No matter what kind of week you’re having, a bowl of excellent pasta goes a long way. Sure, you don’t need an excuse to get that cacio e pepe you’ve been wanting, but the fact that it can make you forget that someone drove into the side of your car as you were heading home from the body shop is a definite bonus.
While LA might be better known for our excellent Mexican food and endless top-notch Thai, sushi, and Korean options, our Italian restaurants are way better than the rest of the country gives us credit for. (We’re looking at you, New York City.) And this guide is here to prove it. This isn’t just a list of every good red-sauce place in town - this a carefully selected group of the very best Italian restaurants in LA.
When Union opened in Pasadena in 2014, it was one of the most popular Italian restaurants in LA. But after losing their TV competition-chef a few years later, things easily could’ve gone south. Update: They didn’t. Union isn’t just one of our favorite Italian restaurants in the city, it’s some of the best Italian food we’ve ever eaten, period. Whether it’s mushroom and polenta, perfectly cooked octopus, or saffron linguini topped with uni, Union’s menu has zero misses, and is stacked with the kind of dishes that ruin all other versions you’ve ever eaten. If you’re looking for a fancy, impress-the-hell-out-of-somebody-important kind of dinner, make a reservation at Union immediately.
They take their pasta very seriously at Felix. As in, they-built-a-climate-controlled-pasta-room-in-the-middle-of-the-restaurant serious. Yes, it’s over-the-top, but this relatively new spot in Venice has immediately become a Very Important Pasta Place, so it’s paid off. That rigatoni you watched being made arrives as a very good amatriciana, and the cacio e pepe has quickly become a Westside legend. And while the pasta is the main event here, you definitely need to get involved with the starters, especially the insanely good meatballs and their excellent focaccia.
The Arts District is known for a lot of things, but neighborhood restaurants are not one of them. Factory Kitchen is exactly that - an excellent neighborhood Italian restaurant. There isn’t a single weak spot on the menu, but the pesto handkerchief pasta is so good we’d wear it as a scarf, and the giant piece of fried dough piled with prosciutto and burrata is one of our favorite things to eat.
Rossoblu may be relatively new, but with a pedigree the Westminster Kennel Club would approve of, they’re already in the running for Best in Show. This huge restaurant in the Fashion District is from the people behind the late, great Sotto, with pasta rather than pizza as the focus. The salumi is excellent, the wine list is killer, but when there’s something called Nonna’s Tagliatelle al Ragu Bolognese on the menu, you better be ordering it.
It’s rare to find a restaurant that can handle a power lunch between Paramount executives, a very last-minute first date, and dinner with your boyfriend’s mom, but Osteria La Buca is that restaurant. And it also happens to serve some of the best Italian food in Los Angeles. This place is cool, but low-key enough that you can walk in tonight without much of a wait. They make all their pasta in-house, and if you don’t order the bucatini carbonara, we’re no longer friends.
It is a bit of a stretch to call Pasta Sisters a restaurant. This tiny shop in a no-man’s-land part of Mid-City has three tables, a handful of bar seats, a busy takeout operation, and an order-at-the-counter setup. But Pasta Sisters has earned their spot on this list by being extremely good at making pasta. Here, you build your own bowl - choose your type of noodle and a sauce to go with it, and then use your powers of self-control to not eat the entire basket of focaccia they bring while you wait. The pappardelle Bolognese is hard to pass up, but if you’re looking to go full food coma, get the porcini mushroom gnocchi.
Osteria Mozza is the rarest kind of LA Italian restaurant - a fine dining outpost. This isn’t a white tablecloth town, which is exactly why Osteria Mozza is so damn special. That, and the insane things happening at the mozzarella bar and on your pasta plate. Put on the jacket you last wore at a wedding, be ready to throw down, and get ready for a month’s worth of dairy and carbs.
Located in a downtown El Segundo strip mall, Jame looks more like a chain sandwich shop than a legitimate Italian restaurant. But make no mistake, this tiny spot is home to some very, very good Italian food. Whether it be the giant plate of prosciutto, pesto mandilli, pork shank, or the best kale salad we’ve ever eaten, the food at Jame is delicious across the board, and a lot of it costs less than $20. Jame is the kind of place you can go to impress out-of-town New York friends or show up alone on a Tuesday night to take down a few bowls by yourself - we’re certainly guilty of doing both.
Don’t show up at 7pm on a Tuesday expecting to grab dinner at Cento Pasta Bar. This low-key spot is only open Wednesday through Saturday for lunch - basically whenever the chef feels like being there. It’s inside Mignon Wine Bar in DTLA, and involves a single chef who’ll tell you the three-or-so pastas he’s cooking for the day (they’re regularly changing), and make them at the bar right in front of you. The beet spaghetti and almond pesto gnocchi are some of the best plates of pasta we’ve ever eaten, but the right thing to do here is to get one of everything and multiple glasses of wine, and forget to go back to work.
Barrique is less an Italian restaurant, more a restaurant that you’d find in Italy. Which means lots of antipasto, a squid ink pasta with crab, and entrees like smoked duck and grilled ribeye. It’s also a prime date-night spot, partly because of the candle-lit interiors, but also the heavily accented Italian waiters.
Jon & Vinny’s is hands-down one of our favorite places to eat in Los Angeles. It’s the modern version of American-Italian, brought to us by the Animal guys, and delivers lights-out pasta, meatballs, and pizza. It’s basically impossible to narrow down an order, but in our regular rotation are the meatballs, spicy fusilli, rigatoni al limone, and the LA Woman and El Chaparrito pizzas. Eat here like it’s your last day on Earth.
Located on a quiet stretch of Long Beach not too far from downtown, Ellie’s is a quintessential neighborhood spot with a big front patio, a friendly staff, and excellent Southern Italian food. The pastas are all worth ordering - especially the shrimp and ’nduja tagliatelle - but the best thing here is the grilled bread with pork butter. At most Italian restaurants, bread and butter is a complimentary afterthought, but here, the pork butter and pickled carrots on top take it to another level completely. Be warned though, parking in this area is tough at night, so plan accordingly.
You could probably walk past this dime-sized Italian spot on Beverly a hundred times and not notice it, but that would be a horrible move on your part. For well over a decade, Angelini Osteria has been serving some of the best old-school Italian dishes in the city. It’s fancier (and better) than the kind-of-generic space might make you think it would be, and you should plan on dropping some serious money. It’s worth it though - this is where real pasta happens.
Frankly speaking, there are restaurants - and then there is Bestia. It’s hard to argue that there’s been a more game-changing, neighborhood-altering restaurant than this Arts District destination. Years into their reign, Bestia is as much of sh*tshow as ever - it’s a pain to get to and you’ll definitely have to wait 45 minutes even with your 9pm reservation - but the roasted bone marrow will make you forget about all of it.
Jones’ food is very good, but it’s not the best on this list. That said, you won’t find a better atmosphere than at this Weho staple - which feels Old Hollywood, but not in the cringe-y way. The crowd is cool and attractive and, whether it’s for after-work drinks or late night pizza, always down to party. Get the spaghetti and meatballs (in a skillet), the spicy sausage pizza, and one of the best desserts in the whole city - the apple pie.
In Silver Lake, there’s a very fine line between important restaurants and important restaurants on Instagram, and often times what you get is the latter. But Alimento is an extremely important restaurant. For us, this has a lot to do with the chicken liver crostone and the radiatori pasta, but frankly, you can order almost anything on the menu (including the not-very-Italian-sounding BBQ tri-tip) and be guaranteed an incredibly good meal.
Located in that magical oceanside junction where Santa Monica, the Palisades, and Malibu all collide into a who’s who of 1996, Giorgio Baldi is a flat-out LA classic. This is where you go to overhear Jane Fonda and Gwyneth Paltrow talk about school districts while an old Italian man gets pushy about his gnocchi. With people-watching this good and old-school dishes that remain excellent, it’s time to put Giorgio’s back on your list.
At this point you’ve likely convinced yourself that Little Dom’s is an old-school classic LA restaurant, the kind of spot where Frank Sinatra hung out in the ’40s. We hate to break it to you, but they’ve actually only been open for ten years. And also we get the feeling that Frank probably hated LA. The lack of a good backstory doesn’t mean anything though - Little Dom’s is still a great spot for the accessible, comfort-food Italian dishes of your Long Island childhood, only better.
When you think of the places in LA that have survived the test of time and more or less become integrated into the fabric of our city, Dan Tana’s is high on the list. You come here to eat classic, no-frills Italian dishes (like their glorious chicken parm) and experience what’s probably the most authentic old-school Hollywood vibe in the city.
Sure, Maccheroni Republic doesn’t have the absolute best pasta on this list, but it’s still really good - and nothing beats sitting on their string-lit patio at night with friends and a few bottles of wine. The vermicelli-based Bianchi & Neri is an absolute must-order, as are the veal shank agnolotti and an olive oil cake for dessert. What this casual Downtown spot lacks in flair and excitement, it makes up for by being a dependable pasta spot that every neighborhood in LA wishes they had.