Strings of lights twinkle like fireflies over the patio at Il Cielo, webbing out from extravagant chandeliers. Below, flickering candelabras barely illuminate faces already aglow with the radioactivity that comes with being in love. Inside, it’s more of the same—soft yellow lighting, billowy white linens, large windows, and painted cherubim on the ceilings. From one event to the next, a room transforms from cozy fireplace surrounded by scenes of tranquil hillsides, to hearth trimmed with twinkling vines and floors carpeted with rose petals. The fairytale ambiance inspired About.com readers to crown Il Cielo their favorite romantic L.A. restaurant. But before it was a haven for lovebirds, Il Cielo was a home. Celebrity hairstylist Marcel Machu and his family made memories in the space until renovations in the 1940s. Where the dining room now sits, the Machus once posed for Christmas photos. The eatery’s garden was the setting for dinner parties with family and friends. Marcel's children grew up padding along its sidewalk to the waiting car. So when Il Cielo owner Pasquale Vericella went searching for a location for his eatery, the site of the former home cried out to him. He wanted a restaurant that felt homey and welcoming—like the Italian and Pennsylvanian countryside of his childhood—but still inspired magic. With its ample candlelight and delicious Italian cuisine, Il Cielo does just that.
The chefs at Pi on Sunset aren't the master of just one cuisine, but nearly everything in the Mediterranean realm. They blend together classic Lebanese dishes alongside Italian favorites and update them with modern pizazz. Starting at lunch, they fuse the flavors and sauces of Mediterranean cuisines to make meals such as beef shawarma pizza, beef kafta wraps, and falafel with hummus. Their dishes can be eaten in the restaurant or delivered to houses and groups camping out for Rod Stewart tickets.
Located on Hollywood’s Cahuenga Boulevard, right next to The Outpost and a couple doors down from Kitchen 24, The Room is a small and exceedingly dark lounge that’s perfect for drinking and dancing with friends. With a bass-y mix of R&B and old-school hip hop coming from the speakers, plus a small VIP section for select patrons interested in the couches and bottle service, The Room is less crowded than some of the nearby megaclubs, but doesn’t lack much for ambiance. Plus, the drinks aren’t bad, thanks to a wide bar that offers top shelf selections. A Perfect Manhattan features rye whiskey, dry white vermouth, carpano punt e mes, orange and angostura bitters and lemon oil, while the Derby comes with bourbon whiskey, orange curacao, fresh lime juice and sweet vermouth. Drinks are even reasonably priced, to match the cheap $5 cover.
Ravi and Sunitha Koneru don't much care for limitations. Not in their food, their decor, or their vision. When designing the menu for Chakra Cuisine they saw the entirety of India as a source of inspiration, from the tandoori of the North and the curries of the South to the street food of Bombay and the recipes of their native Hyderbad. And then they looked even further. What they found were ingredients such as banana leaves, scallops, and caramelized pineapples—ingredients rarely used in Indian cuisine that expertly matched the flavor profiles they dreamed up. The result is a blend of traditional and modern, where classic dishes such as chicken tikka masala segue into spicy reinventions, including a vegetable masala quiche.
The dining space is likewise a mix of old and new. Indian accents anchor the sleek, contemporary aesthetic of the dining room and private lounge, while colors drawn from the dishes themselves combine to create a cohesive backdrop. Red and gold dominate the interior, but brighter colors surround the bar, notably inside its seven specialty martinis. As for the outdoor patios, their tables center around a circular fire pit, whose flames tempt guests to sit amid the mandarin-orange trees and tell scary stories about hitchhikers with samosas for hands.
In an opulent, Eastern-inspired dining room that steeps in the scents of intoxicating spices, Nirvana blends classic Indian cuisine with the sophistication of Beverly Hills. Chefs call on both traditional Indian grilling methods and the excitement of new flavors to prepare an assortment of unusual dishes, ranging from unique curries and tandoori breads to whole legs of lamb marinated in Indian rum and spices. Beyond the vibrant mural and white booths of the dining room, the lounge and bar lure patrons in with the comfort of canopied beds, damask sofas, and the tranquil gaze of a giant Buddha's head. A flowing river—sealed with glass to protect feet from above and seafood escapees from below—runs along the floor and leads guests through each of the restaurant's distinct areas.
The Churchill seems to be the result of a fold in time, where weekend DJs spin in view of a vintage photo booth. Its interior exudes a weathered chic: communal tables, built from reclaimed wood, sit beneath antique mirrors and steampunk-style lighting. On the patio, a fireplace burns merrily, a glimmering part of the half-rustic, half-industrial ambiance. Though the decor harkens to a number of bygone eras, the food stays spontaneous and current. An array of house-cured meats and pickled vegetables add an artisanal touch to the menu of rotating American plates, which range from warm bread with seasonal marmalade to a hanger steak with duck fat fries. They pair well with the bar's 20 craft beers, or with expertly mixed cocktails such as the Bulldog—milagro blanco blended with passion fruit, pineapple, serrano, and lime. Those who don't have time to stay and sip can pick up slices of wood-fired pizza or scoops of homemade ice cream at the takeaway window, which serves as a wormhole to 1942 when guests aren’t looking.