Among citywide trends towards gluten-free menus and vegan cheeses, Italian restaurants haven’t had an easy go in LA–especially when compared to cities like New York, Boston, or San Francisco, each of which have thriving Little Italy neighborhoods. But a new wave of authentic and inventive Italian restaurants are redefining the way that LA does Italian food—and making “nonnas” everywhere proud.
The second concept from the team behind Californian-Italian Union restaurant in Pasadena, Knead & Co Pasta Bar + Market simultaneously represents an extension and departure of their flagship; it offers guests the same classics with a hint of local flair, but in a highly accessible setting within Grand Central Market. The Italian bar and market offers three distinct experiences: guests can dine on Italian-American dishes, watch the masters at work in the on-site pasta-making lab, and shop Chef Bruce Kalman’s freshly-made products and other specialty goods in the marketplace. Grand Central Market, 317 S. Broadway, Los Angeles, 213-223-7592
At this Manhattan Beach restaurant, the name is the philosophy; Chef Michael Fiorelli’s menu is stacked with homey dishes cooked up with an extra dash of heart, soul, and salt. In drawing inspiration from both Italian culinary traditions and Californian culinary innovation, Love & Salt represents a harmony between local and global visions in dishes like the Caramelized Onion & Black Grape pizza, Rabbit Porchetta, Trottole pasta with bone marrow, and Local Persimmons & Burrata Cheese salad. Whatever you order, be sure to pair it with one of the wines, beers, or cocktails from the extensive beverage menu. 317 Manhattan Beach Blvd., Manhattan Beach, 310-545-5252
From the 1920s-era former California Bank space to the rustic Italian dishes from Chef Sydney C. Hunter, Kettle Black captures past, present, and future in its Silver Lake location. At its core, the restaurant is an exercise in both getting back to and re-establishing Italian culinary roots; the simple menu features classic dishes as well as a options from their wood-fired oven like Polpette comprised of meatballs with pecorino romano and cauliflower with pickled raisins. In addition to a spread of housemade carbo-loading opportunities as well as a comprehensive beverage list, Kettle Black also offers a daily (yes, daily) happy hour from 5-7 PM—including a “pizza & pop” deal for a pizza paired with a Peroni or glass of wine. 3705 W. Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles, 323-641-3705
DTLA sister restaurants The Factory Kitchen and Officine Brera exist within the space between contemporary and classic Italian cuisines; though they share a hospitality group and Arts District location, each takes a distinct perspective on updating—and adding a contemporary and LA-centric viewpoint to—traditional Italian dishes. While The Factory Kitchen focuses on housemade pastas and the signature focaccia, Officine Brera draws inspiration from the meat-heavy menus of Northern Italian trattorias. 1300 Factory Pl., Los Angeles, 213-996-6000; 1331 E. 6th St., Los Angeles, 213- 553-8006
At the Four Seasons Beverly Hills, Vinoteca takes a three-pronged approach as an espresso cafe, wine bar, and Italian-focused complement to the hotel’s well-established restaurant, Culina. Vinoteca’s signature dishes include l’arancino comprised of Sicilian salmon and Meyer lemon aioli, Neapolitan montanara (fried) pizzas with lobster and burrata, and a frutti di mare seafood medley, while the restaurant’s beverage program includes wine flights, “Icon Wines” from the Coravin, and a juxtaposition of classic Italian varietals alongside their California counterparts. Guests visiting in the morning—Vinoteca opens at 6:30 AM—should indulge in a signature Vinoteca Espresso and housemade pastries such as sfogliatelle (a shell-like ricotta-filled creation), connoncini (hazelnut cream-stuffed cannolis), and pain au chocolat (chocolate-filled croissant). Four Seasons Beverly Hills, 300 S. Doheny Dr., Los Angeles, 310-273-2222