e. baldi’s Beverly Hills entrance is to the left on Canon Drive.

Alessandro, when asked, decisively identified e. baldi’s most popular dishes. Of course, I therefore entrusted his advice and requested them.

When you walk around what I call the “village” of Beverly Hills, California, aka the “Golden Triangle,” it would be understandable if you never noticed passing e. baldi. The tiny, power restaurant is so understated it uses lower-case letters in its title. E.baldi’s six-letter sign is in small, silver script across the top of the restaurant facing Canon Drive calmly at the corner of busy Brighton Way. The front blends in as if part of the adjacent pharmacy on the corner.

Since 2006, e. baldi’s dedicated regulars do not need a sign to find the elegant enclave.

E. baldi’s outdoor patio tables and big front windows are secluded from the sidewalk by potted greenery and the faux ivy wall often used by Hollywood’s award shows. The garden gate provides privacy from the paparazzi for the cucina’s coy clientele.

E. baldi’s unassuming exterior and crisp, contemporary interior, along with its direct manner match the minimalist approach to the Italian cuisine created by the chef and proprietor – Edoardo Baldi – for whom the restaurant is named.

The number of his ingredients may be small, but the flavor of his dishes is big and Baldi’s reputation is huge.

E. Baldi might be hard to spot – but its specter is impossible to ignore.

On Approach

e. baldi’s sign and storefront
e. baldi’s sign and storefront. Photo by Harrison Shiels

I found e. baldi’s door via a short, narrow passageway off the sidewalk, “storefront-right,” between the walled patio, the heat lamps and the corner. I felt as if I was walking up the path to the stoop of the back door to someone’s home.

Hanging on the right, in the diminutive doorway, was a black and white picture of the photogenic Chef Baldi at work. He was conducting as a maestro might, surrounded by artistic shots of glassware to be filled with Barolo, Sangiovese, Amarone and Pino Grigio poured at the white-linen-covered tables inside.

When I opened the door at noon on that Good Friday, I was the first diner of the day. A tall, dark-haired woman in the front stared at me, and I at her. I finally broke the spell of the silent standoff and spoke first…to tell her I had a reservation.       

First Impressions

Walking through e baldi’s glass door is stepping directly into the dining area. Not an inch is wasted on a lobby or administrative space in the intimate rectangular room. The space is a table-filled gourmet gallery. It is absent of art – save for a red rolling pin; a couple of elaborately blown glass decanters; wine bottles; and two, framed, three-dimensional sculptures of single fishes.

Like famed French Laundry Chef Thomas Keller, Baldi’s idea of dining room artistry appears on his plates and the diner’s palettes. And it is priceless. The artisans of e. Baldi preparing those dishes are traditionally white-hatted and visible through a large window to the kitchen – which is the main visual feature of e.baldi’s back wall.

On the other side of the ristorante, to the left after you turn into the room, is a wall of windows overlooking the patio. In between the windows Baldi himself hand-painted a mural of an octopus – e. baldi’s “mascot logo.” I also spotted the octopus on the back of a stylish black hoodie worn by a server named Diego. The front of his hoodie bore the letters “TAIM.”

When I asked the bespectacled Diego what the word meant, he explained it was an acronym:

“TAIM. The…animal…in…me!” Diego proudly answered with a smile. “People love it!”

Authentic Italian Cuisine and People

e. baldi’s window to the kitchen.
e. baldi’s window to the kitchen. Photo by Harrison Shiels

Diego sang out loud as he swiveled to serve. He would weave his way across the faux-wood floor between brown booths and chairs tucked into the tight tables. Everything sat under a black ceiling and between burnt-red colored walls.

All the servers I saw, Italians like Diego, were dressed in black and looked like they stepped out of cologne advertisements in fashion magazines. If they were not servers, they might also have been the Venetian gondoliers the housewives on holidays dream of taking home to America. Or they might be the well-dressed, dark-haired young men in Milan pulling out precious Gucci scarves from under the glass countertops.

In return for me noticing his hooded shirt, Diego noticed my Irish Claddagh ring.

“Is that your clan ring?” Diego asked over the gentle jazz singing of, at that moment, Diana Krall.

I began to explain the meaning of the crown, hands and heart on the ornate ring, but Diego nodded to indicate he knew all of the traditions. I switched the subject to ask where he was from. When he told me he was from Naples, I admitted that was one of the cities in Italy I had not yet visited.

“Now is a good time to go. The museums are open. Do not hurry in and out of Napoli, though. Spend a few days,” he advised.  

Alessandro of Tuscany

The server at my table, Alessandro, after I explained I had moved from Michigan, told me he was from Tuscany.

But he lived a decade in Baltimore before marrying an American public health professor from Madison, Wisconsin. When she got a position at UCLA, they moved to Los Angeles, where he is happy as a clam.

“Do you go back to Italy often?” I asked Alessandro.

“Do you hurry back to Michigan?” he countered.

I shrugged.

“See?” he said with a smile.   

Alessandro admitted he goes back to Italy once a year – exclusively to see family – and that he’d been to Michigan.  

“During trips back to Wisconsin to visit my wife’s family, we have traveled through Michigan’s Upper Peninsula along Lake Superior. The mosquitos were prevalent.”

Alessandro guided me through e.baldi’s Italian wines. We gave strong consideration to the Brunello di Montalcino, from the Bergamo Province’s Fanti. However, we settled, based on my coming cuisine, on a glass of Tramin Sauvignon Blanc from Trentino-Alto Adige, in the Dolomite region.

Seeing the Chef

Chef “Edo” Baldi in action
Chef “Edo” Baldi in action. Photo by Harrison Shiels

As I sampled and sipped the sauvignon blanc, I spotted Chef Baldi, who I thought resembled a mix of Paul McCartney and Javier Bardem. He was chatting up a couple who had taken a table near the red rolling pin. The white chef coat he wore told me he was ready for action, but knew talking was part of the taste trade.

Figurately eating out of his hand, the couple complimented Baldi.

“Hopefully one day I will get it right,” Chef Baldi joked with a self-effacing shrug, to the couple.

But as he conversed with the customers, I noticed Chef Baldi, ever the proprietor, reached over and ever-so-slightly straightened one of the two fish paintings hanging on the wall.

“He does it all,” Alessandro told me as he placed a basket of brown and white and olive oil onto my table. He had noticed me observing Baldi. “It is a one-man show. Chef is a workaholic. You see – there is no manager – only him. He is here from morning until 1 a.m.”

“You’re quite the ambassador for him,” I told Alessandro.

“If I were not an ambassador for him, I would not be working here,” he responded, with his own self-effacing shrug, while pouring me a glass of Fiuggi Italian sparkling water.

Time to Get Down to Business

Florentine crostino di polenta
Florentine crostino di polenta. Photo by Harrison Shiels

By 12:45 e.baldi was full and several people spoke Italian to the servers. I was pleased Alessandro was from Tuscany because I presumed he would have special knowledge to guide me through the choices on the menu. It was full of Tuscan food with an accent of Emilia-Romagna, true, simple dishes Chef “Edo,” as he goes by, considers to be the most satisfying.

Alessandro, when asked, decisively identified e. baldi’s most popular dishes. Of course, I therefore entrusted his advice and requested them. (I don’t like the word “order” in restaurants. It’s just my little quirk.)

My antipasti: Florentine style crostino di polenta topped with porcini mushroom sauce.

“Chef Edo is from the north of Italy and the polenta is his mother’s recipe,” Alessandro explained. “In America, polenta can be soupy, like cornmeal grits. Here is it firmer.”

I found the red sauce to be sweet, savory and tangy, and there was a very light, artistic dusting of parmesan.

My main dish: Sweet corn agnolotti, mascarpone, truffle butter.

It was a bright dish of nickel-sized ravioli squares which were pillow-tender but not mushy in texture. I have thought of this dish at some point every day since I tasted it. While I had the divine pleasure of having it in front of me, I forced myself to savor the little squares one at a time. They were sweet and rich, and, though it sounds crazy, evoked a sort of sophisticated Captain Crunch cereal.  

I could detail the rest of e.baldi’s exquisite menu here, but treat yourself at e.baldi.com

La Dolce Mangia             

I was soon off to work on a popular, weekly, HBO television show shot at nearby CBS Television City, therefore I regret I did not have time for dessert. I reasoned that Chef Baldi would understand since he, himself, has appeared on the Hallmark Channel and other media outlets. But I know he’d be disappointed because Baldi shows great respect for the essential Italian sacredness of dessert. He goes so far as to describe “the dolce” as his “ultimate passion.”    

Again from Tuscany, Baldi brings his most popular dessert: Mille Folgie. It is layers of puff pastries with crème fraiche cream, fresh mixed berries and blackberry Chambord reduction.

“It is like a Napolean,” Alessandro explained, which didn’t help my despair, but ensured my resolve to return. When I do, I may also try the Budino: butterscotch rum pudding with salted caramel and sea salt. Or the Crespelle Nocciolate: warm chocolate crepes with light whipped cream, hazelnut custard, sugar-glazed hazelnuts and nocciola gelato.

Tutti Gentili

Sweet corn agnolotti
Sweet corn agnolotti. Photo by Harrison Shiels

Like the servers, every guest I observed walking into the e. baldi ristorante was beautiful or intriguing in some fashion. This included a man in a dusty yellow blazer who kept his Borsalino hat on throughout lunch.

A blonde woman came in with a tiny, fuzzy, puppy peeking out the window of her bag. She and the man accompanying her sat in a corner booth right by the front door along the window, with the puppy, having emerged from the bag, sitting silently on the seat below table level next to her. The couple did their share of peeking, too – to spy what I’d ordered – so I happily lifted my plate to show them.

“Everything here is so delicious,” the woman exclaimed.

Conversations Overheard

The room is intimate and from the next table I could not help but hear two gentlemen discussing a restaurant theme in the upcoming series finale of the HBO Show “Curb Your Enthusiasm.” One of the show’s scenes was filmed around the corner at the Cheese Shop and The Farm Restaurant on Beverly Drive. (The Cheese Shop has since moved and The Farm has closed.)

“Larry David, I love him but this is not his best season,” the man at the next table said. “He did have a funny episode where he sent food back and the server refused to credit him because he had eaten too much of it.”

This provoked me to look down at my completely clean plate. For me, there was no sending anything back to Chef Baldi – I had even shamelessly used the remaining bread to soak up the sauce. The refined swells who dine at e. baldi – Disney CEO Bob Iger; Goldie Hawn; and Warren Beatty, to name a few – may have been aghast at this. But I bet Italians Al Pacino, Joe Pesci and Sylvester Stallone would have understood.  

A bit of theater took place during lunch when a stir was created out front of e.baldi on Canon Drive. The dark-haired hostess and one of the servers stepped briefly onto the porch to see what the noise was about.

It struck me that the server became, in effect, a “reverse paparazzi” when he videotaped the scene. He was kind enough to show me his screen, which revealed the video of a Tesla Cyber Truck rolling by with women wearing bikinis in the open bed with a shirtless man waving a pool toy noodle.

Chef Edoardo “Edo” Baldi

Before I departed Alessandro was eager to introduce me to Chef Baldi. I have met enough devoted celebrity chefs to know not to get in their way during the rush. Baldi briefly, at the edge of the kitchen door, took my quick compliment with a smile and I left him to return to his culinary command.

The chef was born in Seravezza and grew up in Forte dei Marmi in the province of Lucca. He was brought to La La Land at 10 years of age. With him came the cuisine cues of his mother Roberta, of Piacenza. Also came cues from his grandmothers Cesarina and Ida who took him to the market each day to buy bread, seasonal vegetables and the abundant fish from his coastal region. They all taught Edo to cook with love and the importance of community and Italian culture.

Read more of Michael Patrick’s work at The Travel Tattler and contact him at [email protected] Order his book Travel Tattler – Less Than Torrid Tales at https://amzn.to/3Qm9FjN 

Michael Patrick Shiels

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