Apart from serious gluten and grape allergies, there’s really no reason not to eat pasta and drink wine by yourself every now and then. It’s one of life’s great combinations, one that you don’t need to come up with an excuse to do. But you also can’t have this kind of legendary solo meal just anywhere. There are a couple of things your pasta place should have: a relaxed atmosphere, hopefully a bar (or at least a cozy corner) to sit in, plus excellent pasta and wine by the glass. When you’re looking for a place for the best kind of me-time, stick to the spots on this guide.
Our goal in life isn’t to fly to the moon or become a millionaire. It’s to become a regular at a cool neighborhood restaurant. A good candidate is Hippo, which seems like every other place that serves crudo, pasta, and salmon entrees, but all of those things turn out to be way more interesting than renditions at other places. Come eat cappellacci by yourself at the bar every week and you’ll be on first name basis with the bartender in no time.
It’s possible that San Vicente Blvd. in Brentwood has the highest concentration of Italian restaurants outside of Italy. We’re not entirely sure how they all survive, but we are extremely sure that Vincenti is the best of the bunch. It’s the kind of place where you don’t need to bring any kind of entertainment - who needs to scroll through Twitter when you end up chatting with the ladies in their seventies having a boozed-up dinner at the bar next to you? Eating here with other people can end up being pretty expensive, so sitting at the bar with a bowl of wild boar pappardelle and a glass of sangiovese on your own is the economically responsible thing to do.
Your roommate is great. He sweeps, doesn’t complain when you have friends over, and also likes to watch Meg Ryan movies at 2am. It’s just that he does not ever stop talking. When you would just like to eat in silence, go eat at Ellie’s. This Southern Italian spot is in a quiet residential part of Long Beach, and they have a nice front patio, friendly staff, and excellent handmade pasta, especially the tagliatelle with shrimp and ’nduja. And if you’re wondering if the grilled bread with pork butter is weird or good, we’re here to tell you there’s nothing weird about it.
Build-your-own-bowl situations usually end in disaster. Inevitably, you get overexcited with the toppings and end up with a giant serving of things you like to eat but don’t go together at all. You do get to build-your-own pasta bowl at Pasta Sisters, but it’s impossible to mess it up. Mostly because you only get to choose two things - pasta shape and sauce - and also because if they think you’re doing it wrong, they’ll tell you. That means you can’t get your clam pasta with anything other than spaghetti, because that’s just the correct way to do it. This Culver City location is much bigger than the Pico-Arlington original, and while it doesn’t quite have the charm of that first one, it does have wine.
You spend more time with your co-workers than anyone else in your life, and while it’s usually completely fine, there are only so many arguments over who finished the last bag of granola that you can mediate. Next time the rest of the office is driving you insane, go have lunch at Cento. This daytime-only pasta spot inside a wine bar has no written menu - the guy behind the bar will tell you the three or so options they have that day, and pour you a glass of wine while he does it. Sit, enjoy the silence, and buy 10 bags of granola on the way back to your office.
We probably shouldn’t admit this, but there might be nothing better than feeling smug. Like when you legally zoom up the right-hand lane on La Brea that no one else is smart enough to use, or when a guy tries to mansplain the Great Migration to you, a person with a PhD in 20th century American history. But nothing can top strolling into one of the hardest-to-get-into restaurants in the city solo and being seated right away. That’s what happens if you time things right at Felix. No month-ahead reservation or two-hour wait time necessary. Just a seat at the bar, a glass of red, and your rigatoni all’amatriciana all to yourself.
Hollywood is not exactly a low-key part of town. Which makes the quiet but not exactly sleepy Vino Bistro all the more special. The servers treat you like an old college buddy (even if it’s your first visit) and will help you find the wine you like, even if the only descriptor you can come up with is “fruity.” It’s just down the street from the Arclight, so come for a bowl of excellent lobster gnocchi before seeing the latest Rock movie all your friends are too cool to admit they want to see too.
Obscure noodle shapes and labored-over sauces are fine and all, but sometimes you’re looking to try something different. Like a plate of extremely rich ossobuco and bone marrow agnolotti with a creamy green sauce. The pasta at Maccheroni Republic is more traditionally Italian than Italian-American, and the restaurant is great for sitting on a patio for an hour, flirting with an Italian waiter, and leaving feeling much better about your ability to get through the rest of the week.
Jones is the kind of restaurant we would like to have an affair with. We’ll tell our significant other we have to work late again, only to find ourselves sitting at the bar in a dark room, eating spaghetti and meatballs out of our own personal skillet. And sure, gin doesn’t go as well with pasta as red wine, but we somehow can’t sit down here without ordering one in martini form. We’re not sure why we feel like we have to keep dinner here a secret, but it just feels like the right thing to do.
Travel is a prime time for eating alone, so it makes sense that hotel restaurants are often good places for a solo meal. Viale Dei Romani at the La Peer Hotel is no exception. They’ve got a small bar where you can sit and look like you’re doing important things on your phone (even if you’re really playing Tetris) while drinking a glass of burgundy. The menu is huge, but you don’t need to look at it - just order the pasta alla piastra, a rich, just-burnt-enough layered pasta dish that you’d never want to share with anyone anyway.
Finding the right spot for a solo meal can be tricky, especially if you’re looking for something more than a quiet neighborhood joint. You want somewhere with buzz, but not so much that you feel left out on your own. Little Dom’s has the right balance. It’s always pretty crowded, but finding a spot at the bar shouldn’t be a problem. And while you’re eating your big bowl of spaghetti and meatballs you can eavesdrop on the writers next to you working on their zombies in space pitch.
We know this is a pasta and a glass of wine guide, but sometimes you need more than just those two things. Like a salad, for instance. Jame Enoteca (in a strip mall in El Segundo), has extremely good pasta (like the handkerchief-shaped mandilli with pesto), nice wine, and a kale salad that might overshadow the other two. While the room is a bit unoriginal, the owners are very friendly - and once they realize you’re on your own, will probably spend half the night talking with you.
You have to be in a pretty specific mood for a solo dinner at Scopa. More particularly, an, “I’m going to a wedding in two weeks and I don’t have a date yet” sort of mood. At Scopa you will get seated at the bar and end up talking to the people next to you, the bartender, and the guy standing behind you trying to get a drink while he waits for dinner. Somehow though, all that talking never feels sleazy or annoying, possibly because most of those people are regulars who live nearby. And while you might assume the food was an afterthought, it’s not - the pasta is the best thing on the menu, and they’re all pretty fantastic.
The mozzarella bar at Osteria Mozza is one of this city’s better-kept secrets. There are 20 or so seats around the counter, all of which are reserved for walk-ins and come with a view of people doing magical things with cheese. So although you’re on a pasta mission, you’re probably going to get distracted by mozzarella. Once you do get to the pasta, order the rich, slightly sweet, and very comforting tagliatelle with oxtail ragu. Plus, if you order a quartino of wine it will come in a tiny glass carafe that feels much more sophisticated than a regular wine glass.
Just because you have a work project due tomorrow doesn’t mean you have to stay at your desk and steal someone’s Lean Cuisine out of the freezer for dinner. Farfalla is a quiet spot on Hillhurst where you can sit in a corner, tap some numbers into a spreadsheet, and feel slightly less bad about having to work all night. We like the mushroom rigatoni and the farfalle with salmon and vodka sauce, even if they both threaten to put you to sleep before you finish said work project.
Maybe one day you’ll have a house in Laurel Canyon and the spending power to eat out seven nights a week. Until then, you can pretend that’s your life for one night and have dinner at Pace. Snag a seat with a view of the room and watch as ’90s television stars work a space that feels like an enchanted forest (even with the traffic snarl happening outside). It’s likely that none of those ex-TV stars are ordering the pumpkin tortellini, but they’re missing out on one of the best old-school bowls of pasta around.