Little Dom’s is clubby in the best possible way: The beloved Italian joint, smack dab in one of the most walkable stretches of Los Feliz, is the type of place where you might run into a friend before sliding into a red leather booth to sip a cold martini and twirl spaghetti draped in tomato sauce.
The restaurant has all the elements in place to attract repeat visitors: approachable Italian food (including big-as-your-head meatballs over spaghetti), strong and precisely poured cocktails, a lively crowd, and a comfortable-yet-classy aesthetic (think mirrored bar, deeply curved booths, and round Cinzano tables). And while the interior definitely gives off old-school Rat Pack-era vibes, in truth, the restaurant has only been open since 2007. Still, it’s been popular since day one, and two years ago, even spawned a fish-forward spinoff, Little Dom’s Seafood, a few hours north in Carpinteria.
Because Little Dom’s is perpetually crowded, we chatted with general manager Jessica Schmidt for our The One Who Keeps The Book series, a recurring feature that aims to answer all the most important questions about how to get into a restaurant. Here are her tips and tricks for scoring a table, the booths she considers the best seat in the house, and what to order once you’re comfortably ensconced inside.
How far in advance do you release reservations?
Schmidt: We open up our reservations in four-week blocks. We actually restrict our reservations to parties of six or less; it’s a nice feature for restaurants that you can set parameters like that on Resy.
Can larger parties still book a table?
Yes, they can call us to do that, but we have limited seating options for bigger groups.
How quickly do tables get booked?
Typically about a week in advance.
Do you hold seats for walk-ins?
The pandemic has shifted how a lot of that works here. We do always have a handful of tables that we would have offline. With the pandemic, we’re starting to get back to where we might be, blocking tables for walk-ins. But we’ve also created more of a cancellation market. On Resy, there’s the virtual waitlist, which is a nice feature that helps restaurants and guests.
What’s the typical wait time for a walk-in?
It really just depends. On a busy night, prime time, we would refer to it as a cancellation list, because we don’t want to hand out empty promises. In this newer market, we’ve all gotten more comfortable with technology and used to the fact that people are busy. What we like to do to seat more people is an outbuy: We typically allow two hours for a reservation, but if we’re not that busy, we will offer you an outbuy option, where you can only have the table for a set amount of time, say, an hour and a half.
How long is your Notify list, on average?
Our Notify list isn’t usually more than five or six tables. Night-of, when the restaurant gets really full, we just have a cancellation list and move through that.
What do you think is the best seat in the house?
Oooh, that’s tough, because I like to believe there is no bad seat in this house. But I would say that the most preferred are our bar booths. If I could create a restaurant of only our bar booths, I would.
Can people request specific tables (and do they)?
We do allow requests, but no guarantees.
What are your busiest and least busy times?
Between 6:30 and 9 p.m. is our busiest window every night. We have about 110 seats now, which is a little more than pre-pandemic because of our extension patio. Thursdays and Fridays are definitely our busiest nights. As for the least busy time, breakfast is usually pretty calm.
It’s Friday night at 7 p.m. Set the scene for me.
At that point in the evening, the playlist is transitioning from something that feels like 1960s/’70s to more modern-day as it gets later in the evening. We’ll be full at the bar, and one to two people deep standing at the bar, as well. We’ve got a very active interior. The vibe in general feels very communal: Our guests will see people they know, go chat with them. There’s a really lively, community-driven vibe here at Little Dom’s. We’re happy to see the same faces over and over again.
How would you describe the menu?
California-influenced Italian cuisine, because we do like to use what’s available here and what’s at the farmers markets. Our executive chef and owners traveled all over Italy to explore the different styles of pizza and chose what they liked best. Our wood-fired pizzas are made in a distinctly Roman style. And there are some distinctly Southern Italian elements, like Calabrian chiles, on our menu.
What are the most popular things on the menu?
People love the spaghetti and meatballs. We’re really known for the meatballs, which are quite large: They’re a mixture of beef and pork, with a little fennel seed for flavor, and are served with our housemade spaghetti and a rich Bolognese meat sauce. Customers also love our rice balls, which are basically arancini made with mushroom risotto, wrapped around mozzarella and provolone, then fried up ‘til they’re golden brown. Our chicken Parm is a real showstopper, too: We pound the chicken out until it’s really thin, so it’s seven or eight inches long when it hits the table. It’s breaded and fried, then served with sauce that has some cheese incorporated into it, and a topping of fresh mozzarella, provolone, and good Parmesan that gets melted and blistered.
Does the menu change much? Do you run a lot of specials?
We have one regular nightly special that’s a set item, which diners love because they know which nights we’re serving their favorite dishes. On Fridays, we serve a very popular four-layer lasagna. It’s made with herbed ricotta, mozzarella, Parmesan, and Bolognese sauce.
Little Dom’s used to own the 101 Coffee Shop, which we sadly had to close during the pandemic. Our Tuesday night special is a dish from that restaurant: fried chicken with mashed potatoes and green beans. It’s our way to honor that space. We do like to have some fun with what’s at the market, so we’ve also started to get back into doing more market-driven specials on Tuesday through Thursday nights.
You mentioned breakfast earlier. Little Dom’s also has a great morning menu. What do you recommend for the early birds?
We’re most famous for our blueberry ricotta pancakes. You get a nice sweet-tartness from the blueberries, which really complements the ricotta, and because we cook them in clarified butter, the pancakes are lightly crunchy outside and really fluffy inside. People also love the breakfast pizza, which is one of our wood-oven pizzas topped with a sunny side-up egg. My personal favorite is the eggs funghi, a vegetarian play on eggs Benedict. We top wood-roasted mushrooms with fennel pollen hollandaise and eggs — it’s so good.
Do you need a reservation for breakfast?
Breakfast is done a little differently than our dinner service, as you order at the counter. Weekend brunch is still full-service, though.
Tell me a little bit about the market next door to the restaurant.
We really built out that space during COVID, and now it’s where you can pop in to pick up really delicious Italian sodas, good olive oil, balsamic vinegar, canned tomatoes, that kind of thing. It’s a great place to get a gift — and we actually offer free gift wrapping. We also always have two types of fresh pasta that you can buy to cook at home: spaghetti and one other shape. Right now, it’s tonnarelli.
Any other tips/tricks for making the most out of a night at Little Dom’s?
I always highly recommend that you let us know if you’re celebrating something special, especially if you’re booking through Resy. We really love to be able to help if something is being celebrated.