For people who love explaining that “Marilyn Monroe used to come here” at dinner, the gravitational pull of the Old Hollywood restaurant is undeniable. For others, sipping a martini at a place like Musso & Frank is an activity you read about in an in-flight magazine. But we can all agree: As iconic and timeless as the city’s historic restaurants are, they’re not always where you head for an amazing meal. La Dolce Vita, however, is the rare exception—a portal to another era that still feels completely of the moment.
At this restored and revitalized Beverly Hills landmark, which originally opened in 1966 with Frank Sinatra as an investor, a great time doesn’t hinge on nostalgia. You’ll find Italian American classics done right, elite service, and legit Hollywood history, all in a room that feels like a boozy Oscars afterparty. In other words, take all the best elements of Dan Tana’s and throw in food so good it'll have your table fighting over the leftovers. That’s La Dolce Vita.
Once your eyes adjust after stepping inside (it’s very dark in here), you’ll spot cheetah print carpet in a tiny, windowless room that looks like Liza Minnelli’s dinner parlor. Talent agents in cufflinks and black dresses crowd the bar sipping tequila gimlets and what might be the best martinis our livers have had the privilege of metabolizing. Famous people cozy into big leather booths warmed up by other generations of famous people—Sinatra among them. Meals begin with a shot of amari and plush focaccia, both complimentary. Even if you’re accustomed to restaurants with the occasional Grammy winner in the corner, you’ll probably have a moment of sensory overload here.
La Dolce Vita’s menu reads like a nominee list for the Red Sauce Italian Hall of Fame. Think shrimp diavola, spaghetti and meatballs, baked manicotti in an ornate casserole dish, and a thick New York strip with a red wine glaze. Everything’s really good—and in the case of the 12-ounce bone-in veal parm really, really good—but also expensive. And at these prices, you expect more than juicy branzino and a chance to watch Lionel Richie eat spumoni. That’s where La Dolce Vita’s staff comes in. We don’t know the respective dreams and ambitions of the servers here, but we can say for sure: this is a group of people for whom making you feel like a million bucks is a life’s mission. Needless to say, they pull off a killer tableside caesar.
Now, the tricky part: actually getting in. Finding an open table at primetime here is like spotting a local posing in front of the “Beverly Hills” sign—extremely uncommon. And that probably won’t change anytime soon. So if your patience is running low, head to the bar. You’ll miss out on the white tablecloths, but seating is first come, first served, and if you arrive after 9pm on a weeknight, there are usually a few stools open.
But we’ve also noticed that most people who eat here tend to book their next reservation with the host on their way out, which kind of tells you everything you need to know. Sure, La Dolce Vita has a glamorous backstory, but it’s the experience right now that has people clamoring to return—us included.
We drink a lot of martinis, and frankly, the LDV Gibson might be the best martini in LA. Made with gin, dry vermouth, housemade brine, spicy pickled romanesco, and three drops of black garlic oil dosed out tableside, this drink hits your lips with a texture so silky and smooth you’ll forget you’re drinking a cup of gin in public. If you want something more floral, go for the just-as-great 50/50.
We’ve written an entire guide dedicated to great free table bread, so you better believe our phones were lighting up when this spread landed. Not only do you get a fancy condiment caddy filled with giardiniera, nice butter, olive oil, but there are two kinds of bread: a crunchy baguette and a pillowy focaccia you’ll be wrapping in a napkin and putting it in your clutch for later.
This dish is weird only because we love the creamy, citrus-y tartare and the warm buttery chickpea fritters that come on the side—just not together. You should absolutely order this, but go ahead and eat them like separate dishes.
Shrimp Fra Diavola
Our favorite of the appetizers: It isn’t reinventing the old-school Italian playbook by any stretch, but when a plate of plump giant prawns in a spicy, garlicky tomato sauce comes our way, expect it to be sent back clean.
If a restaurant like La Dolce Vita can’t nail a tableside caesar, they shouldn’t turn the lights on. Luckily, this version checks all the boxes of a great one: evenly dressed, salty (but not too salty), and chock full of big, crunchy housemade croutons that soak up the dressing as you eat. You will also be visited by a cartoonishly large pepper grinder cranked to your satisfaction by a smiling server—an undeniably fun photo opp. Warning: This is the only dish not available at the bar.
Bucatini Al Limoni
Sharing space on a pasta menu with spaghetti and meatballs, prosciutto-topped paccheri, and baked manicotti, a bowl of lemon-y noodles might seem like an afterthought. It's not. The bucatini is spot-on al dente and the sauce's bright citrus flavor is a nice break from the heavier stuff on your table.
Spaghetti & Meatballs
If you were to look up “classic spaghetti & meatballs” in the dictionary, there’s a good chance you’d find a picture of La Dolce Vita’s. This is a straight-on version that tastes superb and should always be ordered—even if the meatballs can be a tad crumbly at times.
Bone-In Veal Parm
You’ve probably been ogling this dish for weeks prior to your reservation. Spoiler alert: when it arrives, you won’t be disappointed. The outside is crispy and crunchy, with a gooey layer of browned cheese that follows you to your plate as you pull. Inside, you’ll find perfectly juicy meat that's not pounded too thin. There might be a few beads of sweat running down your forehead when you see the $85 price, but this thing easily feeds 2 to 3 hungry adults.
New York Strip Steak
Bathed in a reduced red wine sauce, this beefy, expertly cooked steak might be a little sweet for some people, but we are not one of them. If you’re with a group of four, this and the veal parm should be your showstopper mains.
Rarely do we make it through a meal at La Dolce Vita with actual stomach space for dessert. And yet, we still order this spumoni every time. This layered ice cream dish is done traditionally, but taken to the next level with pistachio bits, maraschino cherries, and cocoa nibs sprinkled on top.