It’s been almost two years since De La Nonna morphed from a coveted pandemic-era pizza pop-up into an airy Arts District pizzeria, and today, it’s more popular than ever. De La Nonna’s crowd-pleasing menu, with crispy pan pizzas topped with seasonal produce, paired with draft cocktails and wine (plus a few non-pizza items) — combined with ample outdoor seating and a welcoming feel —make it an excellent choice for a date night, as well as for a group hang. Reservations, especially on weekends during primetime, can be tricky to score.
The good news is that because of the restaurant’s sheer size (135 seats) and several service periods (lunch and dinner five days a week, plus a late-night slice window on weekends), getting into De La Nonna can be achieved with a little bit of premeditated planning. Because there are so many ways to experience De La Nonna — in the daytime or at night, al fresco or peering into the open kitchen, for a light dinner or a full-fledged celebration, or paired with drinks at The Let’s Go Disco, their sister bar next door — we sat down with Lee Zaremba, a co-owner and the Director of Operations, to get some tips on how to snag the best table in the house, what not to miss from the menu, the best way to have a party at De La Nonna, and more.
Resy: How many seats are in De La Nonna?
Lee Zaremba: 135, roughly.
How many are outside versus inside?
LZ: About 70% of our seating is outside. When we have inclement weather, we have a rainy day alternative, where we change our floor plan to get the number of tables that we typically have outside, inside. It’s what I affectionately refer to as “New Yorking” the dining room. Everything gets a little bit closer, so we can accommodate as many people as possible.
And how many of your seats are bar seats?
LZ: There are nine bar seats inside, and then we also have an outdoor rail area that’s very much like bar seating. But instead of staring at the bartender or the cooks that are in our open kitchen, you’re overlooking our pergola and lower patio area, so you’re very much within the tranquil garden area of the restaurant, with bar style seating.
That seems like a very good date bar.
LZ: 100%. I grew up in bars. So for me, I’m a big ‘sitting at the bar’ person. It’s a socially acceptable way to sit next to your date.
How many seats are bookable on Resy, versus available for walk-ins?
LZ: We keep 20% of our seating available for walk-ins at any given time. Although sometimes people will call on a Friday or Saturday night hoping for a last minute reservation, asking us if we can squeeze them in, and we’ll usually accommodate them by reserving one of those walk-in tables.
When do reservations go live on Resy?
LZ: 30 days out.
How quickly do primetime weekend reservations get snatched up?
LZ: Saturday goes pretty fast. If I look today for next Saturday, we’ll be three-quarters of the way booked for the night already and that primetime, 6:30 – 9:30 p.m., the larger tables section is like, whoosh.
De La Nonna is a popular restaurant for group hangs.
LZ: Yeah. From the very beginning, we were letting people know that we could accommodate larger parties, especially on our side patio. If you have 40 people, let’s do it. If you have 30, we can do 30. We could do two tables of 15 and still have plenty of space and a couple of tables in the middle.
We also have a hybrid style of service, meaning that, say you and I were coming in for dinner: The host would greet us, we’d sit down, find out about the market pizza, and they’d let us know that whenever we’re ready to order, we’ll go up to the counter to place that order. We’ll open a tab and then there’s a server assigned to large sections of the restaurant, up to 40 seats, which would be an unbelievable amount of tables in a traditional, full-service environment. But they’re just there to check up on you, grab you more drinks, and cash you out here at the table so you don’t have to go back up to the counter.
We love that experience of people going up [to the counter], smelling the pizzas, seeing them getting made. For parties of five and more, we’ll have a dedicated server for that experience, so you don’t have to go up to the counter.
Do you do a lot of events here?
LZ: We do.
What would it look like if I wanted to come in for my birthday with 20 friends? Would there be a set menu?
LZ: For larger parties, especially 30 or more, we do a preset menu. But we have a variety of different packages to tune into what you’re hoping to get. We’re not trying to nickel and dime people. If you just want pizza and salads, great. If you want to do a wine and cocktails [package] because you’re big drinkers, we’ll do that. You can also do drinks a la carte. We try to be as flexible as we can and accommodating as possible.
Does your next-door bar The Let’s Go Disco handle the cocktails here, or is that a separate bar?
LZ: It’s two different programs. Pretty much all the operations of the businesses are separate. The bar here though, I joke with people that it has all the appearance of a full bar, but it isn’t quite. So all of the citrus-forward cocktails are served on draft. We make them in the morning and keg them, then serve them on our draft line.
What drinks are those?
LZ: That’s our Melonita, our margarita. The Melonita is a newer drink with hibiscus, rose, and cinnamon, and it’s mezcal based. The Margariti is an herbal tequila margarita. The Salty Dog is tequila and grapefruit with myrtle berry, which is one of my favorite Italian liqueurs. It’s cool to geek out with people, because it tastes like a Salty Dog for the most part, there’s just a little more going on.
Those drinks are served on draft, plus we have a frozen Aperol spritz that’s served out of the machine and then we have the Old Fashy and the Negroni, which are one-bottle pour overs. We batch those and pour them over ice, but we take it very seriously. We batch because we’re cocktail nerds and we’re meticulous about everything, so we want our cocktails to be perfect. Batching drinks allows us to serve them really fast for people without having three bartenders for 135 seats, and we’ve seen a lot of success with it. People dig our cocktails.
So I couldn’t order a cocktail off the menu, then?
LZ: We’ll do this-and-this, like vodka soda, vodka cranberry. Moscow Mule we can do because it’s mostly just ginger beer and a splash of lime. We do what I think is one of the city’s best espresso martinis, which is shaken fresh, but we one-bottle batch that, too.
Is the espresso martini your most popular drink?
LZ: The frozen Aperol spritz is unquestionably our most popular.
In your opinion, what’s the best seat in the house?
LZ: I think if you’re a group of four to six, the best seat in the house is what we call the corner booth [in the dining room]. It’s got the giant fiddle leaf fig behind it. It’s banked by windows on each side that open up and slide all the way over to the wall, so it’s very indoor-outdoor. You get all of the benefits of the fresh air, but have a view to everybody who is walking in and out of the restaurant, and you’re tucked far enough away that people aren’t brushing up against you. You’re in the mix of everything that’s going on, and on weekend nights you can see the DJ that’s playing.
Can guests request specific tables?
LZ: Yes, as long as they have the right amount of people in their party. For bigger parties, I think our farm table outside is the best. It’s right under our pergola, and it’s close enough to the entrance where you can feel the energy of the restaurant, but far enough away where you’re doing your own thing.
How many days a week is De La Nonna open?
LZ: Five days. We’re always closed on Sunday and Monday.
And you serve lunch and dinner on all five days?
LZ: Yes. We open at noon every day and we’re open until 10 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday and until 11 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. On the weekends we also do a late-night slice window once we close, so we usually get it open by 11:30 p.m. and that goes until 1 a.m.
What types of slices do you serve at the window?
LZ: We serve four, and they’re our OG slices. Traditionally our pizzas are six by nine inches, the cheese is baked into the pan first and then the dough is baked again with all of the ingredients to get this crisp, crunchy, light, airy feel. Our slice pies are very similar, but we use a much bigger pan, and then we cut those into pieces. We joke that instead of being De La Nonna it’s De La Roma, because it’s more of that traditional, hand-held Roman style.
Is the lunch menu different from the dinner menu?
LZ: There are some additions to lunch and then some things we don’t serve at lunch that we serve at dinner. For example, we have sandwiches for lunch. We do the prosciutto sandwich and then we do the fried eggplant sandwich, which is one of my personal favorites. And then we also do the It’s a lox pizza, which is smoked rainbow trout with garlic cream, capers, and red onion—basically all of your favorite flavors from an East Coast bagel shop on a pizza.
If I were here on a date or with a friend, how would you suggest ordering for two people?
LZ: There are a couple of ways to skin that idea. We usually recommend people get one pizza per person. They are cut into four slices, and if you get a salad and a tuna tartare, a little something beforehand and a pizza each, it’s enough. You might go home with a single slice each.
Or you could eat light and just do salads and options from our raw bar. We have oysters, we have crudo, we have tartare, we have scallops right now. There are lots of ways you can eat in the event that you don’t want pizza. We also do gluten-free versions of almost every pizza and we can do almost any of our pizzas with a vegan dough instead of our traditionally cheesy dough. We have vegan cheese as well, we make our own cashew ricotta. And we have a lot of non-alcoholic options as well, so if you want to do spritzes, we have a non-alcoholic Aperol spritz that tastes just like an Aperol spritz.
How often does the menu change?
LZ: We do a different market pizza every other week, every three weeks maybe, depending on its popularity. The market vegetable changes very regularly, I think right now it’s pan-seared shishito peppers, but last week it was snap peas with a bacon vinaigrette. We’re always switching it up.
If it’s someone’s first time at De La Nonna, what should they definitely order?
LZ: The eggplant caponata is a can’t-miss situation for sure. It’s also our favorite thing to gift to people, just because it’s hard to imagine what it is if you’ve never had it before. The two pizzas that really set us apart — even though don’t get me wrong, we sell more pepperoni than anything on our menu — would be our Sicilian pizza, which is a romesco-inspired pizza that’s accidentally vegan and then our white pizza, which is onion, fennel, and Okinawa sweet potato shaved really, really thin, placed over our cheesy dough, then topped with our house nutless pesto and a selection of fresh herbs. When you read it you might think that’s too much cheffy stuff on a pizza, but then you have it and you’re like what?!
It’s Saturday night, primetime, at De La Nonna. Can you set the scene?
LZ: We have DJs on Friday and Saturdays that start at 7 p.m. The lights are somewhat dim, all of these windows are open, it’s breezy and airy and there are lots of different people hanging out and enjoying a pizza. There’s a healthy crowd from the TikTok generation that are kicking it and shooting their food. Then there are people from the neighborhood who have lived here since the early ‘80s who tell me all the time about the famous rock stars they saw passed out drunk on the sidewalk. And then there are families having a bite. I think our crowd is fun and mostly young and hip.
Emily Wilson is a Los Angeles-based food writer from New York. She has contributed to Bon Appétit, Eater, TASTE, The Los Angeles Times, Punch, Atlas Obscura, and more. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram. Follow Resy, too.