Ètra pasta
All photos courtesy of Ètra

The RundownLos Angeles

Ètra Is L.A.’s Buzziest New Spot for Pasta and Wine


The newest dimly-lit room to get your pasta and wine on is Ètra, an Italian-inspired restaurant with heavy date night vibes. Thanks to Brooklyn-meets-Big Sur wood trim cozy tables, the room emanates a sexy-yet-casual feel that wouldn’t feel out of place in Europe. From the team behind social media darling Café Telegrama in Melrose Hill, the adjacent restaurant, located in a former karate studio, is part of the wave of new F&B concepts to arise in the area, including Ggiata, Le Coupe, and Kuya Lord, among others.

Native Angelenos and hospitality vets Andrew Lawson and chef Evan Algorri are behind the project, along with artist-designer John Zabawa and Creative Space, the development company helmed by Tyler Stonebreaker, who has restored and developed several buildings in the Arts District. Here are five things you need to know about this buzzy new restaurant.

It’s the after-hours counterpoint to sunny daytime cousin Café Telegrama.

When Café Telegrama first opened in October, it quickly made the rounds on social media. The striking green- and white-tiled archway facade, high ceilings, and chic minimalist interiors made it a destination for lunches, brunches, and casual get-togethers shortly thereafter. Ètra, which means “in between” in Italian, in many ways is the counterpoint to the spacious and sunny Telegrama, with its cozy quarters and date-night vibe, but the food is an extension of the Italian- influenced dishes seen on the daytime menu. “It’s a neighborhood Italian/European restaurant, emphasis on pasta,” says Lawson.  

The aesthetic is “coastal California cabin meets European trattoria.” 

The former dojo was made over by Stonebreaker and team, who added windows, a kitchen, and more to get the space restaurant-ready. The 60-seat room features a small patio out front, bar seating, and a handful of banquettes outfitted in persimmon-colored velvet. What would have been exposed brick walls are covered in Baltic birch panels with diminutive artwork scattered throughout. 

The most striking detail? The modernist Hans Agne Jakobsson pendants that look like floating wooden orbs above each banquette. “The major influences were California-style coastal architecture of wood-clad homes from Big Sur and Point Reyes,” says partner Zabawa of Roller Studio, who designed the space (Telegrama included). The focal point was the walls, according to Zabawa, who intentionally kept the interior minimalist, so that diners could focus on their companions, the food, and the experience of simply being in the restaurant itself. “The walls of Ètra are the art,” he says. 

Bavette Nerano
Bavette Nerano.
Bavette Nerano
Bavette Nerano.

The pastas are personal.

“Ètra is the culmination of so many things,” says Algorri. A reflection of his time working in New York, growing up in a Sicilian household, and his travels around Italy, the menu consists of a handful of pastas, a slew of appetizers, and a few mains. “My father grew up in a Sicilian neighborhood and my parents were adventurous eaters and cooks. My house always smelled differently than other people’s houses,” Algorri says of his food-centric upbringing in Pasadena. After moving to New York and working at restaurants like Marea and Bouley, Algorri returned to L.A. to open Oriel in Chinatown (housed in another building that was restored and designed by Creative Space). After meeting Lawson, an alum of Estela in New York, at Canyon Coffee, the duo teamed up for a new project together. 

“Pasta is the heart and soul of the menu,” says Algorri. Highlights include the rigatoni gricia, a take on the Roman classic melded with French technique thanks to the addition of an onion soubise. “I cooked this dish a bunch when I worked at Lupa, a Roman restaurant [in New York]. I love the flavor profile of using super caramelized onions,” says Algorri. The combination of the creamy caramelized onion sauce with the savory guanciale and pecorino romano is undeniable. 

But Algorri’s personal favorite is the bavette Nerano, a twist on the classic zucchini and basil number, with mussels. “It’s based on a dish I ate a lot during the summer in Italy, with [restaurateur] Franco [Nuschese] from Cafe Milano in Washington, D.C.,” says Algorri. “I went to the Amalfi coast with him and he would make pasta Nerano every day. I thought, what could we do to zhush it? It’s a silky version of a very classic Nerano sauce, with the added touch of steamed mussels.”  

Other options include a take on a classic spaghetti pomodoro, and spaghetti al tonno with garlic, lemon, and tuna confit. Look out for a lasagna with mushroom Bolognese to hit the menu soon as well. 

Appetizers and mains are not to be missed, either. 

To start, you’ll find crowd-pleasing dishes like meatballs, a Caesar salad (using chicories), and the carne cruda, which plays on the classic vitello tonnato. “We aerate the tonnato to give it lift and body, ” says Algorri. “The meat is then dressed very simply with olive oil, lemon juice, and salt.” Mandolined garlic slices are blanched a few times in milk and then slowly fried in oil to make the crispy garnish on top.  

A rustic scampi dish features split New Zealand langoustines that are roasted and topped with nduja butter. “The marrying of pork and seafood products is something you see throughout Spain and Portugal,” Algorri adds.

For mains, the protein-heavy lineup runs the gamut from roasted fish to seared steaks. Look for a pork rib eye with fennel done multiple ways (the meat is rubbed with fennel, topped with fennel pollen, and served with a fennel salad). For the roast chicken, Algorri nods at the classic chicken Marsala but spices things up with the use of Calabrian chile. He brines the chicken overnight in a homemade hot sauce, and upon cooking it’s served with a sauce made from its jus, Calabrian chile, and Marsala wine. “That sauce is made with love— it’s not an easy sauce to make,” he says. 

Wash it down with a list of minimal-intervention wines from France, Italy, and California.

The beer- and wine-only beverage menu features organic options from Europe and California. “Evan’s food shows a ton of restraint, so I wanted to choose wines to match that,” says Lawson. “Nothing super big or bold or over extracted, generally speaking, the wines are subtle in profile.” Start your meal with a sparkling red Lambrusco from Emilia-Romagna and end it with a unique Sicilian vermouth. “No additives — everyone is organic or practicing organic,” he adds. 

On the beer front, you’ll find all-local selections from nearby breweries like Highland Park, Skyduster, and Homage, including a unique lager brewed with jasmine rice. Value was key when developing the beverages, Lawson says. Wines by the glass range from $12-19 and by the bottle from $48-175. “It was really important to put a handful of approachable, high-quality bottles on there between $50-70 dollars,” he says. “Ultimately, these are all wines that I would be excited to see or drink.”

Kelly Dobkin is an L.A.-based writer/editor and former New Yorker. She has contributed to Bon Appétit, Grub Street, Michelin, Here Magazine, and is a former editor at Thrillist, Zagat, and Eater. Follow her on Instagram and Twitter. Follow Resy, too.