There’s something very unsettling about year-round Christmas stores. The make-believe cheeriness, the July Santa sightings, and the dead-eyed cashier ringing up your discounted wrapping paper while silently screaming for help. The holiday season should be reserved for just that - the holiday season. Unless of course you’re eating at Dan Tana’s, the classic Italian restaurant where every meal feels like the greatest holiday celebration.
Located in a yellow bungalow along Santa Monica Blvd. in West Hollywood, Dan Tana’s has been around since the 1960’s and is one of the most iconic restaurants in the city. But unlike other famous LA restaurants, this red-boothed joint is hardly a tourist trap. None of your visiting US Weekly-clutching friends are going to beg you to eat at Dan Tana’s. This is where you excitedly take them to prove how very little moon juice, farro bowls, and pre-paid gym memberships have to do with this city.
You’ll see famous actors and sit next to the person who wrote your favorite TV show and not even realize it. But Dan Tana’s also isn’t your typical Hollywood scene. The interior, with Christmas lights all over, chianti bottles hanging from the ceiling, and sassy old waiters low-key flirting with everyone, is so small and cramped that it acts as an equalizer. At Dan Tana’s, everyone’s on the same level. You aren’t eating with celebrities - you’re eating with a bunch of people who live in the same city as you do, some of whom might happen to have an Academy Award sitting at home.
If anyone tells you Dan Tana’s has the best Italian food in Los Angeles, don’t believe them. If anyone tells you the food at Dan Tana’s is bad, also don’t believe them. Dan Tana’s food is what it is: old-school, red-sauce classics that aren’t going to blow your mind, but also taste damn good on a wine-soaked Saturday night. The chicken parmigiana is their signature dish - it’s cheesy fried goodness and we’re fairly positive they put sugar into every layer. You’re also going to want the Nika’s Caesar and the fried raviolis to start, the penne arrabiata for some kick, and the linguini and clams with white sauce. But no need to over-order, because almost every entree comes with its own side of pasta, and their tables are only so big.
Dan Tana’s isn’t about the food or the famous clientele who eat it. It’s about being at a place where the party never stops, the wine is always flowing, and you’re truly bummed when the holiday celebration is over. Luckily, no one has to wait a full year to experience it again.
Made right in front of you, this isn’t going to be the best caesar salad you ever put in your mouth. That said, it’s the salty, creamy, crouton-filled starter you need tonight.
Order two of these. One never lasts long enough to get around the table.
After a soul-crushing week, there are few things we want more than Dan Tana’s chicken parm. It’s big, saucy, cheesy, and will instantly make you feel better. Don’t leave here without ordering this.
You might expect this to be a fairly by-the-books version of the Italian classic, but Dan Tana’s does not shy away from the spice, and we fully respect that. Also, the portion is huge.
At some point in the evening, you will have too much red sauce. On the table, on your shirt, and in your stomach. Move to the linguini. It’s definitely the lightest of the pasta dishes, but that white sauce has something magical in it. Hint: Sugar.