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Mangia Bene at L.A.'s Best Italian Eateries



The best Italian restaurants in Los Angeles are as different as the country that inspired them. From the hugely acclaimed Valentino, the Santa Monica landmark that focuses on cuisine from Sicily, to Cecconi's, the Tuscan hotspot in West Hollywood or the Neapolitan-influenced (and award-winning) Pizzeria Mozza in Hancock Park overseen by Mario Batali and Nancy Silverton, there are plenty of wonderful chances around L.A. to try cuisine from all parts of La Bella Italia. Locanda del Lago consistently serves up world-class Northern Italian fare from the Lake Country region, prepared by Chef Gianfranco Minuz, a Venetian native whose work over the years has consistently received Michelin star honors, both in Italy and California. Meanwhile, since 2001 Chef Gino Angelini of Angelini Osteria has been concocting specialties from the Emilia Romagna region (where he was born) at that restaurant in the Fairfax District near the Grove Shopping Center, also to much acclaim. Many of L.A.'s top ten Italian places have one thing in common: their wine cellars and by-the-glass offerings are almost as important to them as the food they serve. Valentino's cellar alone is a wonder, filled with over 100,000 bottles of wine from Italy, France, America and other top wine regions worldwide; reading that list is an oenophile's delight. But every place on this list takes pride in pairing the perfect wine with each of their unique culinary offerings.


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Cecconi's is an Italian place with an inside track to L.A.'s the rich and famous, since it is the sister restaurant to the private club SoHo House (there's one in London, too, where SoHo House began). That means you're very likely to see movie stars and studio heads dining here, people that can afford any restaurant in town yet continue to flock to Cecconi's. It could be simply because of the thin-crust flatbread-style black-truffle pizza, eaten piping hot with your fingers, but there are many other exemplary dishes on this menu reminiscent of one you'd see in Venice or other parts of Northern Italy. Go for lunch, when the prices are more reasonable, or stop in from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. when the Aperitivo menu is in effect, with food and drinks from $4 to $7.

Recommended for Italian because: Cecconi's thin-crust black-truffle pizza is a legendary taste delight. It's not always in season, so grab it when you can.

Jenny's expert tip: Valet parking is free at lunch time and prices are greatly reduced, making it the best time to grab a bite here.

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Tra di Noi
Photo courtesy of Gina Douglas Tarnacki


Tra di Noi, the traditional Italian restaurant located in the Malibu Country Mart shopping center, has been drawing locals and visitors since 1991. Tra di Noi means "between us," a name chosen by co-owners Antonio Alessi and Tarcisio Mosconi to evoke a homey, casual atmosphere where patrons can enjoy dining and conversation with friends and family. It has obviously been a good choice, as the famed eatery continues to lure movie stars (many of whom are locals), tourists and anyone who loves a great Italian meal. The menu has an array of Italian cuisine "inspired by the countryside," from plump homemade gnocchi and spaghetti to pizzas, risottos, meats and fish. Try the Zuppa di Pesce (Cioppino) for a fragrant, heady taste of the Mediterranean.

Recommended for Italian because: A top-rated ristorante since it opened in 1991, Tra di Noi counts Barbra Streisand and many other Malibu residents as ardent fans.

Jenny's expert tip: Make a full day of it in Malibu, swimming, surfing, shopping and then cap it off with an exquisite meal here.

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The Factory Kitchen
Photo courtesy of The Factory Kitchen


The Factory Kitchen is a Northern Italian eatery from chef Angelo Auriana and Matteo Ferdinandi, whose past stints at Valentino and Drago Central prepared them for starting their own place. Here, they have made it all about the pasta. Of course, they offer a complete menu in this large, friendly restaurant in the heart of L.A.'s burgeoning Arts District, but the pasta really is the king. We'd suggest sharing, so that you can try everything; be sure to taste the mandilli de seta, paper-thin handkerchief pasta drenched in an almond basil pesto as well as the agnolotti stuffed with a flavorful veal-beef filling. Main courses cover seafood and meats, while vegetarians can choose from a variety of side dishes to construct a satisfying meal. Pair all with the well-selected Italian wines by the glass, and don't miss the homemade cannoli for dessert.

Recommended for Italian because: The Downtown L.A. scene is hopping these days and this homey Italian place is one reason why.

Jenny's expert tip: Watch the chefs make your pasta in the open kitchen; this is as fresh as it gets.

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Masa of Echo Park Bakery & Cafe
Photo courtesy of Jeff Peters


Masa of Echo Park Bakery & Cafe doesn't exactly sound like a pizza place, but it is their Chicago Deep Dish that has made them famous throughout Los Angeles. This family-run restaurant bakes the pizza dough fresh every day, uses locally sourced ingredients for their homemade sauces and imports special elements straight from Chicago (including Scala's Authentic Hot Giardiniera, those spicy pickled vegetables that go so well with the pizza). The pies have a cornmeal crust and are made to order, with any topping you desire; that means your pizza takes 40 minutes to make, so settle in and get comfortable with a nice glass of Masa's House Chianti. There are plenty of other choices on the menu, too, from burgers and panini to pastas, salads and even meatloaf. But trust us, the deep-dish pizza is the bomb.

Recommended for Italian because: This mom-and-pop pizza place is a perfect example of what a neighborhood place should be, which is why Angelenos drive for miles to come here!

Jenny's expert tip: Masa of Echo Park serves a full menu of Italian-influenced fare, but it is the Chicago Deep Dish Pizza that is the must have here.

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Culina at the Four Seasons Los Angeles at Beverly Hills
Photo courtesy of Four Seasons Los Angeles at Beverly Hills


Culina - Modern Italian is a sleek, inviting space located inside the Four Seasons Hotel in Beverly Hills, helmed by Food Network's "Chef Wanted" culinary star Mette Williams. She brings a deft hand to this menu filled with modern Italian taste delights. Her crudo sampler is the place to begin, as each piece of raw fish drenched in olive oil is a taste delight; of course, those choices are market driven. There's something for everyone here, from the "Culina Classics" including lasagna stuffed with lamb, kale and mushrooms or the homestyle papardelle bolognese smothered in a killer blend of beef, pork and veal ragu, to more waist-protecting choices like a flaky Branzino served with tomatoes and capers. Sit out on the patio and be sure to look around, for this is a perfect spot for celebrity watching as you dine.

Recommended for Italian because: A chic spot to see and be seen, where the chef's attention to detail shines through in every course.

Jenny's expert tip: Avoid the always crowded valet by parking on the street nearby.

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At Pizzeria Mozza, it's all about the crust. For when Nancy Silverton and Mario Batali teamed up with restaurateur Joe Bastianich to launch this notable pizzeria in 2006, they based everything on Silverton's skill as a baker, and the rest is history. Always a hot ticket, lines for tables still run out the door seven days a week (make a reservation way ahead of time to avoid that fate). Known for handcrafted crusts that are both airy and crisp, the pizza offerings range from the traditional Margherita to the amazing Squash Blossom, served with burrata cheese and tomatoes. Try the various bruschetta choices, too, for they are crunchy and full of unique flavors, and save room for dessert. Silverton's baking skills are incredible, so be sure to try every course that features bread, crust or dessert. You can diet tomorrow.

Recommended for Italian because: These celebrity chefs – Nancy Silverton and Mario Batali – live up to the hype with this winning pizza joint.

Jenny's expert tip: Make reservations well ahead of time or you are sure to find yourself standing in line, even for a seat at the bar.

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Angelini Osteria


Angelini Osteria handsomely recreates the fabled osterias of prewar Italy, relaxed meeting places where locals socialized over simple yet luscious meals and carafes of wine. At Angelini, the delectable lasagna verde, an homage to Chef-Owner Gino Angelini's nonna (grandmother) will transport you from the hustle and bustle of L.A. to the rural countryside of the Emilia Romagna region of Italy (where he hails from). Pumpkin tortelli with butter, sage and asparagus is a mouthwatering first plate, while dishes like the Dover sole Romagnola, a succulent fish encrusted with garlic and parsley, or the a breaded veal chop alla Milanese are excellent secondi. Whatever you choose, you'll taste the fresh ingredients that Chef Angelini insists on.

Recommended for Italian because: Rustic classics are at their best here at one of L.A.'s top Italian outposts, with a talented chef who was born and raised in Italy.

Jenny's expert tip: Choose the daily special for a truly authentic taste of Italy.

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Meet Jenny Peters

Jenny Peters – aka Jet Set Jen – is a Los Angeles-based freelance journalist, editor and party columnist specializing in travel, entertainment, film, food, wine, fashion and the other good...  More About Jenny

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