When the nights grow long and the mercury dips, even a sun-soaked, carb-conscious Angeleno can’t deny that a warm bowl of their favorite pasta can feed more than the belly.
So we went looking for the ultimate comfort food from restaurants that might not be the first names in the search for starch, and came up with a list of five superb pastas you need to try, and stat.
From traditional takes that could sit next to the dictionary definition of their namesake, to bold dishes with surprising ingredients from some of the region’s best chefs, wrap yourself around the bowl you love best and indulge this holiday season.
Those resolutions can wait until January.
South Bay / El Segundo
THE MOOD: There is something so quintessentially Angeleno about fine dining found in strip malls, and Jackson Kalb and Melissa Saka’s Jame Enoteca proudly joins the list of culinary contemporaries that made a name for themselves next to a laundromat or dermatologist’s office. Cozy enough that the glow of the bright neon-pink sign declaring “feed me pasta and tell me I’m pretty” washes over all who enter, Jame Enoteca is the perfect place to bring your discerning friend who’s not afraid to trek through the Southland for a special meal.
THE PASTA: Choosing one pasta from the list is akin to asking someone to pick their favorite child, but for this Sophie’s choice go with the Capellini. Noodles, 36-hour tomato sauce, basil and a nutty reggiano. That’s all you need, with flavors that transport you to the little Italian restaurant you found last summer in Florence. You know the one — the highlight meal of the trip, the first thing out of your mouth when they asked you, “How was Italy?” And if you can stomach it, go back and pray the melt-in-your-mouth duck and foie gras triangoli is the special of the day. If not, try the beef cheek scarpinocc — both are stuffed pastas that capture Kalb’s talent of combining flavors that are far greater than the sum of their parts.
THE MOOD: Michael Cimarusti’s newest offering provides the Ace Hotel with a Golden-era Tinseltown complement in Best Girl. From the checkered floor to the gold-topped tables and sketches of Hollywood’s biggest icons watching over you (Marilyn, Magic, Michael), Best Girl is the perfect pre- or post-spot for whatever show the Ace Theater is bumping.
THE PASTA: You can take the man out of Connie and Ted’s, but you can’t take Connie and Ted’s out of the man. Lean into Cimarusti’s expertise in ocean dwellers and try the casarecce seafood pasta. The balance between the sweet of the shrimp, squid and lobster sauce, the refreshing cool of the mint and basil, and the lingering heat of the Calabrian chili offer a new, so-very-satisfying bite with each fork full.
THE MOOD: Inside a converted (faux) greenhouse on the second floor of the Line Hotel, squint hard enough at the office towers surrounding the Wilshire location and you’ll think you’re in Chicago or New York. With a top-notch drink selection — try Not Your Dad’s Old Fashioned — and Break Room 86 just a stone’s throw away, Openaire is your first stop in a night that can go any which way you want.
THE PASTA: Josiah Citrin’s tagliatelle, with a duck ragout that takes two days to prepare, is so savory we’re sure you could finish it all by your lonesome. But do yourself a favor and bring someone who can share the love. Start with the glazed carrots, the standout appetizer, and do your damnedest not to hoard them for yourself.
MILO + OLIVE
THE MOOD: This jack of all trades (and master of nearly all as well) has been part of the Rustic Canyon family and a staple in the community for seven years. Breakfast, lunch, dinner, bakery, coffee — there’s something here for just about anyone. Best yet, Milo + Olive is a rarity in the food industry: the Executive Chef, Sous Chef, General Manager and Head Baker are all women, providing a warm culture of collaboration that shows on the plate.
THE PASTA: Sweet pasta is likely to elicit as divisive an opinion as dessert wine or politics, but at Milo + Olive the gnocchi gets total impunity. The sweetness of the brown butter and yams are held in check by a refreshing cut of acid from the sauteed apples, and while it might make your Nonna spin in her grave, this creative twist of a dish will be worth the break from traditional Italian fare.
VIALE DEI ROMANI
THE MOOD: When you’ve got dinner with your grandparents, sometimes it’s best to stick with what you know will work. Nestled just off Melrose in the La Peer Hotel, Viale is classic Beverly Hills-esque institutional dining, with music that precedes Nixon, servers that speak Italian and white-linen tablecloths accented with mid-century flair. Here, traditional isn’t a dirty word — especially when it comes to pasta.
THE PASTA: Try the carbonara with pecorino and guanciale, a pasta that could serve as Socrates’ ideal form of the Italian dish. In a city where food has been remixed, reimagined and repurposed, there will always be room for pasta that feels like it could be plucked straight from the past.
Main image from Viale Dei Romani