We’ve got the classic red sauce spaghetti dishes. We’re innovating crazy-creative iterations of traditional meals (e.g., the sauce is inside the pasta). We’re toying with the way it’s delivered. (Can pasta from a food truck be any good? Um, see the line of hungry devotees.) Los Angeles is carbo-loading with next-level Italian food from the beach to the Valley, and here’s what to order.
Carbo-Load with the Best Pasta in L.A.
1. Pasta Sisters
This food truck shows up at various locations, from the West Side to the NoHo Arts District, proferring its handmade pastas to the lunchtime crowd. As a child in Northern Italy, the chef used to help her mom make gnocchi. Order it topped with your choice of sauces, such as the pesto alla Genovese, made with pine nuts, fresh basil, Pecorino Romano, Parmigiano-Reggiano, and lots of oil and garlic. Oh, and if you’re not into the food truck experience, there are brick-and-mortar joints on Pico and in Culver City.
3343 W. Pico Blvd. and 3280 Helms Ave., Culver City; pastasisters.com
Making pasta fresh every day, this Santa Monica restaurant has a creative menu inspired by the fresh ingredients at the nearby farmers market. Take a short walk from the Third Street Promenade and choose from dishes such as the ricotta gnocchi with wild arugula, cherry tomatoes and almonds, and the casunziei, a half moon–shaped red beet ravioli with brown butter and poppy seeds.
1241 Fifth St., Santa Monica; 310-310-8336 or colapasta.restaurant
3. Fatto A Mano
With just three tables and a counter at this tiny Redondo Beach pasta spot, the emphasis is more on the food than the ambience (and the thriving takeout business, of course). You choose a sauce (yum, minty pesto) and the pasta you want with it (how about fusilli, so the ridges catch lots of tasty sauce?) and enjoy. You can also get the ingredients out of the deli case and prep at home, in case you want your family to think you spent hours on dinner.
610 Torrance Blvd., Redondo Beach; 310-316-5111 or pastashoprb.com
4. Union Restaurant
This Pasadena spot offers a seasonal menu that’s Northern Italian by way of California fresh and local. So some fare is a tad lighter, like the eggplant lasagnette, but there are also bold layered flavors, like the Calabrese pork ragù torchetti, topped with a hunk of house ricotta and fried rosemary and peperoncini.
37 E. Union St., Pasadena; 626-795-5841 or unionpasadena.com
5. Osteria Mamma
Hello, big flavor for big appetites. The vibe here is easy Italian home cooking. Get the bigoli neri alla bottarga, a black squid ink pasta with cherry tomatoes, shrimp and bottarga.
5732 Melrose Ave.; 323-284-7060 or osteriamamma.com
Slow-simmered Bolognese is the order here, with hand-rolled tagliatelle and a bit of shaved Parm sharing space with pork, beef and a not-overpowering binder of tomato sauce. And be sure to order the eggplant as an appetizer; it will sway even the non-eggplant enthusiasts at your table.
1124 San Julian St.; 213-749-1099 or rossoblula.com
7. Felix Trattoria
Sometimes there’s the underrated dish that the chef tells you to get, and you fall in love. Here, it’s the busiati, with black chickpeas from Altomonte, mussels from PEI, minutina, tomatoes and white wine. Fresh and bright, but still satisfying.
1023 Abbot Kinney Blvd., Venice; 424-387-8622 or felixla.com
This Valley supper club is co-owned by a Grammy-winning sound engineer who has put as much effort into the perfect room acoustics (and upcoming live performances) as he has the menu. Which sounds terrific, starting with the pumpkin risotto with pork belly and honey-poached cranberries.
4212 Lankershim Blvd., Toluca Lake; 818-747-2135 or verse.la
A husband-and-wife restaurant team—executive chef Ori Menashe and pastry chef Genevieve Gergis—reinvented the idea of a family Italian restaurant with an industrial look and next-level sophisticated flavor profiles of the food. That means dishes such as spaghetti rustichella with Dungeness crab, citrus, Calabrian chili, Thai basil and onion.
2121 E. Seventh Pl.; 213-514-5724 or bestiala.com
10. Sunday Gravy
Sometimes you’re not in the mood for any fussy interpretations of your simple Italian pasta dinner—you just want some red sauce (or “gravy,” hence the name here). From one of the red-checked tablecloths of this Inglewood joint, order the spaghetti and meatballs, served with half-pork, half-beef meatballs in a tomatoey sauce. Squint and you’ll think you’re in New Jersey with the family.
1122 Centinela Ave., Inglewood; 424-227-6500 or eatsundaygravy.com
11. Love & Salt
People go nuts here for the bone marrow pasta, or to use its proper name, creste di gallo midollo, with roasted garlic, bone marrow, parsley, Parmesan and cracked black pepper. It’s got an earthy and humble taste that’s so beyond satisfying on a winter evening. Bonus: For a $3 surcharge, you can have your order made with house-made gluten-free pasta.
317 Manhattan Beach. Blvd., Manhattan Beach; 310-545-5252 or loveandsaltla.com
This restaurant is determined to bring well-prepared pasta dishes to the masses affordably (as in, all dishes under $20), made with pasta imported from Bologna (believed to be better tasting, due to a special egg available only in Italy). However, you’ll need to make an exception for white truffle season, when the tagliatelle al tartufo bianco d’Alba is worth the surcharge for its funky, rarefied aroma and taste.
1320 Second St.; 310-425-0064 or uovo.la
13. Cento Pasta Bar
Pasta is delicious, but it’s not always the most photogenic plate of food. Never fear, the red beet spaghetti here is going to get you all the likes on social media, served at this “pop-up lunch residency” inside the wine bar Mignon. It’s open Tuesday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., but it’s worth changing your schedule around for the well-priced house-made pastas so delish you might need to go home for a nap after lunch.
At Mignon Wine Bar, 128 E. Sixth St.; 213-489-0131 or centopasta.com
14. Jon & Vinny’s
The eponymous owners started their career on Fairfax with Animal, a restaurant devoted to nose-to-tail carnivorousness. So it makes sense that at their hipster-y yet homey pizza joint, you’d say, “Cholesterol be damned, I’ll have the spaghetti carbonara with pancetta and pecorino.”
412 N. Fairfax Ave. and 11938 San Vicente Blvd.; jonandvinnys.com/home
Fresh handmade pasta served here: The bright mural and the bustling crowds let you know you are right in the middle of the Highland Park foodie scene. In brisk weather, you can’t beat the autumn squash cappellacci with browned butter, sage and amaretti.
5916 1/2 N. Figueroa St.; 323-545-3536 or hipporestaurant.com
t’s soup inside pasta—tortellini en brodo—and it’s one of the signature dishes at this minimalist, glass-fronted restaurant in Silverlake. Chef Zach Pollack spent time working and eating in each of Italy’s 20 regions, and it shows in this menu, which ranges from small plates to large-format dishes and includes pastas served with crab and duck sausage.
17. Osteria Mozza
Cacio e pepe—that’s cheese and pepper—is the kind of simple Italian dish that’s easy to do…and so easy to do poorly. But this classic Italian fancy-night-out spot delivers the dish like a sophisticated version of mac ’n’ cheese, with house-made bavette pasta that’s like spaghetti but with a little curve to better hold all that cheese.
6602 Melrose Ave.; 323-297-0100 or la.osteriamozza.com
18. Viale Dei Romani
Multiple-time James Beard Award–nominated chef Casey Lane has a novel concept at this restaurant inside the Kimpton hotel in West Hollywood. It’s a trattoria inspired by coastal Mediterranean cooking, including southern French and North African influences. The tagliatelle with rabbit, sweetbreads, vin santo, mushrooms and sage will be your new go-to.
La Peer Hotel, 623 N. La Peer Dr., West Hollywood; 310-691-1600 or vialedeiromani.com
19. Angelini Osteria
For almost 20 years, this classic Italian restaurant has provided authentically prepared food in a fine-dining atmosphere to the city’s movers and shakers. The fruta di mare risotto (in its iteration shown here, tagliatelle) has cuttlefish, lobster, calamari, shrimp, mussels and clams, and is like a vacay on the Ligurian coast, except in a bowl.
7313 Beverly Blvd.; 323-297-0070 or angelinirestaurantgroup.com
20. The Rose Venice
What else would you order on the West Side except pasta with a taste of the sea? Don’t miss the mafaldine pasta (made in house) with Alaskan red king crab, miso, brown butter, mascarpone, lemon and parsley.
220 Rose Ave., Venice; 310-399-0711 or therosevenice.la