Sophia Loren once said, “Everything you see, I owe to spaghetti.” If that’s not endorsement I don’t know what is. The following features places where you can get your pasta on . . .
Angeli Caffé. Twenty years ago, Evan Kleiman’s caffé crystallized the affinity of Angelenos for casual Italian cooking — the spaghetti alla checca, roast chicken and minimally garnished pizza that a Sienese teenager might eat for dinner at the trattoria down the block on the nights his mother didn’t feel like turning on the stove, but which was essentially unobtainable to those of us on this side of the Atlantic. Its popularity may have inspired hundreds of restaurants featuring salads dressed with balsamic vinegar, but Angeli’s rustic simplicity is still the benchmark. And Evan Kleiman’s pastas are beyond remarkable. 7274 Melrose Ave., Los Angeles, (323) 936-9086, www.angelicaffe.com. Lunch Tues.–Fri. 11:30 a.m.–2:30 p.m.; dinner Tues.–Sun. 5 p.m.–closing. Beer and wine. Takeout. Valet parking. Entrées $8.50–$24. AE, D, MC, V. Rustic Regional Italian. JG $$b
Dai Ho Kitchen. Dai Ho Kitchen’s spicy beef noodle soup is an angry red brew spiked with chopped herbs, golf ball–sized chunks of long-simmered meat and noodles — slithery, linguine-thick noodles, disarmingly soft, that like all the best pasta seem to have mastered the trick of appearing almost alive. But Dai Ho’s version of the beef noodle soup is on a plane of its own, a dense, stinky taste of Valhalla. 9148 Las Tunas Dr., Temple City, (626) 291-2295. Lunch Tues.–Sun. 11:30 a.m.–3 p.m.; dinner, takeout only. No alcohol. Lot parking. Cash only. Lunch for two, food only, $11–$18. Chinese. JG ¢b
Enoteca Drago. In New York City, Italian wine bars are multiplying like mosquitoes. In Los Angeles, the most serious Italian wine bar is probably the posh Enoteca Drago, an outpost of Celestino Drago’s pasta-driven empire, where you can chase a plate of prosciutto, a mess of baby octopods, or even the elusive lardo — cured pig fat in the style of northwestern Tuscany, melted onto a slab of fried bread — with a glass of crisp Verdicchiofrom the Marches. Enoteca Drago does function as a full restaurant, although it is occasionally hard to remember this when you’re floating in the middle of a Brunello reverie, but you will also find great pasta with pesto and one of the few proper versions of spaghetti carbonara in town. 410 N. Canon Drive, Beverly Hills, (310) 786-8236. Open Mon.–Sat. 11:30 a.m.–11 p.m., Sun. 11:30 a.m.–10 p.m. Full bar. Valet parking. AE, DC, MC, V. Entrées $13.50–$18. Italian. JG $$bÂ
Heavy Noodling Restaurant. A hundred generations of Chinese chefs have probably regarded this restaurant’s specialty with horror — thick, clumsy, utterly delicious noodles that run somewhere between spaetzle and pappardelle, self-consciously rustic things that taste of themselves whether immersed in a deep, anise-scented beef broth or sautéed with what must be the authentic antecedent of mu shu pork. But the shaved-dough pasta — the Chinese name of the place is Shanxi Knife-Cut Noodle — has that good, dense bite you find more often in Bologna than you do in Monterey Park. 153 E. Garvey Ave., Monterey Park, (626) 307-9583. Open daily 11 a.m.–3 p.m. and 5–9:30 p.m. Lunch and dinner daily. No alcohol. Lot parking in rear. Cash only. Entrées $6–$12. Chinese. JG ¢b
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Il Moro. Nestled in a hidden crook of corporate office buildings, this spinoff of the esteemed Locanda Veneta has good fresh fish, pastas in unusual shapes (try “the pope’s hat”) and an artichoke-and-arugula salad bright with lemon juice. The patio creates an unexpected urban refuge; it’s filled with palms, has its own small lake, and a tall gushing waterfall of a fountain literally drowns out the roar of traffic on Olympic. 11400 W. Olympic Blvd., West Los Angeles, (310) 575-3530. Open Mon.–Thurs. 11:30 a.m.–9 p.m., Fri.–Sat. 11:30 a.m.–10:30 p.m., Sun. 4:30–9:30 p.m. Wine and beer. Valet parking. AE, DC, MC, V. Entrées $10–$20. Italian. MH $
Picholine. The elegant house of temptations known as Picholine sits on the unlikely corner of First and Beverly (two otherwise parallel streets that meet just east of Virgil). This gourmet specialty/sandwich shop sells nine tried-and-true sandwiches and no coffee drinks. You can eat at one of the very few tables — if you’re lucky enough to find an empty one — or carry out. Sandwich Number One (grilled chicken breast with pesto, arugula, shaved Parmesan and oven-roasted tomato on a rustic roll) is the biggest seller. All sandwiches come with a choice of pasta or mesclun salad, and you can supplement your meal with a Valrhona chocolate bar, or an array of Roche handmade bonbons. Shop while you wait — there are French jams, rustic Italian pastas of startling porosity, Dean and DeLuca herbs de Provence, not to mention a mind-bending selection of European cheeses. 3360 W. First St., Los Angeles, (213) 252-8722, fax (213) 252-8723. Open Tues.–Sat. 10 a.m.–6:30 p.m., closed Sun.–Mon. No alcohol. Street parking. AE, D, DC, MC, V. All sandwiches $7.50. MH ¢b[
Valentino. Valentino was the first restaurant in California to serve white truffles, balsamic vinegar or radicchio, and Friday lunch here is almost a sacrament for Los Angeles foodies, sanctified with a ritual dribble of the latest obscure olive oil that owner Piero Selvaggio has managed to find in Liguria, and bottles of ancient Barolo. There is an actual menu at Valentino, and a wine list thick as the Manhattan phone book, but the entire point of the place is to pretend that they do not exist. Valentino is a certain kind of great restaurant, prepared to transform your whims into six-course meals, to solidify abstract desire into fish and meat and rice and pasta. Bring money, lots of it. 3115 W. Pico Blvd., Santa Monica, (310) 829-4313. Dinner Mon.–Thurs. 5–10 p.m., Fri.–Sat. 5–10:30 p.m.; lunch Fri. 11 a.m.–noon. Full bar. Valet and street parking. AE, CB, DC, MC, V. $45–$85. Italian. JG $$$
Vincenti Ristorante. The western stretch of Brentwood has been called the Los Angeles answer to Little Italy by some, although the New York neighborhood that its intense concentration of Tuscan-lite restaurants brings to mind tends to be the lesser avenues of the culinarily challenged Upper East Side. But Vincenti is the real thing, a spare, elegant embassy of modern Italian cooking: spit-roasted birds, minimally sauced pastas and house-cured meats; pungent flavors and abundant herbs; and an obsession with grilled steak that is unmistakably Italian. Such refinement comes at a fairly high cost — on busy evenings, the line of 745s outside the valet station can reach halfway to infinity. At these times, it is good to remember that Monday is pizza night. 11930 San Vicente Blvd., Brentwood, (310) 207-0127.Mon.–Sat. 6–10 p.m., lunch Fri. noon–2 p.m. Full bar. Takeout. Valet parking. AE, D, MC, V. Entrees $18–$40. Italian. JG $$$b