Eat Pray Love At This Naples-Born L.A. Restaurant

Naples-born, O.G. pizza palace, L’Antica Pizzeria da Michele, is opening its doors in Los Angeles with the brand’s first-ever U.S. location. Legendary for serving up serious brick-oven margarita and marinara pies, as seen in the film, Eat Pray Love, this 150-year-old pizzeria is bringing its authentic Italian flavors to California with a re-imagined menu inspired by the traditional Mediterranean experience.

Haute Living sat down with owner and designer Francesco Zimone to hear more on the recent opening in Los Angeles, expanding its menu and melding two exotic worlds together to showcase the most powerful pie from Italy to California.

Francesco Zimone On Opening L'Antica Pizzeria Da Michele In LA
Francesco Zimone On Opening L’Antica Pizzeria Da Michele In Los Angeles

Photo Credit: Rossella Pisano

HL: Francesco, you recently opened the first U.S. location of the Naples-born pizzeria, L’Antica Pizzeria da Michele. Tell us about delivering a true Italian experience to L.A. eaters?

FRANCESCO ZIMONE: I’m extremely happy about the new location. It has been a labor of love for the past two years. We wanted to find a space that looked exactly like an Italian square—a little village, somewhere you could feel at home. It was important to deliver an authentic experience that comes with food made from our grandmothers, just like our mothers do. We went on and on and decided to create a menu that was representative of our true Italian culture. We won’t have marinara sauce on our calamari or fettuccini alfredo, because they aren’t part of true Italian culture.

HL: Famously known for presenting diners with two legendary pies, including the Marinara and Margarita pizza, what additional plates can we expect to see at your Hollywood outpost?

FZ: I’ve been living in California for 17 years and I still love the traditions of true Italian cuisine. We decided to bring all the dishes we grew up with to Da Michele Los Angeles. Chef Antonio Giordano and I lived together for a couple of months. While he was visiting, he came to stay at my house. Every single night we cooked and many of those meals from our youth in Italy inspired dishes on the menu at the restaurant. Dishes include a variety of appetizers such as calamari, gnocco fritto (fried dough topped with burrata and prosciutto), slow-cooked octopus, homemade Spaghetti al Pomodoro, a traditional dish from a little place that you can reach only by boat— Spaghetti alla Nerano—and many other amazing dishes.

L'Antica Pizzeria Da Michele Opens In Los Angeles
L’Antica Pizzeria Da Michele Opens In Los Angeles

Photo Credit: Wonho Photo

HL: What made you expand the menu?

FZ: The menu represents my Italian upbringing and the past 17 years of living in Los Angeles. In a city like New York, you have pizzerias where you grab a slice and leave. We are a place where you spend more time and sit down to really enjoy the food, company or experience, which is why we created a more in-depth menu that really speaks to our culture.

HL: You mentioned that you import your ingredients directly from Naples. How do you source them?

FZ: For the pizza, we have and respect the traditional recipe of Da Michele that was created 150 years ago. We use a certain type of cheese from the Amalfi coast, specially-imported tomato and oil and Caputo double 0 flour. All of our ingredients are sourced directly from producers and shipped via airplane on Wednesdays.

HL: And as the flavors of L’Antica Pizzeria da Michelle often remind you of “a book or movie that makes you think, cry, and laugh,” what book or movie would this wood oven pizza palace remind you of most?

FZ: Our restaurant reminds you of a movie or book that makes you cry because it’s historic. The restaurant reminds me of more than a book or movie—it reminds me of anything that is part of the Neapolitan culture that is made out of a ton of sacrifices. This comes together with a lot of joy because it’s part of the Neapolitan culture to work hard.

HL: The decor of your new restaurant also integrates classic Italian hues with modern California decor. Elaborate on the interiors of L’Antica Pizzeria da Michelle and melding two exotic worlds together.

FZ: The main focus on the decor is based on the fact that I believe in sustainability. For me, that means conserving what you have. Another important part is that I like to remain true to the building you find. When I get into a space, I really believe that respecting the work that was done is by far the most important thing. I really wanted to create a place that felt like a home, starting from the fireplace that is in shape of an ‘H’, for Hollywood. That also makes you think about home. Everything from the white and blue tiles on the patio, together with the wood and trees, just brings you back to something that feels like home and makes you feel like a minimalist, but at the same time, is curated in a way that gives you the opportunity to relax. We want every guest to feel relaxed and at home and be able to spend time together with their friends and loved ones. Even more, one of the reasons I moved to and love California, especially L.A., is because I’ve always felt that it is similar to Naples. Both places face the ocean on the west and the climate and nature are similar. California has similarities to Italy. I’m immediately at home here.

L'Antica Pizzeria Da Michele Opens In Los Angeles
L’Antica Pizzeria Da Michele Opens In Los Angeles

Photo Credit: Wonho Photo

HL: With the final days of summer approaching, how do you plan to show guests how the Italians enjoy summer holiday in the Mediterranean?

FZ: The restaurant is 6,000 square feet of indoor and patio seating that really resembles an Italian courtyard. The way the restaurant is shaped and built, it feels like something you would experience along the Amalfi Coast. The way Italians enjoy the food is by cheering together, gathering together, staying up late night and just enjoying life. It’s part of Italian and Greek cultures.

HL: Julia Roberts first honed her love for pizza at your Naples location while shooting the film, Eat Pray Love. Can we expect to see Roberts visiting the Los Angeles location in the near future?  

FZ: We would love to see the beautiful Julia Roberts, the amazing actress, here soon. But there’s a little secret we would like to share with you—an 85-year-old lady named Julia Roberts came the first week we opened and she was really sweet.