The barkeeps are a blur shaking out negronis for a thirsty crowd at this hangar-size spot in Venice. Trained at Spago, chef Antonia Lofaso (she’s also partner at Scopa’s sister restaurant, Studio City’s Black Market) understands big-volume, high-standards cooking. Her take on hearty Italian American is respectful but inventive. Served in cast iron instead of a bowl, Lofaso’s variation on pasta e fagioli turns what is usually a soup into a complete meal with a poached egg on top of the crouton and orzo. Hers is a style that makes strategic use of the extra step. In the squash blossoms, she mixes ricotta and mozzarella into the filling for more stringiness. In the eggplant and caper caponata, she adds crunch with almonds that are roasted daily. The zabaglione—presented in a silver bowl with raspberries and crumbled hazelnuts—is graced with a shot of amaro.
The Vibe: Think raucous cocktail lounge with excellent bites.
The Crowd: Young, fashionable Westsiders flock for the mix of great drinks, delicious food, and spirited scene.
The Must-Have Dishes: Chef Antonia Lofaso knows Italian, and her crispy squash blossoms and fried rice balls are renown. The veal chop Milanese is a beaut.
The Drinks: Acclaimed barmen Steve Livigni and Pablo Moix are behind a slew of innovative Amaro, rum, and mescal-based cocktails.
Getting a Table: How’s this for old school? Reservations are made by phone only. The scene is jumping Thursdays through Saturdays, but the bar is always open for walk-ins.
Insider Tip: You wouldn’t think an Italian restaurant would have one of the best Mexican mescal selections in town, but the agave offerings here are unparalleled.
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