Santa Monica is a global city. We have residents from all over the globe, and businesses that serve a multitude of ethnic cuisines. There’s a wide selection of Japanese from Ramen to Sushi, Vietnamese, French, Mexican and a smattering of other ethnicities. While we have three open Jewish Delis (Bagel Nosh, Fromin’s and Wexler’s) and Izzy’s remains in remodeling limbo. But by far, in my wholly unscientific review, the most popular cuisine is Italian.
I believe there are at least 27 Italian restaurants, not including the Pizza Huts, Domino’s, Bay Cities Deli, and Santa Monica Pizza Kitchen. My list of actual sitdown restaurants is Fritto Misto, North, Vito, Brunos, La Vecchia, Spumoni, Forma, Rosti, Piccolo, Uovo, Orto, Colapasta, Il Forno, Capo, Heroic, Stella Barra, Earth Wind & Flour, Milo and Olive, Caffe Delfini, Tar and Roses, Via Veneto, La Puglia, Locanda Portofino, Elephante, Giorgio Baldi, La Scalla, Felixe, and Fia.
One could easily make the argument that Santa Monica is really a little Italy on the coast with the wide variety of regional Italian presented. As a native Californian, though of Italian, Irish and German descent, it is the Italian I claim the most. Irish and Cuisine are two words that have a passing recognition at best. German Fare is hearty and filling, but generally not something one enjoys weekly, and I’m not sure there is even a German restaurant in town, maybe the closest would be Shoop’s Deli?
I am sad to say however that I have not even eaten at all the Italian restaurants in town. As a creature of habit, who tends to hang with other creatures of habit, we end up at the same places repeatedly. That’s a good sign, on the one hand, because we love the food and know what we’re going get quality wise. For example, when I go to Fritto Misto with my buddy Paul, we’re starting with a Greens and Gorgonzola Salad, and then a pasta dish.
Being a regular in a restaurant comes with benefits, the staff gets to know me, my likes and what I require in terms of service. I’m pretty low maintenance so long as the basics are hit. That makes it a much more enjoyable experience for both of us. They know that I’m unlikely to become a difficult patron and they can relax. I know that I’ll get my needs met with a fair degree of regularity and no fuss.
Last week I was at Spumoni on Montana, where I regularly get the Matteo Salad for dinner and the couple next to me was clearly more regular than I was. The waitstaff were so in tune with their needs that it was a joy to watch.
As much as I’m a regular in some spots, I also love to explore, so in the near future I’ll be hitting up the nine restaurants I haven’t been to on my list above. I look forward to Tar and Roses, which I’ve heard about for years, but have never been to. La Puglia looks intriguing, and I hope to try it this month, as I keep walking by it as I head to Bagel Nosh in the morning for my lox on rye toast.
If I can find a special someone, or a special occasion, I want to try the romantic setting of Via Venetto, which just looks amazing and warm. I’m not enough of a celebrity to be noticed at Giorgio Baldi, but maybe I can sneak in as a TikTok content creator.
The warm summer nights are returning, so the open air, rooftop casualness of Elephante is calling for sunset snacks and light dinners before catching a movie at the Monica Film Center. Uovo is another popular choice that is just up the street from the theater for pasta that is flown in directly from Italy. It’s a popular choice and was highly recommended by Jonathon Gold before his passing.
We are lucky to have such a fine array of amazingly talented chefs who have turned their skills and talents to bringing us such a variety of fine Italian cuisine. I hope you get to look at the list and find someplace you haven’t tried, and make a date to go explore a bit of Italy in our backyard.
David Pisarra is a Los Angeles Divorce and Child Custody Lawyer specializing in Father’s and Men’s Rights with the Santa Monica firm of Pisarra & Grist. He welcomes your questions and comments. He can be reached at email@example.com or 310/664-9969. You can follow him on Twitter @davidpisarra