Growing up in Naples, Diego Ortoli developed a passion for traditionally prepared Italian cuisine. When he moved to LA, he found the classic recipes he craved were actually somewhat hard to come by. So, in 2010, after years in the restaurant industry, he decided to open Portofino Cucina Italiana, his own little slice of Naples.
He assembles an extensive menu of Italian dishes, such as homemade gnocchi in gorgonzola sauce or roasted whitefish topped with black olives and capers. He pairs the food with an equally lengthy wine list that focuses on Italian vintages. This combination of tradition and quality earned Ortoli praise for his authentic cuisine in Singular Magazine.
At both its downtown and Silver Lake locations, Garage Pizza serves up freshly baked pizzas whole or by the slice, as well as zesty wings and hearty sub sandwiches. Guests sink their teeth into sauceless white pizzas topped with ricotta and garlic, traditional margherita pies, or the ominously-dubbed Annihilator??covered in meatballs, sausage, pepperoni, and mushrooms. At the downtown restaurant, diners pair their pies with wine and craft beers, while both locations cap off main courses with chocolate chip cookies crowned with vanilla ice cream.
The name Pestolini conjures up visions of pasta coated in the bright green Genoa sauce, but though pesto and pasta both have spots on Pestolini's menu, the eatery is not an Italian joint. It actually offers an eclectic mix of food, including breakfast burritos, pancakes, and grilled sandwiches. The food pairs with a wide variety of drinks, such as organic french-press teas, espresso, boba tea drinks, and smoothies.
Mexican-style steak and eggs, seitan sandwiches, and prosciutto pizzas all grace the menu at Tiara Cafe. The hodgepodge of cuisine is a relatively tame fusion of ethnicities and techniques, given chef, owner, and “idea man” Fred Eric’s reputation. “I’ve known Eric for almost 20 years now,” wrote LA Weekly’s Jonathan Gold in 2008, “and he has always come up with a density of ideas that makes it almost impossible to comb the brilliant from the cockamamie.” Gold's quip refers to Eric's tendency to have his finger in every pie (so to speak), from velvet-rope restaurants to coffee shops, each of which he spikes with his telltale innovations, such as foie gras corn dogs and decadently delicious vegan feasts.
Tiara Cafe is no exception to the rule of Eric. Here, the chef has created what he calls "fashionable dining." He carries the theme from brunch through lunch, serving carefully created dishes laced with organic produce plucked from where else but his own backyard. In the morning, guests can imbibe mimosas and enjoy grilled vegetable frittatas, breakfast burritos, and challah french toast. Eric’s pizzettes, which are the highlight of the lunch service, feature everything from prosciutto and farmer’s market greens to chorizo and grilled poblano peppers.
Though its seven-ounce stature isn't the largest, Lazy Ox Canteen’s namesake burger is definitely the tastiest in the city, according to LA Weekly. The allure lays in what surrounds the patty: Bravo Farms white cheddar, whole-grain mustard, and a toasted, house-made bun. The burger epitomizes head chef Travis Chase’s approach to food: he strives to make it aesthetically pleasing and chock-full of local ingredients, just like the village art thief's safehouse. That’s why the ingredients hail from nearby farmers and purveyors, and most wines and beers are born within state borders. Some of the menu’s other dishes (mostly small plates) feature California’s own La Noglera walnut oil or butter that's churned in-house. Even the décor reflects a love for earth and community: weathered slats of wood cover the walls, and long rows of tables grant plenty of space for communal meals.
Cicada Restaurant stands as a golden monument to the art deco movement. Built in 1928 for prestigious haberdasher Alexander & Oviatt, the building rewards the eye with florid geometric designs in every direction. The lobby ceiling glows with smoked-glass assemblages designed by Rene Lalique, and golden sunburst emblems that emblazon the lobby doors lead into a two-level dining room. Here, a chandelier illuminates carved-wood columns inscribed with art-deco designs that peak on the mezzanine tier. The stair rails and zig-zag paneling between the two floors likewise cast a historic air over guests, who feast and dance beneath a 30-foot ceiling. Their dinners are inspired by the cuisine of Northern Italy. Appetizers of baked camembert cheese precede pastas such as fettuccine with filet mignon and mushroom ravioli with pan-seared duck breast. Deciding on a dessert deserves just as much deliberation as choosing your main course or your waiter's pet name—the variety includes tiramisu with espresso sauce, chocolate molten cake, and a selection of handcrafted cookies.