Pizzas, pastas and more feel-good Italian favorites for takeout
Where do so many of us turn for comfort in a time of endless uncertainty? Spaghetti, tomato sauce, molten cheese over crackling pizza crust or fried in bread crumbs, curling cups of pepperoni, grilled vegetables, lemony chicken, tiramisu. Italian takeout options are never far in Los Angeles. Even a mediocre plate of penne alla vodka can soothe. An exceptional margherita or billow of tagliatelle can shift a mood, break a storm, reframe the day.
Opinions run strong on Italian food. These are some of my favorites. Send me yours at firstname.lastname@example.org.
A Beverly Boulevard paragon for nearly 20 years, Gino Angelini continues to prepare sophisticated dishes — silky vitello tonnato pinged with fried capers, brothy halibut surrounded by cherry tomatoes and spinach, a purist’s tiramisu — that roar “dining out” even when they’re consumed at home. His polished repertoire of pastas includes an impeccable lasagna verde (also available as a family-size tray) and agnolotti filled with braised veal shank in a Parmigiano-Reggiano sauce. During lunchtime, crunch into a meatball panino. Pickup or delivery.
7313 Beverly Blvd., Los Angeles, (323) 297-0070, angelinirestaurantgroup.com
Antico’s pivot strategy boils down to four happy-making words: pizza and ice cream. Chad Colby builds pies from billowing rectangles of focaccia. The half-dozen options constantly evolve: They come as austere as tomato, garlic and olive and as ornate as ricotta, pickled jalapeño, roasted mushroom and onions. The pizzas can easily feed a small family, though cheese and pepperoni also are available as square slices, which makes an ideal midday snack for one. In a review last year, Lucas Kwan Peterson singled out Antico’s intense, improbably smooth ice creams; to eat them by a pint now is luxury escapism. Flavors such as honeycomb and orange cookies have become standards in pastry chef Brad Ray’s lineup, but watch the restaurant’s Instagram feeds for alerts of his lavish Harry’s Berries strawberry ice cream, as tangy as it is sweet and rich. Pickup or delivery.
4653 Beverly Blvd., Los Angeles, (323) 510-3093, antico-la.com
Justin De Leon’s Mid-Wilshire pizzeria has become a magnet for his take on the Detroit-style square pie; the crust is ringed with cheese so caramelized and glassy it resembles spun sugar. He’ll baptize the surface in herb oil and splotch it with burrata after baking. Available fresh from the oven whole or by the slice, the square is an off-the-menu special once reserved for weekends but lately offered more frequently. Check Instagram or call ahead. De Leon also fashions lovely thin, round pizzas crowned with combinations like grape tomato, goat cheese, Kalamata olives, pesto and lamb sausage. Pickup or delivery.
5176 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles, (323) 937-2823,apolloniaspizzeria.com
Bello by Sandro Nardone
Sandro Nardone, whose first Orange County venture was Angelina’s Pizzeria in Dana Point, opened his Newport Beach location only in November. He began by serving ambitious dishes like poached lobster with passion fruit and pickled onion or rib-eye over Barolo reduction with black truffles; now he’s focused on pizzas and pastas. In a pristine margherita and a whirl of spaghetti tossed in a lime-flecked shrimp ragu, his talents remain evident.
1200 Bison Ave., Newport Beach, (949) 520-7191,bellobysandronardone.com
The menu centers around handsome, blistered pizzas sporting big flavors like sausage and mustard greens, but other enticements also vie for your attention. If I could ever only eat one dish from Cosa Buona again it would be the hand-rolled smoked mozzarella sticks. Even as takeaway, I want them molten and scorching and maximum crisp; five minutes in the home oven restores them to full glory. More fried-plus-cheese action: fantastic chicken Parmesan, which came in sandwich form before the shutdown. Now it is the full plate-size deal. A delicious addition of prosciutto ratchets the entree’s cost to $31, but it easily feeds two. Wood-roasted broccolini on the side makes the whole meal feel sensible.
2100 W. Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles, (213) 908-5211,cosabuona.com
Gio Cucina Napoletana
In the mood for a mixed seafood pasta, I zeroed in on chef-owner Roberto Castellanos’ freshly made squid ink bigoli. Thicker than spaghetti though light in texture, the strands snared shrimp, in-shell clams and rings of squid in marinara fragrant with basil. The flavors took me far away. Sole-like sand dabs returned me to the Pacific. Castellanos sautéed the fillets simply in white wine-lemon sauce, with a side of broccoli and Brussels sprouts in a garlicky tumble. May we see sand dabs on more restaurant menus when this ordeal finally ends. Pickup or delivery.
15826 Ventura Blvd., Encino, (818) 905-7446, giosencino.com
Matt Molina’s fettuccine with pork ragu sprang from its container like a dozen clowns climbing out of a compact car. I shook out the strands and the mass mystically expanded to fill a bowl, precisely al dente and almost too hot to eat (the only time I’d had that experience with takeout pasta, honestly). The food excels beyond pasta: smoked ocean trout with lentils and mushrooms duly expresses lightness and heft; even the simplicity of lettuce with radish vinaigrette with dill and walnuts is uplifting. General manager David Rosoff is one of our wisest sommeliers — and it helps that the restaurant is connected to Highland Park Wine — so trust his suggestions for a Sicilian orange or California Pinot Noir. Pickup or delivery.
5916 ½ N. Figueroa St., Los Angeles, (323) 545-3536, hipporestaurant.com
What makes chef and co-owner Jackson Kalb’s Bolognese “Hollywood-style”? The addition of puréed avocado, which takes the “Cal” in Cal-Ital to another level. If I’m in the mood for a hearty pasta, I might instead gravitate to clog-shaped scarpinocc (scarpa is “shoe” in Italian) filled with braised beef cheek and sauced with brown butter and sage. My favorite of Kalb’s pastas is capellini in tomato sauce that simmers for 36 hours. A licorice whiff of basil, a flurry of Parm; simplicity can be sublime. The restaurant resides in an El Segundo strip mall near The Times’ office; thinking about the capellini reminds me of lunches with Food section colleagues a lifetime ago. Pickup or delivery.
241 Main St., El Segundo, (310) 648-8554, eatjame.com
Jon & Vinny’s
The L.A. Woman pizza; meatballs braised in marinara; Little Gem lettuces slapped with Calabrian chile dressing; pistachio wedding cookies: Every Italian-American triumph for which we crowded into Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo’s Fairfax and Brentwood restaurants (when we could score a reservation) also prevails as takeout. Breakfast has always been a low-key masterstroke: For a morning indulgence order soft scrambled eggs oozing burrata with grilled ciabatta or spaghetti carbonara generously flecked with pancetta. Pickup or delivery.
412 N. Fairfax Ave., Los Angeles, (323) 334-3369; and 11938 San Vicente Blvd., Brentwood, (310) 442-2733; jonandvinnys.com
This Studio City outpost of a Brooklyn-based pizzeria crafts a pie that one could label Neapolitan-American — a hybrid styled somewhere between the thin New York crust, ideal for slices, and the puffy clouds of dough native to Naples. LBK particularly excels at pizzas that highlight a star ingredient: the Aglietta perfumed with roasted garlic but not overtaken by it, for example, or the Diavola with spicy salami that gives off far more barnyard funk than stock pepperoni. Pickup or delivery.
4359 Tujunga Ave., Studio City, (818) 824-3511, instagram.com/lbkpizzala
Heartening news: The takeout arm of Nancy Silverton’s Mozzaplex reopened late last week. What more perfectly captures Angeleno Italian cooking than Nancy’s chopped salad, a pizza covered in things like ’nduja, braised leeks, fontina and thyme, and butterscotch budino for a sweet finish? Scroll all the way down the takeout menu page to find the specialties from Silverton’s Chi Spacca available after 4 p.m.: grilled lamb sausage, yogurt-marinated lamb chops, the transcendent focaccia di Recco (it goes on and off the menu), and, for wild extravagance, the 36-ounce, dry-aged costata alla Fiorentina (a.k.a. bone-in New York strip) for $175. Pickup or delivery.
6610 Melrose Ave., Los Angeles, (323) 297-1130, mozza2go.com
If ever I hear anyone mumble about L.A. not being a pizza town, I steer them to Daniele Uditi’s Pizzana to disavow that notion. His declarative statement is the neo-Margherita, with its charred and tangy crust (Uditi grew up among bakers in Naples), concentrated San Marzano tomato sauce, dollops of fior di latte mozzarella and flourish of basil-infused bread crumbs. It is a sustaining pleasure in quarantine, as are his pies inspired by classic pastas (Cacio e Pepe, Amatriciana) and the Pignatiello — braised short rib melting into Parmigiano crema. The original Pizzana in Brentwood and the newer West Hollywood satellite are open daily. Both feature dense, towering sandwiches like the Ka’Prese, layered fior di latte, prosciutto, pesto, tomato, basil and red onion. Pickup or delivery.
11712 San Vicente Blvd., Los Angeles, (310) 481-7108, also at 60 N. Robertson Blvd., West Hollywood, (310) 657-4662;pizzana.com
For those of us who know the Brooklyn original — opened in 2007 in a once-forlorn, now thoroughly gentrified sector of Bushwick — the idea of a second Roberta’s among Aesop and SoulCycle in Culver City’s Platform retail complex always seemed … discordant. None of that matters at this point. The pizzas are fantastic. Try the famous Bee Sting, with soppressata and spiced honey, made to order or available as a D.I.Y. kit. The bright kick of salads like smashed cucumbers with fermented garlic and Calabrian chile or a combination of English and snap peas with lemon and green garlic tastes particularly welcome. Also, props to the Platform for creating a seamless, contactless pickup system: Pull up, a staffer places your meal in the car trunk, you’re out in minutes. Pickup or delivery.
8810 Washington Blvd., Culver City, (718) 417-1118, robertasla.com
We all have our comfort-food penchants. Mine is a calzone. I love its ooze and unwieldiness, its need of knife and fork, the strategizing required for balanced bites. Daniel Cutler makes my favorite calzone in Los Angeles. He’s forged a signature out of an only-in-L.A. construct that channels Philippe’s French dip with its filling of rare roast beef and sides of jus and hot mustard. Lately he’s added a slightly more traditional calzone fortified with artichokes, olives, provolone and tomato sauce. Speaking of fortifying: It feels civilized to begin the meal with one of the restaurant’s dirty martinis, poured as a double. Caitlin Cutler, Daniel’s wife and the restaurant’s co-owner, also curates a natural-leaning wine selection; Fattoria di Sammontana, a Tuscan blend of Sangiovese and Chianti, holds its own to the calzones and the Cutlers’ excellent pizzas. Pickup or delivery.
7315 Melrose Ave., Los Angeles, (323) 917-5100,ronanla.com
“This is from my mom’s little town … you won’t find it in other parts of Emilia-Romagna or Bologna,” Steve Samson says on a YouTube instructional video linked through his restaurant’s site. He’s talking customers through the easy final assembly steps for one of his signatures, a brodo paired with cubed Parmigiano-Reggiano dumplings served in a cloth sack. The dumplings, richer than ever, are a magnificent prelude to two of Samson’s other regional specialties that require minimal preparation: tagliatelle Bolognese and silky lasagna with spinach noodles. During shelter-in-place, Samson and his team have continually evolved the output from his downtown kitchen. A couple of weeks ago he began composing seven-course weekend dinners of seasonal starters, two pastas, beef cheeks with green almond-olive gremolata as a main, and dessert. Look out, too, for fruit crostatas from pastry chef Rose Lawrence; they sell out quickly. Pickup or delivery.
1124 San Julian St, Los Angeles, (213) 749-1099, rossoblula.com
Pulling up to Union to pick up dinner, set on a table just inside the restaurant’s entrance, I missed squeezing into its dining room and its reliable charms — brick wall, scruffy wooden floors, lights dangling from long cords — and its mushrooms over polenta and tonnarelli cacio e pepe with a near-bursting poached egg balanced on top. Chef Chris Keyser still makes those dishes, but for takeout from Union I prefer meatier dishes: roast chicken with salsa verde and asparagus-saffron risotto, rabbit porchetta and pork sausage over the artichoke stew called barigoule. Olive oil cake for dessert tastes even better toasted for breakfast the next morning. Pickup or delivery.
37 Union St., Pasadena, (626) 795-5841, unionpasadena.com
Bolstering as the joys of pizza and pasta may be, some nights a meal solely of Nicola Mastronardi’s grilled vegetables with ricotta gratin feels right. Transfer the smoky peppers, carrots, zucchini and asparagus to a proper plate, place the herbed cheese in the center of it all and quietly enjoy. That said, any fan of Mastronardi’s eloquent cooking will be happy to know he’s still cooking pretty much the entirety of the Westside institution’s menu: Chicken alla cacciatora and freshly made fusilli in lamb ragu with roasted bell peppers and flurries of salted ricotta still taste mighty good in isolation. Maureen Vincenti waved from across the bar as I collected dinner; it was sad to see her in a darkened dining room, but the warmth and solidarity in her smile cheered me for the rest of the evening. Pickup or delivery.
11930 San Vicente Blvd., Los Angeles, (310) 207-0127, vincentiristorante.com
Newcomer: FEW For All/Table 60 Project
While all the other recommendations on this list stem from established restaurants, I should also mention a recent and heartening Italian-inspired meal from a philanthropic start-up that emerged in response to the shutdown.
The three-course meal kit for two I’d ordered from FEW (Flour + Eggs + Water) For All arrived in a tote bag outside my door. It wasn’t filled only with containers of food; there was a bottle of wine, a candle, a cherry-colored tablecloth fit for a red-sauce joint and a tiny bouquet of daisies set in a salt shaker. Former NoMad general manager Ramzi Budayr — who runs FEW For All with chef Tyler Curtis and pastry chef Mallory Cayon, all out of work due to the COVID-19 crisis — texted me a Spotify playlist he’d made for customers to play at home while assembling the meal.
I scooped up pistachio-laced tapenade with lentil crackers, spooned cipollini onions atop saffron aioli as directed on an instruction sheet, and boiled water for fresh bucatini while heating grilled mushroom Bolognese.
Aretha Franklin’s “Dr. Feelgood” and “Hope That We Can Be Together Soon” by Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes played in the background. Budayr pulls together an ace playlist.
FEW For All’s daily menu is concise but gratifying: rigatoni (including a gluten-free version), shell-shaped lumache, spicy pomodoro, pesto cheese fonduta and bake-at-home treats like cinnamon buns and chocolate chip cookie dough. Tabula Rasa in Los Feliz and new Secret Lasagna in West Hollywood stock the company’s goods.
The partners nicknamed the three-course kit the “Table 60 Project.” Ask Budayr to tell you the story from a masked social distance when he delivers the meal, available only on Fridays. Proceeds go to the L.A. Food Bank; it costs FEW For All $58 to produce the kit, though the price for customers is pay what you can. Its inaugural run last week held one additional surprise: exceptional vanilla bean ice cream made by Antico pastry chef Brad Ray. An uncanny amount of salt — without overdoing it — pushed the vanilla’s flavors to bloom with wild intensity. D’Angelo sang “I Found My Smile Again” as the ice cream began to melt over chocolate lava cake, and I said “Amen.”
Eat your way across L.A.
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