photo credit: Jakob Layman
Eating pasta alone at home tends to be a reliable plan B. You’re exhausted from work, there’s a half-full box of penne in your pantry, and you have enough olive oil to give it a decent drizzle. Eating pasta at a restaurant in LA, however, tends to be the opposite. Sure, we have some solid neighborhood standbys, but the vast majority of our best Italian restaurants require long-standing reservations and a certain level of comfort with paying $29 for a bowl of pasta.
But every once in a while, we find a place that splits the difference between these two scenarios - a restaurant that serves beef cheek scaprinocc with a 12-year balsamico in a setup that feels like you’re still at home. Jame Enoteca is that kind of restaurant.
If it wasn’t for the clear signage, you might mistake this place in a downtown El Segundo strip mall for a fast-casual soup chain. The tiny space is bright and welcoming, but the white subway-tiled walls and giant, maybe-stock images of people eating pasta make it feel like an order-at-the-counter lunch spot that also has locations in Burbank and Simi Valley. Let us be clear though - this is a huge reason why we like it here.
photo credit: Jakob Layman
As soon as you open the menu and see things like pesto mandili, fresh prosciutto, and a giant crispy branzino, you’re going to be pretty excited about the fact that you’re in a strip mall and the chef just came out wearing sneakers and boardshorts. Jame might feel like a nice neighborhood pasta spot (it is), but the menu looks much closer to that of destination warehouse restaurant in the Arts District.
It goes without saying that you should prepare your body and mind for a lot of pasta. It’s the largest section on the menu, plus there are always a few daily specials on the whiteboard. That said, you don’t go to Jame for a few drive-worthy pastas and then head back to your down comforter. You come Jame to load up on appetizers, salads, giant pork shanks, and then the drive-worthy pasta (all which hover around $16). Ordering a full-scale Italian feast is the only way to do this place correctly.
The meatballs are rich and crispy, the prosciutto comes with a softball-sized heap of stracciatella in the middle, and if there’s a better kale salad in the city of Los Angeles, we don’t know it. Even if you don’t have any room left for dessert, order the key lime pie to-go. There are worse things in the world than coming home from work to a piece of homemade pie in your freezer. It’ll probably pair nicely with your olive oil penne anyway.
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We’d drive to Workshop from downtown LA just for this salad. The menu lists out the avocado, fresh herbs, reggiano, and sweet and spicy almond vinaigrette, but we still don’t know how it tastes so good. Accept the miracle.
Rich and meaty on the inside, slightly crispy on the outside. We aren’t complaining about the puddle of potato puree they’re sitting in either.
If you think you might not need to order this, you’re incorrect. Every ingredient (prosciutto, arugula, stracciatella) is high-quality and fantastic.
If you take three friends to Jame and ask which pasta is their favorite, you’ll probably get three different answers. For us, the winner is the mandilli - pillowy handkerchief pasta in a nutty pesto sauce.
Stuffed with braised cheek and drenched in a pool of brown sage sauce, this pasta is rich. It’s packed with flavor, and the individual dumplings make it easy to track who at the table is hogging.
It’s around this time when your heart rate will slow and breathing becomes a chore. Power through it. Covered in a lambrusco-mustard glaze, this is a perfectly cooked piece of meat and we would sacrifice ordering another pasta to make sure this dish hits the table.
Key Lime Pie
There’s nothing fancy about this key lime pie and that’s exactly why we like it. It’s perfectly balanced with the right amount of graham cracker crust, plus a dollop of house-made whip cream on top because sometimes life is good.