Where To Go When You Can’t Get Into Jon & Vinny’s
photo credit: Jakob Layman
You’re stuck at work and thinking about Jon & Vinny’s. Don’t worry, so are we. But you just called for a reservation and the next available table isn’t until the next lunar cycle. Suddenly, those meatballs, the little gem salad, spicy fusilli, and LA Woman pizza are fading pipedreams. Here’s the good news - there are plenty of excellent alternatives when everyone’s favorite Italian restaurant on Fairfax is booked solid. Here are the eight best spots to fill the Jon & Vinny’s shaped hole in your stomach.
Cosa Buona is run by the same crew who owns Alimento, one of LA’s best Italian restaurants. But unlike the special-occasion-worthy Silver Lake spot, Cosa Buona is simply a very good neighborhood pizza joint. There’s no pasta on the menu, but there are plenty of other things like meatballs, mozzarella sticks, and a semifreddo pie that will give you the strength you need to get through the week.
Son Of A Gun is run by the same guys who own Jon & Vinny’s and Animal, and is perhaps best-known as the restaurant that’s not Jon & Vinny’s or Animal. Take advantage of that. The modern seafood spot on 3rd St. in Beverly Grove is as good as it’s ever been, and you won’t have to wait two weeks to get a table. The place is small, but has a cool atmosphere ideal for eating the best lobster roll in town.
Osteria La Buca is one of those restaurants you pass by all the time but never actually make it into. PSA: Go there now. The laid-back Italian spot a few blocks from the Paramount studios definitely brings in a power lunch crowd during the week, but at night, it turns into the low-key date place you’re always in need of at the last second. Their carbonara is exactly what you want it to be, but the chile-covered guanciale pizza should also be on your table.
No one is getting into Pizzeria Mozza at the last second unless it’s 11:30pm or you have a network TV contract. But the not-so-secret secret is Mozza2Go - their delivery/pick-up operation that gives you all of the regular menu highlights (Nancy’s chopped and pretty much any pizza), but inside the warm confines of the bed fort you just made.
At some point, we all should send Jones Hollywood a thank you note for getting us through the hard times. This somewhat hidden spot on Santa Monica Blvd. doesn’t serve the best Italian food in the city, but it doesn’t need to. You’re at Jones because you want a good slice of pizza, an apple pie served on a skillet, and a table at 1:30am so you and your friends can complain about your horrific dates earlier. The dimly-lit spot has an Old Hollywood feel to it, but not in the way that makes you feel like you’re crying alone at a Johnny Rockets. Jones is therapy and we could all use more of that.
You’re stuck downtown with severe spicy fusilli cravings, but getting to Jon & Vinny’s and back during your lunch hour is only something that happens in your wildest dreams. Which is why you need to know about Cento. This is a daytime-only pop-up inside a wine bar on 6th St., and the solo guy behind the whole operation makes incredible pasta. The menu changes weekly, but depends on what he feels like serving - stuff like beet spaghetti with goat cheese, almond pesto gnocchi, and an uni and lobster pasta that will change your mind about uni. Open only Wednesday-Saturday, 11am-3pm.
This tiny pizza joint in a Venice strip mall is one of the most enjoyable dinners you’ll have on the Westside. All the pizza is good (particularly The Boardwalk), but you’re really here for the tiny interior that feels like a pizza joint your imaginary friends in Rome own, and an owner who plays completely by his own rules. Which include serving you multiple glasses of wine on the sidewalk while you wait for table.
There are nights you want to get dressed up, buy a bottle of nice wine, and throw down on some fancy Italian food. And then some nights, you just need Farfalla. The neighborhood Italian spot on Hillhurst in Los Feliz is by no means a perfect restaurant, but their pastas are among the best in the area, and you shouldn’t ever have too much of a problem getting a table. Slipping into a pesto gnocchi coma is an admirable way to end an evening.