There’s a running joke in LA that we are Italy’s #1 place to immigrate because its seems as though the best Italian chefs from every region come here to celebrate and be celebrated for their artistry. And there is literally no shortage of charming Italian maitre’d and waiters throughout LA. On any given night, in any area of LA you can be enjoying some of the finest regional cuisine from Italy. Here’s the proof, my list of the best Italian Restaurants in LA.
For twenty five years this tiny little abode, has always been brimming with celebrities, LA’s business leaders, politicians and more. An intimate, candle-lit enclave where one can find themselves dining on the most delicate pastas while literally rubbing elbows with Dustin Hoffman, this is by far, one of LA’s most recognized and lauded Italian restaurants. Always ask to hear the specials as the majority of the staff are Italian, and pasta descriptions always sound more romantic with a beautiful accent. The wine here is all imported from Italy and the staff know the options well. If you love fish, do not miss the dover sole, its is divine. But the best dish in the house? Its a toss-up between the creamy, truffle infused Ricciarelle al Tartufo or the delightfully fragrant Stracetti al Basilico square pasta in red sauce.
In my family there is running competition as to which is better, Giorgio Baldi or Madeo. We are often split. And sometimes opinions waver but the answer always comes down to that they are both the best for different reasons. Madeo is about family. Not a night goes by that the owner doesn’t make the rounds stopping by every table. Its where staff have worked for many years, where we always see familiar faces and are welcomed like part of the family. And its why my family returns over and over again. That and the penne Madeo…the creamiest, most delicious penne dish I’ve encountered. Madeo is a place where Hollywood legends are made, where deep booths are home to discussions that lead to many famous movies and famous people. There’s always paparazzi by the door and a friendly valet to keep them at a respectable difference. Be sure to nibble on the olives, cheese and flat bread with your apertif, don’t skip the Margherita pizza and soak in the ambience. This is a place to linger.
There is a salad on Toscana’s menu that I literally crave. Its a super simple salad with fava beans, walnuts, pecorino and a lemon and olive oil dressing but something about the combination leaves an indelible mark on the tastebuds. I swear my tastebuds remember the salad more than I do. My family is also a huge fan of their wood fire pizzas. Truly authentic and truly delicious, these crispy delights remind of us trips to Italy. The truffle rissotto is also beyond compare and my daughter loves to go to the dessert counter at the end of her meal to pick two or three slices for dessert. Ask for the powdered sugar cookies too! They are amazing. Across the hall from Toscana is Bar Toscana, a hip watering hole with a slightly different menu from the parent restaurant. The mixologists here are top notch. We often dine at the bar just to watch the bartenders at work. We always discover new drinks to try.
Via Veneto on Main Street in Santa Monica is a cozy, romantic spot and a favorite of ours for date night. With burnished walls and chandeliers you almost feel as if you just stumbled into a hidden gem on the streets of Rome. They love their pasta. And they don’t take themselves too seriously as evidenced with the pasta loving pics on their Instagram feed. And they know how much we love pasta – which is why you can order a pasta trio. Did I mention the marina sauce? Its divine. Its so delicious that I sometimes order a small bowl of it with our appetizers to dip bread into. Its that good. I also always order the calamari and the eggplant appetizer. Its a tiny piece of heaven on a plate.
Mr C. Hotels – Cipriani
There is nothing like a hotel restaurant and this one has all the old world charm, white linen table cloths, cherry backed bar and bookshelves, waiters in white coats and diners in jackets and high heels. Mr. C is where you go in LA when you want to dress for dinner. As we all well know dressy jeans in LA is the norm, putting on a cocktail dress and a pair of heels as if you were heading out for a night in Manhattan is just what dinner at Mr C evokes. And just like the ambiance the menu is all simple elegance, simple ingredients done well. Their crudo options are delicious and I’m still thinking about the prosciutto served on thin pizza crust-like bread with a hint of arugula and a drizzle of olive oil. Lovely.
Scopa Italian Roots
A picture is worth a thousands words…what can I say about Scopa? Its hip. Its fun. Its innovative. Traditional Italian food in a hipster, millenial setting in Venice. The drinks are creative and extensive as is the menu. Everything here is good. This is a perfect place to meet up with friends for brunch or have a girls night out. They feature an extensive dessert menu and their cookies are so popular that you can order desserts to go online. Let me repeat – everything here is good. Do not miss the Chitarra.
With seven Toronto locations and now two in LA, Terroni has a terrific backstory about immigrating from Puglia, expanding an import business with a storefront and stumbling into being restauranteurs. I’d say their massive growth is a testament that they are doing something right. More casual than the other restaurants listed above, Terroni still imbibes the feel of a storefront, with cans of tomato sauce and imported goods for sale. Its a super fun vibe and a great place to throw a party – ask about their private rooms. They serve Southern Italian fare including stuffed zucchini blossoms which are delicious, but there is one dish we haven’t found anywhere else in LA – the Spaghetti al Limone – lemon pasta. This pasta is cooked al dente and runs through with the tangy, zestyness of lemons. We head to Terroni just for this pasta. And at lunchtime for their panini!
LAURA NIX GERSON is the Founder & Editor of MomAngeles a site she launched because she was planning a lot of playdates and her friends kept asking her where to go and what to do. So it seemed easier just to put it all online in one place. In a past life Laura was a publicist, event marketer and web producer….oh wait, she still is. Laura is a regular contributor to Modern Mom and Babble. She is also the CEO of Nix Gerson Media. Follow her @MomAngeles.