Nilou Motamed and Sarah Spagnolo spotlight four of the best places to eat in Los Angeles.

August 29, 2012

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Pizzeria Mozza

When Nancy Silverton teamed up with Mario Batali and Joe Bastianich to create—heaven help us all—a pizza parlor, you kind of knew it would be great. But not this great. Since 2006, this dream team has been dishing up spectacular Neopolitan-style pies with puffy, charred crusts to throngs of fanatics.  Silverton’s astonishingly flavorful pies are worth every second of the two-hour wait—whether it’s the squash blossom–tomato-burrata combo or the masterpiece of gooey Stracchino, shaved artichokes, olives, and lemon. While the semi-traditional toppings are excellent (house-made fennel sausage with sweet red onions), try the more outré toppings (sweet Gorgonzola, radicchio, and fingerling potatoes).

Animal

The city’s top new restaurant may not, at first, seem very L.A.: plain, boxy interior; “Don’t Fear the Reaper” on the stereo; and a menu of the pig-happy, nose-to-tail Dude Food you’d expect in Brooklyn or Chicago. But it’s the ethereal produce, not the protein, that raises the restaurant  to such dizzying heights. A plate of crackly pig’s ears—punctuated by chile-garlic paste and a gooey fried egg—comes on like an amp set to 11, but is brightened and lightened by a splash of tart lime juice and fresh scallions. Crunchy nuggets of fried hominy go up with wasabi peas and popcorn in the holy trinity of salty snacks. The unexpected gem is the crudo: a recent combo of raw fluke, yuzu, serrano chile, apple, and pungent mint was no macho plate but downright girly—silky, sexy, and impeccably dressed.

Gjelina

You'll typically find chef Travis Lett at the farmer's market when he's not behind the stoves at his restaurant, the bright new light on ever-trendy Abbot Kinney. His surfer-boy looks—perhaps you caught him in Vogue—belie his talent for the earthy, assertive, locavore cooking that makes even vegetarian dishes (wood-roasted Tahitian squash with rosemary and unfiltered olive oil; braised chickpeas with harissa) taste as hearty as the short ribs. Lett’s intensely flavorful, flame-kissed plates find an ideal setting in the dark, candlelit dining room.

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