We stopped in to check out Michael Fiorelli’s new Manhattan Beach restaurant, Love & Salt, earlier this week. We have been watching its progress on social media, so it was exciting to see everything come together. At 2,600 square-feet, the space is large and open with high ceilings and a simple palette of muted blues and grays. A granite bar runs the length of the restaurant, as does a communal table of natural wood for walk-ins. The simple interior design makes the large open kitchen with its wood-burning oven the focus of the restaurant. On a Monday night at 6pm the place was already packed, only three weeks after opening.
Chef Michael Fiorelli and Chef de Cuisine Rebecca Merhej teamed up with the former Café Pierre owners to open Love & Salt. Chef Fiorelli first caught our eye at Mar’sel at the Terreana Resort with his casual friendliness and penchant for cooking entire lambs whole. He continues his culinary showmanship here with the offer of a whole roasted glazed pig head. The server informed me that an order consists of half of a pig’s head – and yes, it comes to the table uncarved. We weren’t that brave, so I cannot report as to whether or not its mouth holds half of an apple.
The rest of the menu is casual Californian with a heavy Italian accent. It is mostly small plates and family-style large main dishes. Love & Salt dares to challenge Chef David LeFevre’s famous bacon cheddar biscuits served only a few blocks away at MB Post with their own house made English muffins. I have to say, the light and airy English muffins with house made butter win hands-down. It was a smart move to sprinkle the rosemary on the butter rather than baking it into the muffins, so the diner can control the strength of the fragrant herb.
Starters include bread, cheese and charcuterie plates, and chicken liver toast with guanciale and pickled cherries. I was hoping to try the crispy chicken skins but I was over excited when I placed the order and completely forgot. We also eyed the main dish of rabbit porchetta, but that will have to wait for another night with a larger party.
From amongst the wood oven pizzas, we chose a Neapolitan-style tomato pie. It was perfectly cooked with a slight char on the crust and will please transplanted New Yorkers immensely. It was the only pizza on the menu made with tomato sauce. Next time I will probably try the roasted mushroom pizza with creamy taleggio, fontina, and thyme. I also ordered tortelloni with lamb neck, swiss chard, tongue broth, and pecorino. The lamb was tender and flavorful without any of the gaminess that can scare people away. The broth was a perfect foil, enriching the flavor of the large tortellini without competing.
It will be interesting to watch Love & Salt mature. We are curious to try Guy Gabriele’s accessible wine list and the cocktails crafted by Vincenzo Marianello of Copa d’Oro. The restaurant is looking forward to serving brunch eventually, and we are looking forward to returning, if only for the English muffins.
Love & Salt opens at 5:30 pm for dinner at 317 Manhattan Beach Boulevard a few blocks from the pier. Make reservations to score a private table along the wall, or walk-in for seats at the bar or communal table. Facebook, Twitter and Instagram at @LoveandSaltLA. 310-545-5252.