As everyone who lives on the Westside of Los Angeles knows, when you live in Santa Monica, Venice or Marina del Rey, you sometimes feel like you live in your own little world. The very idea of crossing the 405 for gourmet fare can be exhausting, which is why we decided to hunt for the best beachside eateries. We had a “mama mia!” moment at these five Westside eateries, which serve up some of the best Italian food in Los Angeles. Without further ado, mangiamo!
Piccolo is one of the most authentic Italian eateries you're likely to find in Los Angeles, never mind on the Westside. You'll feel like you've traveled to Italy itself when you head to this jewelbox of a restaurant, which is tucked away on a back street by the beach in Venice. The meats and fish are as spectacular as the pasta (we're partial to the seared sea scallops with parmesan-truffle fondue) though the ravioli filled with wild nettles+hazelnut with butter, sage and parmesan is also to die for. An evening at Piccolo is a rare and romantic Italian treat.
There's always a wait at Gjelina, which patrons should take as a promising sign. The hip crowd heading straight from a day of shopping and revelry on Abbot Kinney wouldn't look out of place in an advertisement as they relax at communal tables in the softly lit dining room. Grab a glass of wine, order up a squash blossom, cherry tomato, burrata, garlic & thyme pizza and soak in the beauty around you.
Piero Selvaggio's Santa Monica eatery is almost like taking a blast into the past. His restaurant, Valentino, recalls the good old days, when dining out was an event. Everything is opulent here, from the glittering wine cellar walls to the bright, white tablecloths to the exquisite presentation. The portions are generous and the wine list, with 1,200 choices among 100,000 bottles, is simply magnificent. What we love the most: Selvaggio himself is often on hand to usher guests in to Valentino, say hello, and wish them a "buona notte," as if they are simply guests enjoying a dinner party at his home.
4 Giorgio Baldi
You (and most of the celebrities in Tinseltown) will love everything about the stunning Santa Monica eatery Giorgio Baldi. This spot, a favorite Westside hot spot for everyone from Rihanna to Tom Cruise, is so beloved because it's intimate, tucked away and opulent with its dark wood and white linens. Make sure to order up a very non-Hollywood (re: carb-laden) homemade pasta, like the sinful Tortelli Di Zucca— homemade ravioli filled with pumpkin in a butter and sage sauce—or the Panzerotti—crepes filled with ricotta and spinach, topped with porcini mushroom or tomato sauce.
5 Casa Ado
Casa Ado is a rare find. Though located on a busy stretch of Washington Boulevard smack dab in the midst of all the Venice Beach traffic, this little gem is a world apart from the tourist traps you'll find surrounding it. Before sundown it's vibe is laid-back and relaxed, but as soon as the lights go down, it's metamorphoses into a dark, candle lit den of romance. We were sated and elated with every course, from a tomato and mozzarella salad to an amazing pasta red beet taglioni with chicken marsala ragu to an excellent mushroom-filled chicken breast on a bed of cannellini beans. In a word: yum.