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Eating at Vino e Cucina in East Long Beach, butting edges with the boundary of the city of Lakewood, there are two unavoidable sensations. The first is a sense of removal: The small strip of businesses that cut through the northeast corner of Carson and Lakewood feel eons away from the nearby, traffic-ridden, suburban-meets-commercial vibe of the area, particularly when inside the warm space.

But perhaps most unavoidable is the restaurant’s affable, loquacious, charming owner, Milan native and Long Beach resident Lorenzo Mottola. Unapologetically extroverted with patrons and lacking any sense of shyness, Mottola assures you of two things when you eat with him: Your food and wine will be great while also being greatly priced and, perhaps even more, food in a restaurant is a moment to take time for you and the people at your table.

He lets his patrons adjust organically, encouraging them to order different things each time, try varying wines, read his emails, hold conversation with him, stay a bit longer—all a very hands-on approach and very Italian approach in an age where Postmates, food-to-go, and Food For TikTok—things Italians are inherently allergic to for the most part—are becoming the norm.

In this sense, to understand Italian hospitality is to understand Lorenzo: Whether the space is packed—on a Friday night, it is not uncommon to see a hefty wait while diners share plates of unfettered, classic Italian cuisine—or you are the sole diner, it would be hard pressed to not have Mottola touch your table at least twice and, before you know it, convinced you that, indeed, you do need a glass of Samas’s vermentino blend to accompany your fried squash blossoms’ light, fluffy casing and oozy mozzarella filling.

Photos and written by Brian Addison.

For the full profile on Vino e Cucina, click here.

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