Photos by Leo Cabal, courtesy of Bar Monette

The RundownLos Angeles

Meet Bar Monette, a New Santa Monica Destination for Hot Pizzas and Cool Wines


In 2021, destiny (in the form of a dating app) brought Sean MacDonald, a chef living and working in Toronto, together with Monette Moio, an actress and stunt double born and raised in L.A. “As soon as we met [on Raya], we both knew we’d found the one,” says the chef. MacDonald had always dreamed of living in Los Angeles, so meeting Monette felt like kismet. In 2022, he moved from The 6ix to Tinseltown to be with his soulmate and flex his culinary chops in the U.S.

While scouting for a larger restaurant space, MacDonald walked into a 900-square-foot shoebox a block from the ocean in Santa Monica that he couldn’t resist. He immediately had a vision for the future Bar Monette: forest-green walls, patinaed copper accents, and a menu of simple-yet-standout pizza and small plates. “I’d just sit in the room and think about the flow and how I wanted people to feel,” says MacDonald, already sounding endearingly Angeleno. “I wanted to play chill hip-hop. I wanted people to have a blast.” 

MacDonald’s menu draws from his two favorite cuisines (Spanish and Italian), while specials highlight seasonal gems from the nearby Santa Monica farmers’ market. The small plates are exceptional, the airy pizza is beautifully blistered, and the wines come from innovative producers and up-and-coming regions. It’s all rounded out with well-placed Surrealist touches, like the 3D melting clock above the bar, along with a smattering of Victorian artifacts, including a gold rotary phone.

Intrigued? Here’s everything you need to know before planning a visit. 

Two of the six pizzas on offer.

1. Pizza is tough to perfect … that’s why the chef loves it.

“I like to do things that scare me,” says MacDonald. And what scares him — or at least what used to — is making pizza. He started making pizza for fun during Covid, while living in Toronto, and after much practice, honed his skills enough to bring them to the professional kitchen.

Chef de cuisine Jeff Whittaker (formerly of Hippo) and MacDonald turn out Neapolitan-New York hybrid pies made with sourdough starter and a high water-to-flour ratio. This leads to beautifully airy dough with a crisp bottom and generous blistering. “It comes fully intact,” Macdonald explains, “because we don’t want to ruin the integrity of the pizza.” The pizza is served with scissors so you can cut it yourself, just like they do in Naples. 

There are six pies on offer, including a Margherita-esque version that’s cooked with tomato and olive oil, then topped with stracciatella cheese and basil after it emerges from the oven. For a richer, funkier option, look to the white pie, with aged cheese and truffle honey (and optional caviar). For vegans, there’s an off-menu marinara pie as well. 

Jambon de Paris with Manchego and pickled peppers.
Jambon de Paris with Manchego and pickled peppers.

2. The menu goes beyond just pizza.

While the pizza may take center stage, there’s more than just pie at this joint. Cicchetti (snacks) to graze on include cured meats (both jambon de Paris and Iberico ham, along with house-cured cabacero, or pork neck); a shaved fennel salad; and pillowy potato agnolotti served on plates that look like they belong in an English grandmother’s country cottage.

There are also larger plates, like the showstopping A5 Wagyu cap, which is cooked low and slow for 48 hours, then brushed with an agrodolce made funkier with anchovy and fish sauce, and served with blistered shishito peppers for a dash of color. Specials rotate often depending on what’s in season. 

Finally, while the leftover crust (a.k.a. pizza bones) stand on their own, you’d be foolish not to order a dipping sauce or two to dunk ‘em in. The sugo section of the menu includes burnt romesco and a zippy jalapeño-tinged tonnato. It’s giving upscale-Domino’s vibes, and we do mean that as a compliment. 

3. There’s Ferran Adria beer and a refreshing wine list.

MacDonald recommends starting with a cold Inedit — a crisp and light Spanish beer with very fine, Champagne-like bubbles — that just so happens to be created by one of the world’s best chefs, Ferran Adrià of El Bulli. There’s also a short-and-sweet wine list featuring bottles from Italy, Spain, France, and occasionally California. To build the wine list, MacDonald simply asks his wine suppliers, “What do you think is cool and have limited quantities of, and what are you excited about?” The bottles rotate, but MacDonald plans to keep the Domaine Lelièvre Leucquois Brut Rosé — a sparkling rosé made from Gamay grapes in a Champagne-adjacent region, which happens to go down very easily — as a permanent fixture.  

Wagyu cap with blistered shishitos.
Wagyu cap with blistered shishitos.

4. Cool with good service? Incredible.

Vibe-wise, think less touristy Santa Monica Pier (just down the street) and more cool-kid culinary salon. The space is decidedly intimate, with just 26 indoor seats, including bar stools that look onto the pizza oven, as well as front patio seats with views of the ocean. Service is well-informed, with no question about the lesser-known wines or ingredients unanswered (and no glass left empty). Given the tight quarters, you’d be wise to book your Resy a few weeks out. 

5. Prepare yourself for more Monettes

If you’re amped to dine at Bar Monette, but don’t get to the beach often, you’re in luck. MacDonald is planning to open another Bar Monette soon, possibly in Calabasas or West Hollywood. In 2024, he plans to open a larger Monette restaurant with 90-plus seats. Beyond that, who can say what else love will inspire.


Erin Mosbaugh is a food and travel writer who has worked in kitchens in New York and L.A. and co-created the James Beard Award-winning food site First We Feast. Follow her on Instagram and TikTok; follow Resy, too.