Don’t try to walk into Bestia without a reservation. As the most talked about (and as a result, packed) restaurant at the moment, securing a table at least a week in advance is a good idea. And even then, you might have to wait for a table. The up side: The bar is a happening place to be not only for dinner but also for drinks with mixologist Julian Cox behind the seasonal libations.
It seems like most everything that restaurateur Bill Chait touches turns to gold—places like Sotto, Picca and Short Order, and, now, Bestia, another white-hot hit. Ori Menashe, a longtime Angelini Osteria chef, is the brains behind Bestia’s thoughtful, ingredient-driven Italian menu that doesn’t shy too far away from California. Menashe’s house-cured salumi is superb, especially atop a puffy pizza with ricotta, charred Brussels sprout leaves and chili oil. Housemade spaghetti tangled together in a sea urchin tomato sauce was both creamy and balanced and a stew of braised pork sausage and veal ribs was comforting enough to evoke nonna's.
Perhaps one of the Bestia’s best kept secrets is wine steward Maxwell Leer—he joins the restaurant by way of the Tasting Kitchen and the Bazaar—whose strength is selecting obscure wines from boutique producers around the world that you’ve likely never heard of. Don’t be surprised if he tries to pour you an orange wine or a dry Sherry with dinner. Go with it.
To describe Bestia as a brick bunker isn’t intended to insult. The wide open restaurant, defined by walls of exposed brick with an unfinished ceiling—a raw, urban aesthetic that’s de rigeur at the moment—feels alive in a way that most dining destinations in Los Angeles do not. (The restaurant may be slightly loud but that hasn’t stopped anyone.) And Bestia is perhaps one of the city’s best examples of a dining destination—tucked away off a side street in Downtown’s Arts District surrounded by factory spaces, many of which sit vacant.
Don't let the hip and the cool here fool you. Bestia is a serious restaurant turning out excellent, ingredient-driven Italian fare at a moderate price point and poised to make waves in Los Angeles.
What to eat: Although it might sound intimidating, the beef heart tartare, served on a thick slice of toasted bread, is a tasty, if rich, start to any meal. Salami pizza topped with ricotta, Brussels sprout leaves and ground salumi is delicious, as is the spaghetti rustichella, which calls for a sea urchin tomato sauce. Cassoela Milanese combines pork braised so long you can cut it with a spoon, and an unctuous pork sausage in a soupy broth with soft collared greens.
Where to sit: Bestia is an open box with many seating options. There are communal tables, free-standing tables, but if you’re looking for dinner and a show, the chef's bar is the place to be.
What to drink: Regardless your selection, cocktails or wine, you're in good hands. The knowledgeable bar staff can create a custom drink or ask for wine steward Maxwell Leer to recommend what’s best. When someone says things like “this is not a serious wine” and “this is the table wine of the late Pope John Paul,” you know you’re in good hands.
Conversation piece: Leer recently collaborated with a local winemaker and is just now selling his first vintage, Fleur de Valle, at Bestia.