The Dining Deck

When one traditionally thinks of food courts, they think of Sbarro, teenage girls, and Sbarro. Plus, Sbarro. Now making you reevaluate the food court perception, Sbarro The Dining Deck at Santa Monica Place. Opening Friday, TDD's a side-by-side collection of six distinctive, uniquely chef-driven restaurants, all on the third floor of the new Santa Monica Place, which also includes stores ranging from Nordstrom to CB2 to Ed Hardy, whose brothers Frank and Joe are off solving the Mystery of His Obsession With Flame Eating Skeleton Tigers. Here's three highlights: Xino: This modern Chinese/Dim Summery from a vaunted NorCal chef features dangling lanterns and an upstairs bar, and's serving gussied-up classics like wild mushroom dumplings w/ white truffle oil, Mongolian cowboy ribeye w/ wild mushroom & herb compound butter, and Char Siu sea bass w/ Chinese ratatouille -- also, a Pixar sequel in which Remy the rat becomes a famous chef, but still can't Google anything. La Sandia: This high-ceiling'd bistro's from "the Father of Modern Mexican Cuisine", and has a bar doling out 250 tequilas, a courtyard w/ a giant bronze fountain under a retractable skylight, and grub like beef and chorizo empanadas, and achiote salmon w/ mild-spiced citrus marinade, charro beans, and chile morita sauce, but not Pat Morita sauce, as that guy had no time for worldly desires like drinking. Pizza Antica: The first SoCal outpost of the North's popular thin-crust mini-chain, this wood-banquetted resto's dropping unusual 'zas like a sweet corn, bacon, arugula, and basil number, as well as one w/ spicy Calabrese sausage, onions, and peppers, plus entrees like a hangar steak w/ spicy smoked paprika potato hash, or as they call it at the other locations, potato #. There're also three more full-service restos (Japanese Ozumo, Latin-Asian Zengo, and boozy Sonoma Wine Garden), as well as a more-traditional food court -- giving you more than enough reasons to ask your Mom if you can Sbarro the car.