As Los Angeles’s restaurant culture continues to grow, it’s just a matter of time before more global influences begin to percolate into its busy dining scene. Other than empanada destinations and some very good steakhouses, Argentina’s food and drink culture hasn’t made a deep impact here (at least until now) with the opening of Negroni, an international chain of cocktail and sushi lounges. Negroni’s second U.S. location — the first is in Miami— opened this week from owner Pablo Sartori and partners David and Frank Stork in the former A.O.C. and Gusto space on West Third Street with an expansive two-floor lounge. The restaurant group already operates 20 locations across Latin America and hopes to make a mark on the West Coast with more outlets in other major cities.
The drinking scene in Argentina and namely Buenos Aires (which is where Negroni got its start) draws heavily from Italian cocktail culture. In fact, one is more likely to see Cynar juleps or Fernet and Coke instead of bourbon-based drinks in Buenos Aires, a city with cocktail spots on seemingly every corner.
Negroni leans heavily into its namesake drink with somewhere between eight to 10 versions of the drink at its bar, including a classic version with gin, sweet vermouth, and Campari, as well as the newly popularized Negroni sbagliato, a prosecco version that gained fame after House of the Dragon actor Emma D’arcy mentioned it was their favorite drink. Other variants include a sour Negroni using Campari, London dry gin, Cinzano Rosso, grapefruit cordial, aquafaba, and bitters, or an espresso Negroni using mezcal. Negroni (the lounge, not the drink) claims it's the top buyer of Campari in Argentina, so expect plenty of the Italian aperitivo and mixer here as well.
Negroni doesn’t just do drinks, of course, given the expansive space. The chainlet serves a motley menu of ceviche, sushi rolls, nigiri, and transnational fare, from paccheri pasta and beef tartare to tempura rock shrimp, a grilled Angus tomahawk steak, and a truffle burger. Think of the menu as a cross between a Nobu and Katsuya but with reliable American bistro dishes too, and nice accommodations to plant eaters like a turmeric-roasted cauliflower steak or beet carpaccio topped with goat cheese. The aforementioned sushi section features some Latin American flourishes, with the inclusion of cream cheese in a bunch of options, while the nigiri pieces come laced with everything from truffle honey to romesco to crispy quinoa.
The design from Preen makes a stark departure from the Gusto/A.O.C. space. The dining area feels dark, sexy, and aggressively structured, with black seating, tables, and wall panels. A dramatic bar area features black hanging lamps over a marble countertop. The whole room feels plucked out of Nevermore Academy, which is timely given the popularity of Netflix’s recent Addams family series, Wednesday. Green plants, bulb chandeliers, and checkered flooring help provide flecks of color. With a cocktail focus, easy international fare, and a dramatic interior, Negroni looks like a solid nightlife addition to West Third Street.
Negroni operates Sunday, Tuesday, and Wednesday from 4 p.m. to midnight, with a later 1 a.m. closure from Thursday to Saturday. Closed Mondays. Expect weekend brunch and daily happy hour, as well. Reservations are available on OpenTable.