From buzzy spots like Grandmaster Recorders that require reservations well in advance to chefs making headlines with new restaurant openings such as Mother Wolf, it’s clear that a relatively new wave of Italian restaurants in Los Angeles is having a moment. When lauded spots like Bestia and Osteria Mozza first opened their doors, they created a buzz in the city because of their fresh takes on Italian food. Instead of chicken parm, diners could experience a saffron gnocchi with buttermilk ricotta, or seasonal antipasti such as shell beans with sungold tomatoes and scallop crudo with rosemary chile oil and sesame.
Today, a new group of chefs is turning to their roots and interpreting classic dishes in exciting ways. There are charred Tokyo-style Neapolitan pizzas and pastas infused with Indian spice mixes like garam masala and Japanese yuzu. It’s a step away from the classic red sauce, and one that diners are eagerly lining up for.
“What’s more exciting than sharing cultures, especially in a city like Los Angeles,” Paola Da Re, chef at popular homestyle Italian joint Pasta Sisters, says. “We sell our freshly made raw pasta over the counter. Who said that our customers have to toss it with an Italian sauce and not dipped in a Taiwanese beef soup?”
Read on for seven Italian restaurants that have Angelenos buzzing right now.
At Hollywood’s Magari, Enrico Merendino melds Italian and Japanese flavors in a menu split into three sections: crudo, pasta, and wood-fired grill. Think dishes such as a yuzu tagliatelle with crab, poppyseed, and parmesan cheese; a squid ink pasta in a miso butter; and gnocchi made with Okinawan sweet potato and shiso in the dough. “We didn’t want to make our dishes too complicated, but they’re still very fun,” Merendino says. “[They] are not traditionally Italian. Those flavors are still there, but it’s new and exciting.” For dessert, try the Japanese cheesecake with pineapple ice cream, amaretto, and shiso. Warm gold tones and lantern-like light fixtures illuminate the 183-seat space.
Silverlake newcomer Pijja Palace is an Indian pizza parlor helmed by Miles Shore, who was previously a sous chef at Roberta’s in Culver City, and Avish Naran. “Pijja,” a play on the word pizza in Hindi, is an establishment devoted to all things spice. Okra fries are dusted with chile powder, and tandoori spaghetti features smoked chile powder, among other ingredients. Pizza options include a makhani or tomato base, and a green chutney pie with toppings like tandoori onions and spicy pepperoni. For dessert, there’s a malted chai and a cookies and cardamom soft serve ice cream. The spacious restaurant has a few booths, tables, a bar area, and 13 TV screens spread throughout. “Pijja Palace is about bringing people together over a shared love for good food, drinks, and sports,” Naran says. “We are excited that what we are doing has resonated with so many people.”
Chef Evan Funke made a name for himself at Venice’s Felix Trattoria. His latest Hollywood venture, Mother Wolf, is a love letter to Roman cuisine. It celebrates the culinary traditions and classic foods of Rome such as handmade cacio e pepe pasta and fried artichokes. Many of the dishes such as the spicy rigatoni all’amatriciana with crispy chunks of guanciale, ricotta-filled fried squash blossoms, and thin crust Roman pizzas topped with black truffles, pistachios, and other ingredients, are all meant to be shared. For an after dinner digestif, wait for the amaro cart to whizz by with a number of selections on display. The club-like atmosphere at Mother Wolf is ideal for those seeking an energetic night out in Hollywood—or those just seeking high-caliber Roman fare. The restaurant is one of the most popular in the city right now, so be sure to make a reservation ahead of time.
When you’re looking for classic pasta dishes in a casual setting, family-owned Pasta Sisters delivers. CEO Francesco Sinatra and chef Paola Da Re first debuted the restaurant in a Mid-City strip mall in 2015, before expanding to a second and larger location in Culver City. “We opened Pasta Sisters with a very precise mission: to give Italian food a fresher look and make it accessible to everyone with quality ingredients at a reasonable price in a fast, casual feeling,” Da Re says. Popular items on the menu include a bottarga pasta with Sardinian mullet roe, garlic, and olive oil, as well as a porcini mushroom pasta. Or build your own pasta dish from a base of pasta shapes such as tagliatelle and gnocchi, then add sauces including a tangy pomodoro and creamy pesto. Pasta Sisters also offers a number of sandwiches such as a caprese and porchetta, and entrees including roasted wild salmon, but the pasta dishes are the standout options here. The Culver City location seats 90 people between indoor tables, a bar, and two outdoor patios.
Pizzeria Sei, an Italian restaurant helmed by Pizzana and Ronan veteran William Joo, has given LA’s pizza lovers a lot to talk about since its opening in early 2022. The restaurant dishes out Tokyo-style Neapolitan pizzas, which are prepared in a wood-fired oven with extra salt and a pinching of the dough around the edge of the crust that ensures an airy, fire-seared crust. At Pizzeria Sei, Woo’s dedication to soft, crunchy crusts and fresh ingredients shines through. Pie offerings include margherita, funghi, and a bianca pizza with preserved lemon and pecorino cheese, among other ingredients. Salad and antipasti options include a caesar and pickled vegetables. The minimalist space includes counter seats in front of an open air kitchen, a single table, and a few outdoor tables.
This 250-seat restaurant from TAO Group Hospitality opened last spring on a popular stretch of Sunset Boulevard. The spacious, jewel-toned interiors feature lush plants and a retractable roof for al fresco dining in the summer. Dinner includes a wagyu meatball topped with whipped ricotta, a number of wood-fired pizzas, and pastas such as penne alla vodka and tagliatelle al limone. A new brunch menu features remixes on Southern Italian dishes such as a zucchini blossom torta and a burger with Calabrian chile passata (a pureed chile tomato blend), and burrata. A tableside sfogliatelle (pastry) cart offers fresh-squeezed juices and Italian pastries such as cornetti and pistachio tarts.
Enter this massive 15,000-square-foot restaurant housed in a historic recording studio for good food and a bit of history. The recording studio, called Hollywood Bijou Studio, has been closed for years, but artists such as Stevie Wonder and the Red Hot Chili Peppers once walked its halls. Today, the space pays homage to its musical roots, with coasters in the shape of mini records, and a lobby that contains cabinets filled with vintage guitar pedals, records, and other studio gear. Culinary director Monty Koludrovic and pastry chef (and Koludrovic’s wife) Jaci Koludrovic have created a menu with a focus on California-centric Italian food, including rotating crudo plates, cavatelli pasta with dungeness crab and basil, and caviar cannolis. In addition to the 150-seat restaurant, there’s a cocktail bar called 71 Studio, and a rooftop lounge that offers antipasti dishes and pizza.
Kristin Braswell is a journalist and founder of CrushGlobal Travel, a company that customizes travel guides and authentic experiences around the world.