While cheese is the star ingredient for several eateries, Burrata House is the only Los Angeles fast-casual spot to spotlight a specific one. As you’d guess, burrata cheese headlines the menu of gourmet paninis, pasta dishes, and grain bowls featured at Burrata House, which opened in Palms six months ago.
As a close cousin of fresh buffalo mozzarella (not related to the shredded variety), burrata is a white, bulbous ball of soft, delicate cheese that when cut open, looks and feels like it’s melting even if it’s still cold. The combination of stretchy and oozy textures, plus its mild buttery flavor makes burrata pair well with just about anything. Still, it’s not a widely recognized cheese, having only emerged beyond its area of origin in Southern Italy over the last century.
“Even in Italy, it’s not that common outside of Apulia. For years it was available in just that region,” said Antonello Dato, co-founder of Burrata House and a native of Sicily. “You would have some restaurants that would serve it, or some specialty cheese stores. But most likely you wouldn’t find it in an Italian supermarket.”
With burrata gaining popularity at high-end restaurants, Antonello and his founding partner in California saw a window of opportunity to establish a new quick-serve concept in the US, in partnership with artisanal food producers around Los Angeles. Antonello soon moved from Italy to LA to oversee Burrata House and its catering business. Having just opened the Palms location in May, plans are already in the works to launch a second Hollywood location and a food truck.
“We designed the whole menu and the whole concept around this cheese because it’s something that hasn’t been out there too much,” said Antonello. “We want to keep quality very good, but we also want to keep service very fast. It’s going to be about the food, and it will be an affordable experience.”
Every dish at Burrata House gets a generous portion of the cheese. Pomona-based cheesemaker Di Stefano Cheese supplies Burrata House with custom serving sizes of burrata, exclusively made for this venture. Each ball is packed and sealed in individual cups of water, a necessary step to ensure freshness.
Once pressed into a panini and sliced in half, the burrata easily oozes over the edge of the bread. Adding optional toppings, such as olive oil, pesto sauce, and olive tapenade, could make this a really messy affair. But the spongy rosetta bread roll helps soak it up, while its crisp crust keeps the bread in tact. This puffy white Northern Italian bread, known for its rose pattern on top, is made by Drago Bakery in nearby Culver City.
“The burrata finds pockets in the airiness of the bread. It sort of blends with it in a way that it has to be this type of bread,” Antonello explained. “So we mix ingredients from different regions of Italy. This bread originates in the north, but the burrata is from the south.”
In keeping with this aggregation of Italian ingredients, Burrata House grain bowls feature imported Italian farro instead of rice, with quinoa offered as a gluten-free option. The grains are partitioned in a bowl with grape tomatoes, greens, and your choice of meat or vegetables. The burrata sits on top, looking convincingly like a poached egg while you decide whether to mix it into the bowl like a cream sauce, or savor it separately.
Both the burrata bowls and paninis share the same selection of meats. The three imported Italian cured meat options are ones you might find on charcuterie boards at pricey restaurants. Thinly sliced prosciutto crudo (dry-cured ham), prosciutto cotto (steam-roasted ham), and bresaola (aged beef) each add a flavorfully salty contrast to the creamy burrata. To accommodate varied California tastes and diets, Burrata House also offers smoked turkey, and sashimi-grade raw salmon or tuna. The fish are marinated in an emulsion of dijon mustard, white balsamic vinegar, extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper. Organic grilled veggies are also an option for vegetarians and vegans.
Burrata-topped pasta bowls are the newest addition to the Burrata House menu, served with three choices of sauce. The BH-olognese is a meat sauce made with a house blend of cured meats, ground beef, and ground pork. The green Pesto mixes basil with the richness of olive oil, the nuttiness of almonds, and hints of another Italian cheese, parmigiano. And the Basil and Tomato is a red sauce that makes a light and flavorful vegan option. All sauces are served on orecchiette pasta, which is shaped, as the name directly translates, like “little ears.”
“We chose a pasta that will offer crevices and cavities where the sauce can find its room. When it ultimately ends up in your mouth, it’s not just pasta or a bunch of condiment, but it’s together in perfect harmony,” Antonello described.
All dishes are freshly prepared in sizable servings for $15 or less. But if you’re craving a quick-serve splurge, caviar is an anomaly on the menu, available on a panini or farro bowl for $50. Everything else about Burrata House embraces affordable simplicity, with sandwiches wrapped in paper and other dishes served in take-out bowls. For a more leisurely meal, some stools are available for dining inside along with a few tables outside.
“We don’t have the mindset of a restaurant, per se. We want to take the Italian food concept outside of the restaurant and turn it into something that can be simple, quick, and easy, but in the Italian way,” said Antonello. “It’s as simple as regular fast food. The difference is in the ingredients.”
Antonello proudly admits that Burrata House doesn’t need a head chef since the dishes are easy to assemble and the quality of ingredients speaks for itself. So it doesn’t surprise him when customers ask to buy the burrata or other individual items to use at home. In response, Burrata House is also working to develop a retail product line of the locally made and imported Italian goods used inhouse. Besides the burrata, this would include olive oil, pastas, olive tapenade, artichokes, and sun dried tomatoes.
Even if they sell their ingredients as products, Antonello feels that the convenience, price, and taste of the food prepared at Burrata House will continue to be the main draw. “Our customers come back,” he said. “We have people who come here almost every day, they are even embarrassed about it. Some people come twice a day.”
Beyond its Westside location, Burrata House also makes an impression at catered events, where they serve food from a charming vintage Italian three-wheeled Piaggio Ape car that was converted into a custom catering truck.
For more information and updates on their latest ventures, click their Foodzooka profile below to find the Burrata House website and follow them on social media.