water. Biting into a gyro pita with that—you guessed it—fire feta, a portal of nostalgia opened back up. For more information, visit Daphnes.biz.