Best restaurants in Los Angeles: LA's best Italian restaurants

Get a taste of the Old World at LA's best Italian restaurants that go beyond the usual pizzerias and red sauce joints.

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Photograph: Julie Moore

Best Italian restaurants in Los Angeles: Drago Centro

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Photograph: Courtesy Drago Centro

Best Italian restaurants in Los Angeles: artichoke salad with pancetta, chick peas, and olives at Drago Centro

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Photograph: Courtesy Drago Centro

Best Italian restaurants in Los Angeles: New York steak with crispy polenta and Brussels sprouts at Drago Centro

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Photograph: Kelly Campbell

Best Italian restaurants in Los Angeles: squid ink pizza at Osteria Mozza

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Photograph: Kelly Campbell

Best Italian restaurants in Los Angeles: tagliatelle oxtail ragú at Osteria Mozza

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Photograph: Courtesy Gusto

Best Italian restaurants in Los Angeles: crostini with duck liver at Gusto

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Photograph: Courtesy Gusto

Best Italian restaurants in Los Angeles: polipo at Gusto

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Photograph: Courtesy Gusto

Best Italian restaurants in Los Angeles: wild King salmon at Gusto

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Photograph: Courtesy Piccolo

Best Italian restaurants in Los Angeles: Piccolo Venice

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Photograph: Jakob N. Layman

Best Italian restaurants in Los Angeles: Vincenti

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Photograph: Jakob N. Layman
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Photograph: Jakob N. Layman

Best Italian restaurants in Los Angeles:Vincenti

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Photograph: Jakob N. Layman

Best Italian restaurants in Los Angeles: artichoke salad at Angelini Osteria

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Photograph: Jakob N. Layman

Best Italian restaurants in Los Angeles: Lasagna Verde "Omaggio Nonna Elvira" with beef and veal ragú at Angelini Osteria

With an abundance of Italian restaurants in this city, Angelenos need not look far to get their fix of olive oil-doused antipasti, meaty roasts and comforting bowls of (carbs-be-damned) pasta. Here, we round up LA's best Italian restaurants that go beyond specialty pizzerias and ho-hum red sauce joints.

RECOMMENDED: Best Restaurants in Los Angeles

Bestia

Ori Menashe is making waves in LA's dining scene at his white-hot Bestia. This Downtown Arts District newbie sets the new standard for what dining out can mean in this town: Perfectly-crafted cocktails and a condensed selection of great, lesser-known wines meet not-too-fussy plates that wow. The house-cured salumi is a reason alone to visit, but the open kitchen nails preparations from light (house salad and crudo are a balance in flavors) to soul-satisfying (everything that comes out of the wood-burning oven and outstanding pastas). Highlights include braised beef cheek-filled agnolotti and spaghetti rustichella, spicy pomodoro sauced with buttery uni.

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Downtown

Piccolo Venice

Tucked away off the Venice boardwalk at the end of a cul-de-sac, awaits an evening in Italy—we are in Venice after all. Waiters welcoming you with "buona sera", a roaring fireplace and chandelier set the old world mood at this charming, dinner-only ristorante. A basket of assorted breads—we dare you not to fill up on warm, doughy pillows of focaccia and the like—arrive at the table, as bottles and half bottles from Italy and California are poured. Antipasti include lingua ($16), rectangles of tender beef tongue elegantly presented alongside dip-to-season accompaniments including salt and roasted garlic purée. Pastas that follow are sublime—try tortelli ($23), handmade pasta filled with sweet roasted beets and finished with brown butter-sage sauce and Parmesan-poppy seeds.

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Venice

Osteria Mozza

Since opening in 2007, this Melrose and Highland culinary corner has grown into an empire that spans a pizzeria, to-go counter and retail shop, and recently opened salumeria. The fine dining star, Osteria, continues to pack tables, offering exceptional Italian food (and an encyclopedic wine list). But the heart of the restaurant is Nancy Silverton's mozzarella bar: More than a dozen small plates showcase the handcrafted varieties from cream-filled burrata, dressed with tangy leek vinaigrette and mustard breadcrumbs ($16), to spongy bufala with lemon bagna cauda and umami-rich bottarga ($18). Load up on antipasti to share—the grilled octopus ($21) is a must with charred, tender tentacles delicately dressed with lemon, celery and potatoes—and pace yourself through courses of refined, handmade pastas and rustic, meat-heavy main plates. Dessert deserves a visit in its own right with an ever-changing selection of seasonal gelati and just fancy-enough torta della nonna ($12), the envy of any Italian grandmother.

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Los Angeles

Drago Centro

The most fancy-pants of Celestino Drago's roster of Italian eateries, this Downtown outpost is a go-to spot for LA power lunches. The three-course, prix-fixe lunch is a steal at $25, while those on an expense account can splurge on a five-course tasting menu ($70) with optional wine pairing ($45). The kitchen rolls out exquisite, freshly-made pastas of different shapes and sizes from pillowy ravioli ($18) filled with mushroom and ricotta and toothsome pappardelle ($20), adorned with morels and tender pieces of pheasant. Surf is just as masterful as turf with thoughtfully dressed and thoroughly updated plates like chile-foam-topped seafood cappuccino, and tuna with garlic risotto cake, sunchoke and pomegranate mustarda. The molto modern dining room isn't much to look at, but the dead-on view of the architecturally stunning LA Public Library across the street more than makes up for it.

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Downtown

Gusto

Chef Vic Casanova, formerly of Culina at Four Seasons Beverly Hills, brings his New York-bred culinary chops—he trained with top toques Daniel Boulud and Cesare Casella—to set up shop a stone's throw from the Beverly Center. Small groups and date-nighters squeeze into the tiny space to dine on elegant renditions of comfort foods such as braised tripe ($18) with tomato, mint and Pecorino and deftly-made pastas including addictive tomato-based tonnarelli ($14) and bucatini carbonara ($16), a creamy mix of egg yolk and guanciale. Seasonal specials like winter greens mixed with tart apples and toasted hazelnuts make appearances alongside the abbreviated bill of fare. For dessert: Decadent chocolate budino ($9) and toasted coconut gelato pie ($9) are tied for the ultimate ending.

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Fairfax/Beverly/La Brea/Third St.

Vincenti

This Brentwood trattoria maintains its status as one of the best Italian bets on the Westside. Regulars, and the occasional celebrity, count on this neighborhood standby for traditional plates using top-notch ingredients. Black truffles jazz up otherwise rustic dishes like tripa alla Parmigiana ($25) of braised veal tripe and ossobuco-filled tortelli ($24) that's finished with the funky funghi. The wood-burning oven finishes hearty orders of New York steak ($40), housemade pork sausage ($32) and Monday night-only pizzas. With preparations this good, we don't mind paying Brentwood prices.

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Brentwood

Angelini Osteria

Angelini Osteria is going a decade strong as the city's most beloved Italian institution. What's not to love at this no-frills space that packs in diners devoted to the cooking of Emilia-Romagna–born chef Gino Angelini? Praises abound for branzino ($32) that's salt-crusted and roasted whole, and weekly specials like Saturday-only porchetta ($24), stuffed with garlic and herbs and finished in the wood-burning oven. Pastas have cult followings here—try the signature Lasagna Verde "Omaggio Nonna Elvira" ($16) that pays tribute to the Old World with beef and veal ragú and handmade pasta layers, topped with wilted spinach. 

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Fairfax/Beverly/La Brea/Third St.

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