Our 99 Essential L.A. Restaurants issue came out last week, and we're highlighting a few categories drawing from the list. Today: Italian restaurants.
This isn't every single Italian or Italian-influenced spot on the list, so make sure you check out the whole thing, but here are five of our favorites to get you started.
For the last dozen years, West Hollywood's Angelini Osteria has been perhaps the moral center of Italian food in Los Angeles. A procession of many of the town's best practitioners of the cuisine has trained in chef Gino Angelini's small kitchen, learning to master pasta and porchetta at Angelini's hands.
Chef Ori Menashe, his wife, Genevieve Gergis, and restaurateur Bill Chait have created quite a winner with Bestia, one that may yet serve as the anchor for the downtown Arts District's slow creep east. Bestia is located in the first floor of a loft building in a dark and industrial part of the city, but once you're inside, it's all twinkling lights and slaughterhouse swank. Menashe's food is ostensibly Italian, but there's a whole lot of L.A. in here as well.
3. Il Grano
Long before it became expected, as it is now, for a chef to troll his local farmers market every week, to grow his own heirloom tomatoes, to serve his precisely sourced fish without bothering to cook it, to spotlight family-made wines and olive oils and to present his beautifully articulated food in dishes made not by a machine but by a ceramicist friend, Salvatore Marino was doing exactly that. Il Grano, Marino's edible ode to his native Italy, is unironically both an of-the-moment restaurant and something of a throwback.
Once upon a time, many more Italian restaurants resembled Maureen Vincenti's Brentwood "ristorante" than do now: old country-accented servers, beautiful wine lists, menus that seem more like manifestos than what's for dinner. So it's a supreme pleasure to sit back leisurely at Vincenti.
When you step in through the huge, dark doors into the noise and activity, you know you've arrived somewhere important, a place where dreams of Italian cuisine done right might come true. Nancy Silverton, Mario Batali and Joe Bastianich's restaurant, which was created loosely around the idea of a mozzarella bar, has become one of Los Angeles' great statement restaurants, a declaration that California has something important to add to the Italian tradition.
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