The November issue of Los Angeles magazine is dedicated to the best Italian food this city has to offer. But the boot’s other delicious export comes in liquid form. By virtue of both proximity and propensity, the major cities of the East Coast long enjoyed first pick of the best wines Italy had to offer. Sure, a few bottles may have slipped through the clutches of greedy New York and Boston wine buyers here and there, winding up in mainstay L.A. restaurants like Valentino and Spago, but in general, sourcing a bottle of Barolo from a cult producer was at one time a Herculean task in this town. How the times have changed! These days, L.A. abounds with places pouring outstanding vino Italiano. Here, a handy guide to some of my favorites.
True to its quirky roots, this single-pager still has a goodly number of wines most folks probably haven’t heard of (much less tasted). Wine Director Ryan Ibsen is a pro, though, and he’s rounded out the selection of oddball stuff with some really fantastic Italian wine, from heady, textured Alto Adige whites to savory Sicilian reds with a bit of age. And, to top it all off, he’s always got a few magnums on the list… who doesn’t love a magnum?!
Pizzeria Mozza, Osteria Mozza, Chi Spacca
Three bang-up wine lists here from wine director Sarah Clarke. At the Osteria it’s an epic, 1,300-selection tome overflowing with back-vintage Piedmont gems and perfectly aged Brunello, Amarone, and other classics. At the Pizzeria it’s the opposite, a single page highlighting the diversity of Italian wine culture—or, in other words, delicious everyday wines often made with grapes familiar to no one. Next-door, at Spacca, the list is on a chalkboard and it’s a bit of a hybrid of the other two…though unique in the fantastic selection of fancy (and ever-rotating) glass pours and massive cuts of delicious meat.
If Southern Italian wines are your thing, Sotto should be your spot to drink them. Jeremy Parzen, who writes a fantastic Italian wine blog called Do Bianchi, is responsible for overseeing the list at Steve Samson’s dependably delicious restaurant on Pico, and he does a great job. All in all, a great place to go exploring…with a tight, well-focused list that perfectly accompanies Samson’s menu.
Terroni (Beverly & DTLA)
Why more wine drinkers don’t frequent these restaurants is a mystery, because the lists at the Beverly Boulevard and downtown locations are some of the best-selected and most fairly priced in town. Max Stefanelli and Eduardo Bolaños—fantastic sommeliers both—do most of the curating. The nearly all-Italian lists are surprisingly deep and peppered with so many fun, delicious wines that you’ll be hard-pressed to try everything that catches your eye in one, two, or 20 sittings. Piedmont and Siciliy are particular strengths here, but the whole boot is beautifully represented.
Taylor Parsons is the General Manager and Beverage Director at République.