Mel's Diner: Jimmy Kimmel: Two Nut-Averse Italians Walk Into a Taco Shop...

WHO: Jimmy Kimmel, host/executive producer, Jimmy Kimmel Live

WHERE: Loteria Grill, Hollywood, Calif.

WHEN: Mon., Feb. 9, dinner

THE DISH: Jimmy Kimmel is a self-described student of the late-night TV game (Not to mention a fan of the competition — see his shirt). When we Jimmy Kimmelhave dinner down the street from his show, we talk all about it — Jay Leno’s surprising decision to stay at NBC; speculation about Kimmel’s own 11:30 possibilities and just how numbered Kimmel thinks the days of TV personalities making big money are. An edited transcript of that Q&A with Kimmel appears in the Feb. 16 edition of B&C magazine and right here online.

DINED ON: “Ah! The first twist in your story: Kimmel gets lost going two blocks away,” says the eponymous host-executive producer of late-night ABC series Jimmy Kimmel Live as he drives us several blocks beyond the restaurant. It is literally two blocks from JKL headquarters at the El Capitan Theater on Hollywood Boulevard, where we started.

He’s never been to this Loteria Grill location, but the show often orders from here and Kimmel took their food around to demonstrators during the writers’ strike. “I’m glad you’ve never been here,” he tells me. “I think this is going to be a place you’ll want to come back to.”

He apparently has higher hopes for Loteria than he would for another local eatery he and his production frequent, 25 Degrees at the Roosevelt Hotel. He loves their burgers and says they have really good food, but the service is terrible, he tells me later. “They almost never get your order right,” Kimmel says.

As we decide what to order at Loteria, we discover neither of us will be getting anything with nuts. Tree nuts are among my 25 food allergies. Kimmel thinks nuts are disgusting. “I dislike nuts,” he says. “There’s something about the texture that bothers me.” He usually orders Loteria’s 12-mini-taco sampler but opts for three bigger tacos. I get the pork pibil.

The wait staff brings over a cheese confection that looks like a hat, and we agree the eats overall are bang-on.cheese confection at Loteria Grill

I may indeed come back here, but from Kimmel’s tales of frying turkeys, smoking meats and firing up pizzas at home, his backyard is clearly his favorite dining venue. He’s about as into cooking as he is sports and latenight TV. He says one of the greatest things about hosting a talk show is getting to meet people like chef Mario Batali.

The single best item Kimmel makes is his marinara sauce, “because that’s what I’ve worked on the most,” he says. He started with a cookbook recipe and made three key revelations over the years: Use San Marzano tomatoes; toss (or eat) the garlic after you’ve cooked it in the olive oil to avoid bitterness; and include a ladle of pasta water.

“There are like five ingredients in the marinara sauce I make; you just find the best way to cook them,” Kimmel says. “It’s like doing a talk show, I guess. Every show has a monologue, a band, guests. You just have to find the ideal combination. There’s my ridiculous analogy for you.”

VIDEO: Jimmy Kimmel offers tips on how to fry a turkey, making illegally-good pizza and what Mario Batali taught him about steak.

Mel’s Diner: Jimmy Kimmel from Broadcasting & Cable on Vimeo.

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