Bestia opened in 2012 and has been the Supreme Being Of Los Angeles Restaurants ever since. This Italian spot was the first of the sceney destination places to come to the Arts District, and is still a standard bearer for pizza and pasta in LA. In plain English, that means you can’t get a table at a normal hour without the help of six alarms and some early-morning reservation app action.
Bestia is great, but it’s also just one of the many places to eat an incredible meal in this town. So here are some worthy alternatives - places where you can have fantastic Italian food, celebrate a special occasion, and feel genuine sympathy for anyone who isn’t currently eating what you’re eating.
If you’re set on Italian food in the Arts District, you’ll be pleased to know that Bestia isn’t the only place that meets those criteria. There’s also The Factory Kitchen, which offers one thing Bestia has (excellent pasta) and another thing it doesn’t (the ability to get a reservation tonight). This place feels more neighborhood than nightclub, so you won’t have to shout across the table to be heard. But once the pesto handkerchief pasta arrives, you probably won’t be doing much talking anyway.
Cassia has that fun, everyone-is-here atmosphere you get at Bestia, but it’s in Santa Monica. So if you’re eating with Westsiders who like to complain about traffic, let them stay close to home (just this once) at this Southeast Asian restaurant. The food is across the board fantastic, and it’s a great place to come with a group because the steep price of the delicious lobster won’t hurt quite as much.
On nights when all you can think about is pasta but a $29 bowl of cavatelli isn’t a realistic option, go to Maccheroni Republic. Right across the street from Grand Central Market, this is a nice spot for a casual, pasta-filled dinner that’s made even better by the BYOB policy.
Bavel is a Middle Eastern spot in the Arts District from the same people as Bestia, and if for some reason you thought that this younger sibling would be any less popular, then you probably don’t understand sibling dynamics. Bavel is on this guide for one reason - the bar area. Unlike Bestia, this restaurant is pretty big, so your chance of walking in at 6pm and getting a seat at the bar isn’t one in seven billion. You might still have to wait, but not for the three hours you’ll likely be quoted at Bestia.
Bestia is a cool restaurant. And if you measure coolness by things like very loud music and a lack of white tablecloths, then Osteria Mozza is not a cool restaurant. But this Hancock Park classic doesn’t need either of those things when you can walk in, get a spot at the mozzarella bar, and order one too many cheese dishes before proceeding to order two too many pasta dishes. This is a place that takes its noodles very seriously - and you should too.
Jones, on the other hand, is arguably a much cooler restaurant than Bestia, mostly because almost everyone here is in a Soundcloud-famous band and also has an online-only fashion brand as their “backup gig.” The menu mostly sticks to perfectly fine versions of classics, like spaghetti and meatballs or spicy sausage pizza, but there are a couple of mandatory orders - at least one martini and the apple pie that comes in a skillet.
If you’re looking for a place that’s as similar to Bestia as possible without actually being in the same place, there’s always Republique. Other than the food being French and the location being Mid-Wilshire, this restaurant is loud, busy, and strikes that fancy-but-not-too-fancy balance, just like Bestia. Unlike Bestia, getting in here isn’t an exercise in timing and patience. Call them up now, and you can probably get in tonight.
There’s likely a scientific study somewhere about how Italian restaurants make for good date spots, and the restaurant that illustrates that study is probably Scopa. On Washington Blvd. in Venice, Scopa is dark and romantic, with a big bar for pre-dinner drinks, shareable Italian food, and a hidden cocktail bar in the back if neither of you is ready to go home yet. It’s not quite as sceney as it was when it first opened, so you won’t be battling a five-person crew just to get a cocktail that looks like an Italian flag snowcone.
Your parents are in town and they want to go “somewhere fun,” but at this point you know that means a place where Mom won’t have to get her phone out to read the menu. Hippo in Highland Park has enough light so that she won’t have to turn on her flashlight, but it’s still objectively fun. The menu here is full of things almost everyone likes to eat - crudos, slightly-fancy vegetables, and pasta. Plus, nothing costs over $26, which is Dad’s real idea of fun.
It’s easy to forget Alimento exists with all the big-deal Italian restaurants that have opened in recent years. But while everyone else is distracted by shiny new things, you could be eating some of the city’s best pasta in a cool little room in Silver Lake. And also a truly fantastic chicken milanese sandwich. And also chicken liver pate that you absolutely don’t need, but will order anyway.
The opening of Animal, the meat-filled paradise on Fairfax, was comparable to that of Bestia - which we can’t really say about anywhere else. And while a lot of that hype surrounded specialties like pig ears and strange cuts of meat, Animal has slowly become a restaurant that excels at everything. Chicken liver toast, last-minute date nights, hamachi tostadas, business dinners, and solo meals with one of our favorite-ever burgers - Animal can do it all.
If you’re lucky, you go to Bestia about once a year due to factors you can control (being proactive about getting a table), and factors you can’t (you’re not a millionaire). But Ronan is a place where you’ll quickly become the kind of regular who makes another reservation as they walk out of the restaurant. This casual spot on Melrose has some of the best burrata we’ve ever eaten (we know this because we’ve eaten way too much burrata), plus truly excellent pizzas.
You’ve just had a terrible day at work, including having your request for a tropical vacation denied because your boss said, “we just can’t function without you.” Dama is a pretty great way to at least try and forget about all of that. You can drink rum cocktails in a space that feels like a Cuban mansion, eat a big plate of clams, and pretend you’re on that vacation you can’t take. Also, you should maybe draft a resignation letter at some point in the night.