I write about Italian food … a lot. It’s my specialty, it’s my obsession, it’s my love language. But whenever someone asks me what my favorite Italian restaurant in Los Angeles is, I struggle. My advice usually hinges around regional specialties, unique pastas, or perfectly blistered pizza crusts. In other words: specific dishes at specific places, rather than one catch-all go-to.
But if I was forced to choose a single Italian restaurant in Los Angeles that hits every note and makes me feel like I’m back in Italy, just for a moment? I tell people to visit Angelini Osteria. Every. Single. Time.
Angelenos who have lived in this city for decades remember what L.A.’s Italian food scene used to be like. If you wanted sandwiches, you went to Bay Cities (founded in 1925); red sauce Italian called for Miceli’s (1949), Dan Tana’s (1964), or La Dolce Vita (1966); for pizza you hung out at Patsy D’Amore’s (1949) or Casa Bianca (1955); and for fine Italian dining there was Valentino (1972) or Musso & Frank’s (1919). Most of the Italian food in the city catered to American palates and eschewed regionality — there were a lot of Caesar salads, spaghetti and meatballs, and chicken parms in this town.
In 2001, Gino and Elizabeth Angelini opened Angelini Osteria, and in the process changed how the city viewed Italian food.
But in 2001, Gino and Elizabeth Angelini opened Angelini Osteria, and in the process changed how the city viewed Italian food. Angelini is from a small town in the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy — known for mortadella, Parmigiano Reggiano, prosciutto di Parma, balsamic vinegar, risotto, and lots and lots of pasta. When Angelini opened, it threaded the needle of bringing this regional food to L.A., while also keeping the menu accessible (you’ll find tripe but also caprese).
That’s no small feat — but what else makes this restaurant so special? Let’s take a look inside.
As I said in the intro, I typically go to specific restaurants for specific dishes. At Angelini, you’d be hard-pressed to find a bad bite, but if you want to experience the best of what they do, order the following:
Swordfish Carpaccio: warmed, topped with bottarga and crunchy pistachios. This dish takes you to the eastern side of Emilia-Romagna along the Adriatic coastline. And don’t skip the Prosciutto di Parma & Melone. Emilia-Romagna is home to Parma and Parma is home to prosciutto and Parmigiano-Reggiano. The prosciutto on this menu is aged for two years and balances salt with sweet, along with juicy Chino Farms melons. Oh, and do try the Tagliolini Limone, a silky pasta tossed in a creamy lemon sauce and topped with aged Parmigiano-Reggiano.
Finally, the restaurant’s piatto forte is the Lasagna Verde ‘Nonna Elvira.’ Named for Angelini’s grandmother, this showstopper of a main involves spinach-infused pasta sheets layered with beef and veal Bolognese, Parmigiano-Reggiano, and a thin layer of béchamel. The lasagna is topped with fried spinach leaves that give each bite a small, savory crunch.
If you ask Angelini himself, he’ll tell you to order the Risotto ai Frutti di Mare, a risotto Acquerello with cuttlefish, lobster, calamari, shrimp, mussels, and clams. “I make it once or twice a week for me and my wife,” he shrugs.
Though the original space was small (no alimentari, no patio), today, you’re confronted with multiple dining options at Angelini. The interior of the namesake Osteria transports you to traditional trattorias in Italy with wood floors, tables, and chairs, exposed brick, and open shelves with Italian wines. Outdoor seating in front and around the back are a pandemic addition that provides the opportunity for a romantic dinner al fresco, beneath hanging lights in quiet corners.
And next door, the Alimentari is a more traditional coffee bar, where you can find daily-baked Italian pastries, perfectly poured espressos, salads, and panini that range from meatballs with mozzarella to mortadella with tomatoes on ciabatta. Housemade gelato is also on hand … information you should always keep in your back pocket.
The vibes here are light. Though the Osteria trends towards fine dining, your typical waiter is Italian, obsessed with the food, and incredibly knowledgeable about every menu item and their extensive wine options, without being stuffy in any way. This attitude comes from Angelini himself, now in his 70s, who still cooks nearly every day with zero hint of pretension and a desire to continuously evolve.
“I want to do this as long as possible. I can’t do what I did 15 or 20 years ago, but in my head, I think I’m 50, even though I’m 70. But I still love it,” he says. “I’m also still curious. In my job, I learn all the time from everybody around me, and that’s the beauty of this job.” You can feel Angelini’s passion extend to the staff, so it’s no surprise that many of his people have worked there for years. It’s also not surprising that some of the city’s most celebrated chefs, like Ori Menashe (Bestia and Bavel) and William Joo (Pizzeria Sei), all worked under Angelini before branching out on their own.
I want to do this as long as possible … I still love it.— Gino Angelini
… And the Rest.
Today, Angelini continues its ode to Emilia-Romagna. The menu is laced with regional pastas, loads of seafood, and the specialties of the region. Angelini himself is still in the kitchen, creating new specials, serving seasonal produce, and evolving along with his staff. The restaurant is a romantic date spot, the perfect place for an anniversary or a celebration of any kind, and is the closest facsimile to an Italian restaurant on the streets of Bologna, Parma, or Modena that you’ll find in L.A.
I love Angelini because what they do is elevated dining without being ostentatious. It feels like home, and it feels like family because Gino Angelini is still in that kitchen, inspiring his staff, pouring his heart and soul into every dish, and making you believe that you’re a part of something special. Because when you’re here, you are.
Paul Feinstein is a Los Angeles-based food writer and the author of the upcoming book, “Italy Cocktails: An Elegant Collection of Over 100 Recipes Inspired by Italia” by HarperCollins imprint Cider Mill Press. Follow him here; follow Resy, too.