For months, aesthetes staggering out of 7 Grand under the weight of one too many Sazeracs have been wondering what lay behind the fancy paper covering the windows of Bottega Louie across the street, a former bank converted into a majestic food hall, a slab of urban renovation that suggested less downtown Los Angeles than Rodeo Drive. And when Bottega Louie opened, it was hard not to be dumbstruck by the space, an enormous, double-height room big enough to swallow a basketball arena, whitewashed and gleaming, restored to its early-century glory and staffed under what appears to be the guidelines of a USC sorority full-employment act. (Physically at least, it dwarfs both Balducci’s and Dean & DeLuca in New York.) One corner of the premises is occupied by a market selling high-end cheeses and a tiny selection of the produce you might have forgotten to pick up at the farmers market. A long bakery counter sells breads and croissants and pastries to the breakfast crowd; a bar, with seating exceeding that of most gastropubs, sells snacks and sandwiches to go with the beer and cocktails. And at the rear of the space is a full restaurant, a dining room with the feel of a brasserie but a mostly American-Italian menu structured a bit like the one at Pizzeria Mozza: lots of small dishes, like stuffed artichokes, fried calamari, clams oreganata, and a dish of mushy peas with proscuitto that could have come out of the kitchen of any trattoria in Rome; crisp-edged Neapolitan-style pizzas from the big wood-burning oven in the corner, and old-fashioned things like eggplant parmesan, sliced steak and black cod roasted in parchment.
The cooking was a bit wobbly in the restaurant’s first week, but I suspect the kitchen will find its groove: The chef is Sam Marvin, a Patina alum whose Melrose restaurant Modada was one of the most interesting openings of the mid-1990s in Los Angeles, and who guided the last few years of Le Dôme. Bottega Louie is the grand restaurant downtown deserves.
700 S. Grand Ave., dwntwn., (213) 802-1470 or www.bottegalouie.com