No matter what kind of week you’re having, a bowl of excellent pasta goes a long way. Sure, you don’t need an excuse to get that cacio e pepe you’ve been wanting, but the fact that it can make you forget that someone drove into the side of your car as you were heading home from the body shop is a definite bonus.
While LA might be better known for our excellent Mexican food and endless top-notch Thai, Japanese, and Middle Eastern options, our Italian restaurants are way better than the rest of the country gives us credit for. (We’re looking at you, New York City.) And this guide is here to prove it. This isn’t just a list of every good red-sauce place in town - this a carefully-selected group of the very best Italian restaurants in Los Angeles.
They take their pasta very seriously at Felix. As in, they built an entire climate-controlled room in the middle of the restaurant to make their pasta in serious. Yes, this is over-the-top, but this relatively new spot in Venice has immediately become a Very Important Pasta Place, so it’s paid off. That rigatoni you watched being made arrives as a very good amatriciana, and the spaghetti cacio e pepe has quickly become a Westside legend. And while the pasta is the main event here, you definitely need to get involved with the starters, especially the insanely good meatballs.
The Arts District is known for a lot of things (including one very famous Italian restaurant), but neighborhood restaurants are not one of them. Factory Kitchen is exactly that - an excellent neighborhood Italian restaurant. There isn’t a single weak spot on the menu, but the pesto handkerchief pasta is so good we’d wear it as a scarf, and the giant piece of fried dough piled with prosciutto and burrata is one of our favorite things to eat.
Rossoblu is far and away the newest place on this list, but with a pedigree the Westminster Kennel Club would approve of, they’re already in the running for best in show. This huge restaurant in the Fashion District is from the people behind Sotto, with pasta rather than pizza as the focus. The salumi is excellent, the wine list is killer, but when there’s something called Nonna’s Tagliatelle al Ragu Bolognese on the menu, you better be ordering it.
It’s rare to find a restaurant that can handle a power lunch between Paramount executives, a very last-minute first date, and dinner with your boyfriend’s mom, but Osteria La Buca is that restaurant. And it also happens to serve some of the best Italian food in Los Angeles. This place is cool, but low-key enough that you can walk in tonight without much of a wait. They make all their pasta in-house, and if you don’t order the bucatini carbonara, we’re no longer friends.
It is a bit of a stretch to call Pasta Sisters a restaurant. This tiny shop in a no-man’s-land part of Mid-Wilshire has three tables, a handful of bar seats, a busy takeout operation, and an order-at-the-counter setup. But Pasta Sisters has earned their spot on this list by being extremely good at making pasta. Here, you build your own bowl - choose your type of noodle and a sauce to go with it, and then use your powers of self-control to not eat the entire basket of focaccia they bring while you wait. The pappardelle bolognese is hard to pass up, but if you’re looking to go full food coma, get the porcini mushroom gnocchi.
Osteria Mozza is the kind of Italian restaurant we don’t have too many of in LA - the fine dining version. This isn’t a white tablecloth town, which is exactly why Osteria Mozza is so damn special. That, and the insane things happening at the mozzarella bar and on your pasta plate. Put on the jacket you last wore at a wedding, be ready to throw down, and get ready for a month’s worth of dairy and carbs.
Don’t show up at 7pm on a Tuesday expecting to grab dinner at Cento Pasta Bar. This low-key spot is only open Wednesday through Saturday for lunch - basically whenever the chef feels like being there. It’s inside Mignon Wine Bar in DTLA, and involves a single chef who’ll tell you the three or so pastas he’s cooking for the day (they’re regularly changing), and make them at the bar right in front of you. The beet spaghetti and almond pesto gnocchi are some of the best plates of pasta we’ve ever eaten, but the right thing to do here is to get one of everything and multiple glasses of wine, and forget to go back to work.
Barrique is less an Italian restaurant, more a restaurant that you’d find in Italy. Which means lots of antipasto, a squid ink pasta with crab, and entrees like smoked duck and grilled rib eye. It’s also a prime date night spot, partly because of the candlelit interiors, but also the heavily-accented Italian waiters.
Jon & Vinny’s is hands-down one of our favorite places to eat in Los Angeles. It’s the modern version of American-Italian, brought to us by the Animal guys, and delivers lights-out pasta, meatballs, and pizza. It’s basically impossible to narrow down an order, but in our regular rotation are the meatballs, spicy fusilli, rigatoni al limone, and the LA Woman and El Chaparrito pizzas. Eat here like it’s your last day on earth.
You could probably walk past this dime-sized Italian spot on Beverly a hundred times and not notice it, but that would be a horrible move on your part. For well over a decade, Angelini Osteria has been serving some of the best old-school Italian dishes in the city. It’s fancier (and better) than the kind-of-generic space might make you think it would be, and you should plan on dropping some serious money. It’s worth it though - this is where real pasta happens.
Frankly speaking, there are restaurants and then there is Bestia. It’s hard to argue that there’s been a more game-changing, neighborhood-altering restaurant than this Arts District destination. Years into their reign, Bestia is as much of sh*tshow as ever - it’s a pain to get to and you’ll definitely have to wait 45 minutes even with your 9pm reservation - but the roasted bone marrow will make you forget about all of it.
Jones’ food is very good, but it’s not the best on this list. That said, you won’t find a better atmosphere than at this Weho staple - which feels old Hollywood, but not in the cringe-y way. The crowd is cool and attractive and, whether it’s for after-work drinks or late night pizza, always down to party. Get the spaghetti and meatballs (in a skillet), the spicy sausage pizza, and one of the best desserts in the whole city - the apple pie.
In Silver Lake, there’s a very fine line between important restaurants and important restaurants on Instagram, and often times what you get is the latter. But Alimento is an extremely important restaurant. For us, this has a lot to do with the chicken liver crostone and the radiatori pasta, but frankly, you can order almost anything on the menu (including the not-very-Italian-sounding pig in a blanket) and be guaranteed an incredibly good meal.
Located in that magical oceanside junction where Santa Monica, the Palisades, and Malibu all collide into a who’s who of 1996, Giorgio Baldi is a flat-out LA classic. This is where you go to overhear Jane Fonda and Gwyneth Paltrow talk about school districts while an old Italian man gets pushy about his gnocchi. With people-watching this good and old-school dishes that remain excellent, time to put Giorgio’s back on your list.
At this point you’ve likely convinced yourself that Little Dom’s is an old-school classic LA restaurant, the kind of spot where Frank Sinatra hung out in the ’40s. We hate to break it to you, but they’ve actually only been open ten years. And also we get the feeling that Frank probably hated LA. The lack of a good backstory doesn’t mean anything though - Little Dom’s is still a great spot for the accessible, comfort-food Italian dishes of your Long Island childhood, only better.
When you think of the places in LA that have survived the test of time and more or less become integrated into the fabric of our city, Dan Tana’s is high on the list. You come here to eat classic, no-frills Italian dishes and experience what’s probably the most authentic old-school Hollywood vibe in the city.