Location:1610 Montana Ave, Santa Monica, CA 90403
Date: August 16 & November 7, 2015 and August 12, 2016
Cuisine: Neo Italian
Rating: Interesting modern concept / great taste
Early in our marriage, my wife and I went to a little place on Montana in Santa Monica called 17th St Cafe as a go to “Saturday brunch” place.
Well sadly, it closed a few years back and was replaced by a place that was similar but not as good. Well disappeared too and it has now rebooted as a considerably more upscale Italian concept.
They opened up the middle of the old casual space with a nice and very clever (given the space) buildout very much in the 2015 vibe.
Now I said Forma is Italian, but what’s different is: 1) small plates 2) they are also a cheese bar! 3) they have this pastas churned in the cheese concept. More on that later.
FRESH BABY KALE. red and white quinoa, fennel, heirloom cherry tomatoes, manchego.
BRUSCHELLA. grilled levain bread, heirloom tomatoes, mango, goat cheese.
FRESH MOZZARELLA KNOTS. zucchini “scapece”, heirloom cherry tomatoes, micro basil.
Burrata, cutella, white peaches and melon. Pretty awesome actually.
FILET MIGNON TARTARE. avocado, fresno chile pepper, capers, shallot, parmigiano, grilled bread.
A very nice tartare. Good flavor on the meat, and the cheese really added.
RAVIOLO BROCCOLINI. single raviolo, cherry tomatoes sauce, shaved raspadura cheese.
Gluten free pasta with lentils and tomatoes.
I ordered one of the “dalla forma”, which are basically pasta dishes “finished” in the giant hollowed out drum of cheese. Here the pasta is dumped in the cheese and stirred around a bit.
GRANA PADANO. garganelli pasta, speck, radicchio, peas.
This was a great pasta. Nicely al dente. It had the cheesy / meaty / creamy thing. Nice peas. My only problem was an occasional hard bit of radicchio.
PECORINO ROMANO. spaghetti cacio e pepe.
I adore this classic pasta. In fact I make it at home in an artisanal way. I didn’t try this version done in the cheese, but given that one normally mixes in a bunch of cheese in the pan, this has to be similar. My only issue might be that at $22 it’s kinda pricey for spaghetti, cheese, and black pepper!
Risotto with butternut squash. Drizzle of pomegranate glaze, sage, tossed in parmesan Reggiano. Very cheesy with a nice bit of sweetness. This is also “tossed” in the cheese.
Rigatoni white amatriciana gricia. Cured pork cheek, pepper, tossed in pecorino. Nice al dente bite to the pasta and a good crunch to the pork. Made it vaguely like a carbonara, just not quite as rich.
TROFIE AL PESTO. fresh pasta, basil pesto, vegetables, pine nuts, parmigiano cheese. Pretty authentic.
FETTUCCINE “BOLOGNESE”. beef ragu’ – tossed with butter in parmigiano reggiano cheese. Not a bad Bolognese, but the whole cheese bowl thing is totally a gimmick.
The dessert menu. But we were trying to be good. They looked yummy.
Overall, Forma has a good kitchen. Every dish was bright and tasty, and I like the small plates “updated” Italian. Not that it serves as a substitute for a more rigorously Italian place, but it’s a great option. The cheese bowl thing is more or less a gimmick, but I’m a cheese lover so I have no problem with more cheese and the one I tried was a very nice pasta, if a little pricey for simple pasta.