A year-round temperate climate and an abundance of sunny days make al fresco dining viable for Angelenos at almost any time of year. Still, our hot summer days beckon more urgently for dainty sundresses and bountiful picnics, while our cooler summer nights are best spent lingering over a meal on a cozy patio under the stars. Read on for a wealth of ways to get your fill of the great outdoors while eating out in Toluca Lake and its surrounding neighborhoods.
Burbank’s Novo Café, co-owned by husband and wife Massimo and Tina Forti, natives of Florence, exemplifies how California culinary trends blend seamlessly with simple, fresh Tuscan cuisine. “‘Novo’ translates to ‘new’ from the Italian dialect of my hometown,” Massimo explains, “and it’s this new concept of great-tasting, fresh, house-made Italian food at a reasonable price that I want to introduce.” The restaurant’s beautiful 60-seat patio and garden is an ideal setting to enjoy Novo’s menu of fresh salads, homemade pastas, panini, fish and other Tuscan-inspired favorites.
Only a few blocks away from Novo and sharing its emphasis on freshness is Riverside. Just off the main drag but secluded behind a lush wall of bougainvillea, you’ll find a spacious, candlelit, dog-friendly outdoor oasis with a retractable roof and a bar. “We tried to create something with a European feel — outdoorsy, homey and Italian,” says co-owner Michael DiBacco. In the glow of the light-spangled olive trees growing through a central table, sip innovative cocktails like the hibiscus serrano margarita and watermelon jalapeño martini. Highlights of the eclectic menu include chicken and waffle sliders, filet mignon, and wood-fired pizzas from homemade dough with toppings such as lobster or grilled vegetables.
Also close by is Studio City’s Firefly, offering an upscale American menu au courant with summer. From the vine-covered patio and outdoor bar, you can enjoy a menu solely based on seasonal offerings from the farmers market. According to Manager Jeff Gazzarri and Executive Chef Chad Mandel, summer food trends include peas, favas, squash, stone fruit and melon. Among the popular dishes is the summer-ready Di Stefano burrata with watermelon, Sun Gold tomato and apple cider vinegar.
Although North Hollywood’s Pitfire Pizza has expanded to seven sites in the L.A. area, Jeffrey Goodman, CEO of parent company American Gonzo Food Corporation, says that NoHo “is undoubtedly special to us as it’s our original location. We love that it’s right in the heart of the neighborhood … [it] holds the spirit of the many guests and team members that have made it what it is over the past 20 years of business.” Central to it all is the spacious patio, complete with a fire pit (of course) and live music performances. Seasonal offerings for summer emphasize light and bright flavors, such as the heirloom tomato pizza, BLTA sandwich, summer corn and squash, and heirloom tomato and cucumber salad.
What better way to enjoy summer than to kick back on a patio with a cold one? Los Angeles-founded Stout Burgers and Beers defines the gastropub genre with its emphasis on bringing craft beers from all over the world and thoughtfully pairing them with innovative burgers, where every ingredient works together yet can stand as a meal on its own. Devin Curry, manager of the Studio City location, shared with us some off-menu items, including the loaded tots topped with white cheddar Mornay sauce, prosciutto flakes and chives. As he puts it, “Your heart won’t thank you, but your stomach will.” Debuting this summer will be a new menu of craft cocktails with suggested food pairings, the better to be snacked and sipped on the open-air, covered patio featuring a fire pit lounge area.
Offering beer and upscale pub fare with a charming kid- and dog-friendly patio, Golden Road Brew Pub in Atwater Village features 20 taps devoted to the adjacent brewery. On regular guest rotation are gluten-free ciders and wines, accompanied by burgers, salads, sandwiches, a kids’ menu, and vegan-friendly items. Enjoy your brews and bites while playing games such as ping-pong, foosball, cornhole, and super-sized Connect Four and Jenga in the vast outdoor space.