It’s been well over a year and half since Scopa’s Steve Livigni and Pablo Moix announced an unnamed Downtown project next to Rossoblu and the now-defunct Slanted Door at Fashion District’s City Market South project. Now the place has a name, Dama, and a projected opening date of early July. Scopa chef Antonia Lofaso will helm the pan-Latin menu while wine director Taylor Grant looks over the bottle and glass selections. Partners Mario Guddemi and Salvatore Aurora, who also work with the team at Black Market Liquor Bar, The Chestnut Club, and Old Lightning, come on board as well.
So far, the multi-level space, which used to be a banana distribution hub of Southern California, will offer a wide menu of Spanish, Colombian, Caribbean, and Cuban dishes paired with a tropical set of cocktails. Here’s everything to know about Dama, from the food to the drinks to the ambience:
1. An inside-outside feel that’ll conjure up a grand old hotel in Havana, Buenos Aires, or Mexico City.
Designer Carolina Wicker worked with the team to construct a breezy, relaxed 200-some-seat space with multiple facets. Outside patios with built-in banquets and large tables; a seated lounge area with comfy couches and low tables; a wrap-around bar; and more scattered tables with wicker chairs to give it a hotel lobby feel. The far wall boasts a leafy motif while wooden accents gives it a weathered, worn-in look for an Art Deco, tropical decor. With a front that spills out into a courtyard area, it’s within earshot of Downtown’s residents and office workers, but still nestled in like an oasis among Fashion District’s bustling retail stores.
2. The Latin-inspired menu draws from across Central America, South America, the Caribbean, and Spain.
Chef Antonia Lofaso, who hails from New York, traveled extensively to find flavors and ingredients she should would work in this space. Think marinated piquillo peppers with white anchovies and a version of charred ciabatta. She prepares an eggplant and plantain dish from something she tried in Cartegena, Colombia. Spanish-style chicken croquettes and an aguachile tostada round out starters. For larger plates, there’s a dry-aged, bone-in ribeye clocking in at 24 ounces or a whole red snapper escabeche. They’ve got a rotisserie in the kitchen and plan to use that on chicken, duck, and anything else they’re into. And there’s even a crispy pork shank, deep fried and served with lettuce cups and pickled veggies. For dessert, try churros, giant soft serve sundaes, and lots of bananas, a nod to the building’s history.
3. Reconsider the blended cocktail, and other tropical drinks
Pablo Moix put together a reformed blended cocktail, recalling his early days as a bartender working at TGIFridays. Instead of those whirling slushie machines, Dama plans to blend cocktails to order for a balanced blended daiquiri. The team had an amusing time trying to find an ice machine that made “bad” ice, something that most bars in LA probably avoid at this point, but are essential for making quality blended drinks.
A lot of bartenders left the States during Prohibition to work in the Caribbean, and one could argue that a lot of Tiki drinks came out of this diaspora. So they’ll have a kind of pre-Tiki approach to drinks that balance some classic three-ingredients mixers without any infused flavors, but will also have a solid rum punch. Dama will also serve a slate of lower ABV cocktails so that imbibers looking to relax on a late evening won’t get bombarded with boozy drinks. Overall, the cocktail list will have 30 beverages with classics, house specialties, low ABV, and blended drinks that should cater to a wide audience.
4. Island wine and a reasonably priced bottle list
Taylor Grant, who also helms the wines at Scopa, wants to emphasize island wines from places like the Canary Islands, Sicily, and others for a list that’ll boast 22 glasses and about 100 bottles. Expect plenty of rose, sparkling wines, and great producers with a special focus on Spain. Oenophiles will appreciate the younger, more esoteric finds though some benchmark-level classics from France will occupy some space.
5. Opening early July with afternoon to evening hours
Dama will be open from 4 p.m. to midnight daily, with some extended weekend hours depending on demand. And eventually they’ll open up at noon, which should work great for the post-work and daytime crowd looking for a happy hour hangout. They’ll offer reservations on Resy, which works well for anything looking to book a date or bigger table in the evenings.
Dama. 612 E 11th Street, Los Angeles, CA. 213-741-0612.