The strangest thing about Terroni may be the name of the restaurant, a pejorative term for southern Italians slung mostly by hooligans in the North, a rough word meaning “peasant” but with strong overtones of “mud people” that I’ve mostly heard directed at Napoli soccer players by ultras in Bergamo and Milan. The name has bugged me since I first heard of the original Toronto pizzeria. Still, the Canadian import, fitted into the former Authentic Café space, may actually feel more Italian than anywhere else in Los Angeles at the moment, with as many expats at the tables as on the restaurant staff, terra cotta serving dishes, a roster of decent Italian wines available in half-liter and quarter-liter carafes, and the deftest espresso pull this side of Palermo.
Terroni, nominally a southern-Italian restaurant, specializes in pizzas — not the artisanal, wood-fired things you find at Mozza and Antica Pizzeria, but stretched thin to order over the lip of a counter and tossed into a regular deck oven. Terroni’s pizza is good stuff: skinny, crunchy most of the way through, served as in Italy in individual uncut rounds, topped with things like broccoli rabe and crumbled sausage; Gorgonzola, honey and walnuts; or plain old mozzarella and tomato sauce. The pastas — largely made with fresh, house-made versions of familiar dried pasta, an occasionally lovable tic — tend to be very good: rigatoni with tomatoes and mozzarella, a definitive penne alla Norma with fried eggplant, and possibly the first L.A. appearance of spaghetti ca’muddica, a Sicilian pasta a little like spaghetti alla puttanesca enriched with toasted bread crumbs.
Where Terroni misses, it misses in extremely Italian ways, like dumping canned tuna into half their salads, concocting baroque combinations of pizza toppings designed to appeal to 16-year-old Vespa jocks, and serving factory-made desserts right in their branded little cups. You would be surprised at how many otherwise excellent trattorie in Italy have their Antica Gelateria del Corso or Bindi refrigerators right out there in the dining room. 7605 Beverly Blvd., L.A., (323) 954-0300. Open for lunch and dinner Sun.–Thurs. 9 a.m.–11 p.m., Fri.–Sat. ?9 a.m.–mid.