Looking for some of the best Italian food experiences in Los Angeles? You’ve come to the right place.
While no one L.A. neighborhood can lay claim to being the epiccenter of our Italian food scene, the range and diversity of available Italian dining is impressive. From fast-casual spots with mom-and-pop vibes to James Beard Award-winning pastries and rustic regional specialities, there is no shortage of options to pick from.
This list was specifically compiled with hospitality, heartiness, and quality in mind, so even if you can’t make it to Italy this year, here’s your chance to experience eating at a trattoria without leaving the West Coast.
Presented in no particular order, numbered only for reference…
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1. The Mozza Restaurant Group: Osteria Mozza, Chi Spacca, & Pizzeria Mozza (Hancock Park)
The Mozza Restaurant Group, a partnership between Mario Batali, Nancy Silverton, and Joseph Bastianich, is behind some of the best Italian eateries in L.A. and is known for taking basic ingredients and elevating them in a way that’ll make you feel like you’re trying it for the first time. It should also be noted that Silverton changed the bread game in Los Angeles with La Brea Bakery and at Osteria Mozza she took on cheese, developing a mozzarella bar highlighting small, cheese-centric dishes. This year, Dahlia Narvaez, longtime pastry chef at Osteria Mozza, was honored in 2016 as Outstanding Pastry Chef at the ultra-prestigious James Beard Foundation Awards. Chi Spacca, on the other hand, is all about the protein (the name is Italian for “he who cleaves”), with finely crafted meat-centric dishes by executive chef Ryan DeNicola at the helm. The highly acclaimed Pizzeria Mozza is a testament to Silverton’s talent as a bread maker, with pizza crusts that are simultaneously chewy and crunchy. All the options are solid, but the egg, bacon, Yukon Gold potato and Bermuda onion pizza will blow you away.
Must-trys at Osteria Mozza: squid ink chitarra freddi, anything from the mozzarella bar, rosemary olive oil cakes
Must-trys at Chi Spacca: testa frittata, beef cheek and bone marrow pie
Must-trys at Pizzeria Mozza: any pizza and butterscotch budino
2. Angelini Osteria (Fairfax)
Since opening in October of 2001, Angelini Osteria has become arguably the best Italian restaurant in the city. Chef Gino Angelini exudes authenticity through his dishes, particularly his mom’s famous lasagna, praised by Giada de Laurentiis, and his grilled branzino, Wolfgang Puck’s favorite. All this big flavor is packed in a tight, minimalistic space, so it can get a little cramped and loud on a busy night, but when the food is this good, it’s worth it.
Must-trys: lasagna verde “omaggio nonna elvira,” branzino, fegatini
3. Bestia (DTLA)
Bestia (“Beast” in Italian) embraces a more rustic style of Italian cooking courtesy of chef Ori Menashe and wife/pastry chef Genevieve Gergis. It remains a favorite among Angelenos and critics alike, so making reservations a month in advance is a necessity. The menu is sprinkled with options that go beyond the usual Italian staples, though for non-adventurous eaters there’s still the tried-and-true margherita pizza and casarecce al pomodoro.
Must-trys: the pan-roasted chicken gizzards, roasted marrow bone, cavatelli alla norcina, charcuterie
4. Jon & Vinny’s (Fairfax District)
Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo, the masterminds behind Animal, Son of a Gun, Trois Mec, and Petit Trois also own a casual Italian spot churning out comfort foods like pizza and spaghetti and meatballs. They’ve dubbed the cuisine at their pizza place “California-Italian,” where they make it a point to buy fresh ingredients from the local farmers’ market nearly every day of the week. The pizza crust, made with sourdough in their wood and gas-fired stone hearth oven, is charred, thin, and crispy.
Must-trys: the marinara-braised meatballs and the L.A. Woman pizza, made with local burrata, tomato, basil, olive oil, and sea salt with a side of crust dip
5. The Factory Kitchen (Arts District)
This Northern Italian trattoria tucked away inside a renovated factory complex is Chef Angelo Auriana and restaurateur Matteo Ferdinandi’s latest project. Auriana has developed a devoted following from his time at Valentino in Santa Monica. His star dish is the delicate mandilli, “handkerchief” silky-smooth pasta topped with Ligurian almond-basil pesto and pecorino Sardo.
Must-trys: focaccia di Recco, paccheri (an off-menu item), peperú (stuffed peppers), 24-month parma prosciutto with a lightly fried sage dough, stracciatella
6. Spumante (North Hollywood)
This family-owned white tablecloth restaurant was established in 1988 by Joe Salas and reopened in NoHo after years in Studio City. They make their pastas in-house, and serve bruschetta as a dip that sounds simple enough, but with flavor that explodes in your mouth. The wine list includes a mix of Italian and California reds and whites and six champagnes, though the restaurant’s named for the Italian sparkling white wine.
Must-trys: elephant garlic, pumpkin ravioli, linguine salmone, Joe’s tiramisu
7. Bruce Kalman’s Restaurants: Union and Knead & Co (Pasadena & Downtown)
Chef Bruce Kalman is the man behind Union and Knead & Co. At Union, the menu balances Northern Italian flavors with seasonal West Coast produce. Start your meal off the right way with bread and giardiniera. This Italian staple of pickled veggies is made here using farmers’ market cauliflower and baby carrots. Second, order one of Kalman’s famed pasta dishes, like spaghetti alla chitarra made with browned garlic and Fresno chiles. Over at Knead & Co in DTLA, Kalman describes the food as a mix of dishes from Jersey, Italy and California, with all the pasta made using locally milled flour from Grist & Toll in Pasadena. They also cure their own ham and make their own ricotta!
Must-trys at Union: tagliatelle with pork ragu, porchetta, spaghetti alla chitarra, olive oil cake with salted honeycomb gelato
Must-trys at Knead & Co: “Sunday Gravy” spaghetti and meatballs, bucatini al amatriciana, and porcini lasagnette
8. Maccheroni Republic (Downtown)
Maccheroni Republic is the brainchild of Antonio Tommasi and Jean-Louis de Mori, who ran Locanda Veneta and Ca’ Brea, among others. It’s a no-fuss and reasonably priced trattoria serving up home-style pastas perfect for tucking into while enjoying a glass of wine. It does get busy and they don’t take reservations, so it might be smart to come early or during non-prime hours if possible.
Must-trys: boccoletti pasta with pesto and ricotta, bigoli della nonna, agnolotti di osso buco
9. MidiCi (Sherman Oaks)
This fast-casual eatery has an eight-page menu of Italian dishes but the main draw is their Neapolitan pizza. The dough is made fresh daily and contains only four ingredients: non-GMO 00 Neapolitan flour, water, salt, and yeast. It absolutely requires a fork and knife ’cause it’s just that light. Their wood-fired oven (straight from Naples) cooks the pizzas at 1000 degrees, making it as efficient as the other pizza spots but with a better ambiance. Because a true Italian meal is about sitting down and enjoying a meal with friends, they’ve got you covered from appetizers to dessert, and espresso made with their Athena espresso machine straight from Italy.
Must-trys: Nutella calzone, housemade meatballs with smoked mozzarella, margherita pizza
10. Pasta Sisters (Arlington Heights)
This family joint is about pasta in all its iterations, served up
Must-trys: panzerotti (fried calzone), meat lasagna, and arrabbiata
11. Alimento (Silver Lake)
At Alimento (“nourishment” in Italian), chef Zach Pollack and his ample talent took one of the most casual dishes and made it exemplary. His version of pig in a blanket is made with mortadella, spelt puff pastry, and Stracchino cheese and it’s a game changer. But the real stars are their pastas. Here you’ll find a great variety from fusilli, gnòc, and tortellini to whole-wheat bigoli. FYI: Plates are designed for sharing, so order a couple of different plates, pastas and/or platters.
Must-trys: chopped salad, chicken liver crostone, octopus & barley, chicken Milanese sandwich, tortellini in Brodo, radiatori
12. Vincenti (Brentwood)
Chef Nicola Mastronardi has been serving up classic pasta and pizza dishes for nearly 20 years, initially working with Gino Angelini (of Osteria Angelini) after being discovered by the late Mauro Vincenti in Rimini, Italy. Over the last two decades, fanfare for Vincenti hasn’t wavered, and it’s at its peak during Monday Pizza Night and Happy Hour Tuesdays through Fridays.
Must-trys: sogliola (Dover sole), prosciutto e rucola pizza
13. Via Veneto (Santa Monica)
Upon entering the restaurant situated on the corner of Main St., you’ll immediately note the dark, romantic lighting and the intimate setting that make it a prime date spot. Owners Fabrizio Bianconi and Marco Cialini, who came from Italy more than a decade ago, give patrons a taste of Italy with an authentic fine-dining experience.
Must-trys: eggplant parmesan, shrimp with spaghetti and bottarga, ricotta and Nutella tart
14. Gusto (Beverly Grove)
In 2011, Chef Vic Casanova and wife Jessa opened Gusto near the Beverly Center to the delight of pasta-lovin’ Angelenos. The restaurant is acclaimed for their house-made pastas, including bucatini carbonara and the blue crab linguine. Jessa presides over the wine list made up mostly of red and white, sparkling, and rose wines from all over Italy.
Must-trys: polipo, rigatoni alla norma, coconut gelato pie
15. Osteria La Buca (Hollywood)
An L.A. hotspot since 2004, this former mom-and-son restaurant once had just 20 seats, but after a makeover, it became a rustic farm-to-table two-room eatery with chef Cameron Slaugh at the helm. Previously a sous chef at New York’s Eleven Madison Park, Slaugh is now creating dishes in Cal-Italian style with ingredients straight from La Buca’s West LA garden. Last year Slaugh introduced a Sunday brunch menu with items like sautéed farro with greens, sausage, and poached eggs, polenta and ricotta skillet cake with Meyer lemon jam and honey, and short rib hash.
Must-trys: guanciale pizza, squash fussilli, nero spaghetti
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