Kid Hit Menu Items: As any kitchen outfitted with one well should, Milo & Olive in Santa Monica takes the opportunity to show off its custom-built wood-burning oven that makes its beautiful, blistered pies. We might not order pepperoni regularly in general, but this is the place to go buck wild with the crispy pepperoni pie, piled thick with the good cured stuff. Pizzas can be semi-customized with egg, prosciutto, arugula, and anchovy add-on options that build on the signature topping combos. A small pasta menu included a ricotta gnocchi, a pork sausage ragu dish, and the spring-appropriate cavatelli that I ordered came brimming with green garlic and flowering broccoli. Those greens and chili peppers was a turn off for our kids, but one never knows. The 6 year-old seriously dug the strong anchovy dressing and fried capers on an arugula and radicchio salad. After dinner, grab a loaf of bread to go and pastries for the morning.
Adult Perks: A very early Friday dinner called for a glass of prosecco. For daytime use, Milo & Olive also has a coffee bar and bakery counter setup in case you can’t make it to its sibling restaurant, Huckleberry (which not counting Sweet Rose Creamery, is the most kid-friendly of ALL the Rustic Canyon family of restaurants, and is a post for another time) a few blocks west. While pizza is definitely the main deal here, market-based specials such as prawns with spring peas broaden the food options in the best possible way; and like Bestia and Sotto, Milo & Olive is a pizza-focused restaurant where it’s not a crime if you don’t order pizza. Yet unlike those other hot spots, it’s not overtly Italian. It feels more like a quintessentially modern Santa Monica restaurant, with floor-to-ceiling windows, tasteful contemporary art, high standards and a loose enough vibe. In other words, not fancy but not cheap.
Pros: Because Milo & Olive is open continuously, no need to wait until 6 to start the evening meal. Dinner can start as early as you like. Take 4:30 on a Friday, for instance, when we wanted to postpone the dreaded drive home east after a day at the Santa Monica Pier. And if you want to ensure you get one of the two communal tables to yourself, try sitting with a couple of small kids. Dinner turned into a bit of social psychology experiment. If given the option, strangers will ALWAYS opt for sitting at the other table or at the counter that faces the kitchen. It’s more fun to chat with the staff that way, too.
Cons: I wouldn’t take kids my age any later than we did, given the get-cozy-with-your-fellow-diners set up AND the walk-ins only policy. Two square shared tables and counter seats make up an interesting choice of how to physically orchestrate a relatively small restaurant. The lack of plastic cups indicates they probably prefer you take children to Huckleberry instead. (This is sort of fine for us, given that our oldest likes to use “grown up” glasses, even though I wish he’d stick with non-breakable vessels.) But since Milo & Olive is named for the owners’ son, this restaurant obviously isn’t against kids either. As for the food, I prefer a tangier, less sweet tomato sauce than the base here.
Changing Station: No but the bathrooms are very family-user friendly.
High Chairs: Yes, and very cool Euro modern clip-on chairs to compliment the feel of a very smartly designed elaborate home kitchen. Just be very careful to not mess up those marble tables!
Parking and Access: Metered street parking on Wilshire on side streets. On a late afternoon finding a space was easy, but I don’t know how that situation changes the later it gets.
Other Tidbits: The pizza situation around L.A. keeps getting more complex. This is generally a positive development. Instead of the 80s hierarchy, which essentially meant Shakey’s/Wildflour/Angeli Caffe/Casa Bianca/Spago, more niches are getting filled in. Now we have better super casual pizza that we order on Friday nights when we plotz on the couch and watch a movie (and sometimes we’ll eat in there, too), then there’s the in-between, mid-market accessible Pitfire Pizzas and Maximilianos of the world. I think Spago has jettisoned pizzas in its latest incarnation, so high-end pizza means restaurants where you see a lot of jeans and hardly any suits. That said, it’s easy to drop serious coin. With pie prices inching up to the $20 mark, Milo & Olive is by no means an every day type of family meal. So you can ignore the fancy pizzas and dinner specials and go for breakfast, or for a snack off-hours. It might look kind of fancy, but this is still relaxed Santa Monica.
2723 Wilshire Blvd., Santa Monica
Hours: 7:00 a.m. (bakery only); 8:00 a.m. – 11 p.m., daily