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May 31, 2009 11:08 AM

The Current State of Italian in Los Angeles

I am wondering what the current feeling on Italian places are in LA.

My history: we loved the early version of Buca. Pre-makeover. It was the perfect type of simple, NYC-feel Italian bistro, with some standout dishes. It's gotten a little fancy now, and it's not as welcoming as it used to be for us.

Angeli's Caffe we recently checked out was certainly acceptable. But the atmosphere was so, uhh, not there, with the 80s black-faux marble tables and the slipshod, coffee house feel, it seemed defly not a "must visit". While the bread was great, we couldn't find any other must-try dishes.

What are people's thoughts on the current state of Italian restaurants in LA? As a former New Yorker, uhh, I'm not getting my hopes up, but I would love to hear what people think.

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  1. I am a former East coast foodie, and have still not found the type of authentic Italian restaurants that I remember from NY & New Haven. Now I know most of these LA places have Italian chefs and imports and menus that are less traditional, more rustic italian, which may be more authentic than the red sauced veal & chicken dishes that we grew up with and loved. But, it's a different time & place now, especially in LA, for Italian restaurants.

    Here on the westside, most places offer the standard fare of pizza, pasta & salads, and none of which are very imaginative or good. I have not been able to dine at many of the places talked about recently on the boards since I haven't gotten to those parts of the city lately. It takes effort to search out and then find the best time to go to new spots.

    But there are a few that stand out in my mind:
    Giorgio Baldi & Pecorino, for the food; Pizzeria Mozza is really good, but more CA; Il Cielo was good. but more for the atmosphere. Vincenti is delicious too, but with a stale decor.
    You really have to think hard, b/c many places sell pizza & pasta & decide to call themselves "Italian". I know many other CHers have more recs!

    1 Reply
    1. re: Phurstluv

      I feel like I'm squished into a NYC Italian restaurant at Angelini Osteria.

    2. We love Angelini Osteria. It is very typical of the osterias you can find throughout Italy. It's not fancy and the tables are too close together, but the service is competent and warm, and the food well-prepared and not fussy. We'll take this place anytime over the overly hyped celebrity chef "Italian" places which have recently sprung up in L.A.

      For a more elegant Italian dining experience, it's hard to beat Valentino in Santa Monica. Top notch in every way!

      3 Replies
      1. re: josephnl

        People on this board blow hot and cold about Valentino, but for my money it is superior. In almost 25 years I've never had a bad meal there and have never experienced the poor service about which many complain.

        1. re: TomSwift

          Agree. I have eaten at Valentino many times over the years, and have always had a great experience.

        2. re: josephnl

          For this Italian boy, Valentino is the best we have...expensive but usually right on the money! I live within walking distance (long walk) of Angelini Osteria and eat there is always good but not always authentic...I am afraid they are giving in to the American taste bud! IMO, the American palate does not appreciate (or know) the subtleties and simplicity of traditional Italian cooking...hence, Italian-American food...also, it is often difficult or impossible to get the correct ingredients.

        3. I kind of gave up after ordering baked clams, as an appetizer, and witessing them served over a bed of shredded lettuce.
          This is a restaurant touting it's New Yorkness.

          1. The original comment has been removed
            1. Sounds like you are seeking something more casual than Valentino -- more like a trattoria. I like Trattoria Amici which is in an unlikely location -- the Beverly Terrace motel on Santa Monica and Doheny. It is surprisingly good. I think they have a Brentwood location as well. Also, La Terza on 3rd near La Cienega recently converted to a trattoria style menu, while still under the same management and kitchen. They made the move in order to offer lower prices in this economy. I've been to the new place, operating under the name Minestraio, and thought it was good.

              1 Reply