The Italian culinary scene has exploded in Los Angeles over the past few years with exciting and ambitious new restaurants joining old but still relevant favorites. Finding a great Italian restaurant in L.A. may be easy. The hard part is choosing what to order.
Squid Ink Chitarra Freddi
6602 Melrose Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90038
The love child of Mario Batali and Nancy Silverton, Osteria Mozza remains one of the premiere dining destinations in Los Angeles providing regional Italian specialties with a modern flare. Going family style is the best way to tackle the lengthy menu which is highlighted by Silverton’s signature items from the mozzarella bar, the impressive secondi offerings, and of course, the pastas. However, when it comes to the squid ink chitarra freddi, sharing might prove to be difficult. The pitch-black spaghetti, laced with fresh dungeness crab and topped with sea urchin is served cool allowing each of the ocean-based components to truly sing. Sweet, salty, creamy, and spicy (thanks to a hit of jalapeno), this is true pasta perfection.
2121 E. 7th Pl.
Los Angeles, CA 90021
Nearly four years after opening in a desolate downtown alley, the reservations haven’t come any easier.
There’s plenty to rave about on chef Ori Manashe’s ambitious menu, but if you were to pinpoint one dish that put Bestia on the culinary map, it’s the salumi, an impressive wooden slab decorated with a chef’s selection of house-cured meats that could include duck prosciutto, spicy ‘nduja, coppa di testa (also known as head cheese), with some pickled vegetables, mostarda, and grilled bread for added support. Sure, charcuterie plates are now commonplace throughout the city, but Bestia’s is truly the best.
7313 Beverly Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90036
There’s arguably no Italian restaurant in Los Angeles more beloved than this Beverly Blvd. stalwart which continues to dish out high quality homestyle classics. House specialties run deep including an adventuresome combo of tripe and grilled cuttlefish. But the lasagna verde, which chef Gino Angelini makes from a recipe passed on by his beloved nonna Elvira can’t be beat. Spinach pasta is layered with creamy beschemel and a hearty beef and veal ragu, then topped with a fistful of crispy spinach leaves. The result is filling (you’ll probably want to lay off the bread for this meal) but oh so tasty. This is truly food just like grandma used to make.
1331 E. 6th St.
Los Angeles, CA 90021
Officine Brera’s welcome addition to downtown’s Italian restaurant renaissance focuses on specialties from the Po Valley. Not surprisingly, the pasta selection is first rate, especially the heavenly pillows of handmade potato gnocchi smothered in a pool of melted castelmango cheese and topped with chives. A visit to cross fit might be in order, but it’s totally worth it.
9575 W. Pico Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90035
Thankfully the debate over pizza in Los Angeles no longer centers on whether you can find a decent pie here (the unequivocal answer is yes, you certainly can), the focus now is on who does it best. While there’s no clear-cut answer, it’s hard to top the beautifully charred, crunchy yet chewy Neapolitan standards coming out of the wood burning oven at Sotto. The guanciale pizza is a particular standout. Crisp, smoky pig jowl goes perfectly with sweet dollops of ricotta, while scallions and fennel pollen serve as fitting accents. Top it all off with an egg because, why not?
320 Sunset Ave.
Venice, CA 90291
This Gjelina offshoot has managed to surpass its oh-so-popular big brother, taking the mantle as the go-to dining destination in Venice. Deliberating over what to order from the global menu of smoked fish platters, rotisserie meats, and deli-style sandwiches is a tough proposition. If you have to narrow your order to one single thing, set your sights on the porchetta melt, an ample portion of porky, cheesy goodness stuffed between a housemade baguette. It’s a taste of Italy by way of Philadelphia.
Focaccia di Recco
6610 Melrose Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90038
Meat. Meat. And more meat. That’s the m.o. at Chi Spacca, where hulking-slabs of fennel-dusted tomahawk porkchops and porcini-rubbed short ribs fly out of the open kitchen. Vegetarians need not worry, as one of the restaurant’s signature dishes has grown to near-mythic status. The focaccia di Recco, named after the small town in Genoa from which the dish originates, is the cheesy bread of your dreams, a gooey layer of aged stracchino clinging to a blistered shell of crispy perfection.
Tagliatelle al Tartufo Negro
8897 Beverly Blvd.
West Hollywood, CA 90048
The scene may overshadow the food at this see and be seen West Hollywood throwback but the satisfying menu of Italian favorites shouldn’t be overlooked. Whether you’re visiting Madeo for a special occasion or you’re a celebrity regular, an order of Tagliatelle al tartufo negro will shine as the brightest star at the table. House made tagliatelle. Freshly shaved black truffles. Rich. Elegant. Hey, when in Rome.
The Factory Kitchen
1300 Factory Pl.
Los Angeles, CA 90013
The massive factory setting sets the town for this popular downtown Italian restaurant that definitely brings the wow factor. Case in point: chef Angelo Auriana’s rendition of pancotto, a dry version of the classic Italian bread soup. A semolina crostone provides the base for sautéed greens, potatoes, speck, and a perfectly cooked duck egg. Suitable for breakfast, lunch or dinner, this might be the ultimate anytime snack.
Tortellini in Brodo “Al Contrario”
1710 Silver Lake Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90026
Zach Pollak’s casual Silver Lake eatery shines by using locally-sourced ingredients to create Italian specialties. His seemingly simple creations end up being more than meets the eye. Take the tortellini in brodo, the chef’s clever take on the Bolognese staple where the broth becomes the pasta’s filling while the usual stuffing of mortadella and parmesan serve as components in the sauce, hence the “al contrario.” Pollak proves that you can have fun with food without being overly ambitious.
Article by Dave Klein.