Under normal circumstances, it’s pretty difficult for me to remember what I did last week, let alone last month. Fortunately, during quarantine, I’m adhering to a pretty strict drug regimen to keep my mind limber, so after Kat, Brett, and Brant weighed in with their favorite restaurant picks, I was reasonably confident I could do the same.
So I dug deep in the recesses of my brain - and my wallet, where I keep receipts - to come up with these spots. From Italian seafood to tacos, pizza, and big-ass sandwiches (boy, I eat like a college freshman on a bender), here’s where I’ve - apparently - been eating most of my meals lately.
This was one of the first restaurants I ate at after coming on as the LA editor (thanks Brett!), and it became my favorite pizza place in town. In the beforetimes, I loved how much it felt like a neighborhood spot back in Brooklyn - the no B.S. pies, the chatty guy behind the counter, the railing by the window where you could post up with a few slices. And, after picking up a couple pies for a socially distanced dinner in Atwater Village, I’m happy to report it’s still my favorite pizza place in LA. I personally love their spicier pies, like the Pep Pep, with chorizo, pepperoncini, and honey, or the Savannah, with salami, Calabrian chili, and pickled jalapeño, but you can’t go wrong with the margherita or a straight-up pepperoni pizza, either… especially since everything comes on their springy, slightly funky sourdough crust.
FOR BIG-ASS SANDWICHES:
If the giant neon “PASTRAMI” sign doesn’t clue you in, your nose will. You can smell Johnny’s pastrami - not to be confused with Johnnie’s Pastrami - being smoked from about a block away, so well before you get in line, you know what you’re in for. And you won’t be disappointed. That pastrami is smoky, slightly peppery, and sliced super-thick (you can - and should - order it by the pound), but it’s best as a sandwich. Served simply on marble rye from Tartine Bakery with a dab of deli mustard, it’s not the kind of towering showstopper you’ll find in some delis, but what it lacks in altitude, it more than makes up for in attitude. This is a big, bold showcase for the deeply smoked brisket, the bite of the bark, and the semi-rendered fat cap (I always prefer my pastrami a little fatty), with an emphasis on big - this is also a meal unto itself, so if you’re looking to try a couple different things here, I’d recommend ordering a half sandwich.
Taking over the former MTN space on Abbot Kinney, Valle’s menu leans Oaxacan, and the regional staples - tlayudas with quesillo and cocoa-bean spread, fantastic amarillo and verde moles - are certainly worth your attention. But I like their tacos the most; the focus is on flavorful, well-seasoned meats, like achiote-rubbed chicken with salted cabbage, and a grilled pork collar with pineapples, al pastor-style. The two standouts, though, are the tender and rich lamb barbacoa and the slightly salty pork belly, the latter of which is topped with green zebra tomato pico de gallo and a fermented manzano pepper salsa.
FOR PASTA (AND MORE PIZZA):
Ospi is the new Venice spot from the duo behind El Segundo’s Jame Enoteca, a restaurant so good even their kale salad is incredible. Like Jame, the menu at Ospi features plenty of pasta - my favorites were the malloreddus (tiny, pillowy Sardinian gnocchi) with a rich beef-cheek ragu, and a fantastic cannelloni stuffed with tender lamb neck - but there’s a lot more, too. I loved the thick slices of toasted fettunta topped with chilled lobster, stracciatella, watermelon radish, and Calabrian chili, the Hapa Pizza with roasted pineapple, pickled jalapeño, and spicy ground pepperoni (a play on the pies at Long Beach’s iconic Domenico’s, which co-owner Melissa Saka grew up eating), oh, and the crab cake, which was very full of plump crab and came atop a tangy gremolata with spicy giardiniera on the side.
FOR WHEN I WANT TO STAY IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD:
After ending a 42-year-run in 2017 - and a brief stint as Starks - Jerry’s Famous Deli recently returned to Marina del Rey as Jerry’s Patio Cafe & Bar. Which is great news for me, because I live within literal walking distance of this place. Not surprisingly, they’ve focused on a lot of the original’s signatures - big deli sandwiches, matzo ball soup, latkes - and their breakfast burrito doesn’t stray far from that strategy. So it’s a good thing that pastrami and latkes are fantastic when wrapped in a flour tortilla, especially with fluffy eggs, smashed avocado, caramelized onions, and plenty of cheese. And while that might sound like the kind of breakfast that’ll put you down until lunch, the eggs and avocado make it pretty light, and the smoky salsa pairs well with the salty pastrami and savory latkes. Above all, it’s supremely satisfying; a worthy addition to a menu full of comfort classics - and like I said, I didn’t have to walk far to make it back to my couch.