The Un-Restaurant Osteria Bigoli

Santa Monica’s little Italian eatery that’s all about the food

You may miss Osteria Bigoli if you walk too fast down Montana Avenue. If you did pass by this proverbial hole-in-the wall eatery along Santa Monica’s stylish strip of boutiques and famous-chef restaurants, you’ll be sorry you did.

This intimate Italian restaurant with about 10 tables and several booths is authentic in all the best ways, which does not even include the old world Italian music that fills the restaurant. The charm of this place starts with the fact that the people working there do not impress as restaurant people, in the restaurant business, per se. They are instead humble people who cherish Italian food and are eager to share their passion with others.

Osteria Bigoli is helmed by Chef Claudio Marchesen, who has been preparing his menu of Italian favorites with flare for 40 years, and who found his way from San Francisco to Santa Monica in 2017. Despite the chef’s worldly experience, the restaurant maintains a small-establishment aura that complements Marchesen’s rustic northern Italian delicacies.


Our server clearly was enamored with the food, but he was not a career waiter. He did not rattle off a memorized list of specials or suggest a bottle of wine; he simply gestured towards the kitchen saying, “They make it fresh here. Very good pasta,” in a genuine Italian accent.


He was right. The pasta was excellent. We started with the Silk Handkerchiefs, a delicate dish of thin pasta squares, Genovese almond-basil pesto. We followed with a heartier Tagliatelle Alla Bolognese, a ribbon pasta with Bologna style meat sauce. Both dishes were superb. Since three’s a charm, we shared a third entrée of Braised Short Ribs with Pappardelle, baked slowly in red wine, mushrooms and tomatoes, which was equally delicious and perfectly cooked.


Not to miss mentioning were also the deliciously fresh Arugula & Roasted Beet salad, with goat cheese and candied walnuts, and Fritto Misto Di Calamari E Gameri, an appetizer of deep fried shrimp and squid.

At a two-top by the kitchen entrance sat an older gentleman, presumably the manager, who was looking perplexed at something on his laptop. He and the waiter engaged in a brief, animated conversation in Italian, with lots of hand waving and shrugging. I thought, it is probably restaurant business confounding him, and he wishes he could just serve fine Italian food and forget about balancing the books.

I was reminded of one of my favorite movies, the Big Night, where the protagonist restaurateurs only desired to bring a special experience to their patrons, even if their earnestness went unrewarded by the masses. In this case though, Marchesen’s artistry in the kitchen will certainly be appreciated by true lovers of Italian cuisine who stumble upon this hidden gem.