Dining trends come and go in Los Angeles, but affection for Italian cuisine never seems to waver. The latest addition to the genre is Ètra, opening today, December 5, from chef Evan Algorri, general manager Andrew Lawson, and real estate developer Tyler Stonebreaker; all three share an ownership stake in the restaurant. Ètra stands out in a crowded Italian restaurant market by taking a personal yet polished approach to food and service.
Native Angelenos Algorri and Lawson met in 2020 through Lawson’s work with Canyon Coffee. The two connected over their shared LA upbringing (Algorri is from Pasadena and Lawson is from Studio City), overlapping years spent in New York City restaurants (Algorri cooked at Lupa, Marea, and Bouley, while Lawson worked the front of house at Estela, Flora Bar, and Rebelle), and ambition to open their own place. When Stonebreaker linked up with Algorri after securing the building on 737 North Western Avenue, Lawson was brought into the fold and Ètra was born. “What Andrew and I would like to do here is make something that is essentially an extension of both of us,” says Algorri.
The name Ètra, an Italian portmanteau of È and Tra meaning in-between, is a nod to the restaurant’s location tucked in the middle of the newly opened daytime spot Café Telegrama and the offices of Creative Space, a company owned by Stonebreaker. Artist John Zabawa of Roller Studio, who co-owns and designed Café Telegrama, was inspired in part by the “functional perfection of California modernism” and the “soft glow of seaworn shells” in designing the dining room. The 1,500-square-feet indoor and outdoor footprint seats 60 diners and features floor-to-ceiling Baltic birch panels, hand-laid Zia ceramic tiles, and Hans Agne Jakobsen pendants. The space formerly served as a martial arts studio.
What’s on the plate at Ètra is a reflection of the food Algorri grew up eating. His mother’s coq au vin and father’s Caesar salad (that he learned to make while working at the now-closed Royal Turtle restaurant in Arcadia) were dinnertime staples. “The smell of my childhood is garlic and onions and olive oil,” Algorri says. Extensive travels throughout Italy, along with rigorous French culinary training further contributed to the menu’s foundational influences. “It’s like pulling from the classic canon of Italian food, but just how I like to eat it, how I like to prepare it,” Algorri says. “Vibrant food, low intervention, focused on ingredients.”
The opening menu will feature six pastas, most using dry noodles because Algorri favors their flavor and texture. One of the signature dishes is the bavette Nerano, which he describes as a “play on a specialty from the Amalfi Coast” with zucchini, basil, and poached mussels. Algorri likens his rigatoni Gricia to an amatriciana bianco made with a heap of black pepper, guanciale, pecorino Romano, and a silky onion soubise. “I think those two [dishes] really speak to the larger ethos of the menu,” says Algorri. “I take this thing that a lot of people know and [think about] how would I want to eat it, and how would I think people want to eat it.”
Playing alongside pasta preparations are seasonal plates including a seafood crudo and Italian imported burrata. Algorri’s favorite is the carne cruda (an Italian steak tartare) with tonnato, garlic chips, and bay oil, along with a pierini sandwich that was first made famous at Harry’s Bar in Venice, Italy. “It’s perfect with a glass of bubbles,” he says. Heftier proteins include a charcoal-grilled pork ribeye served with a fennel salad and a large format steak finished with a Robespierre sauce spiked with balsamic vinegar.
Lawson’s wine list focuses on French and Italian varietals with minimal intervention. “Good, clean, delicious wines that are great on their own and great with food,” says Lawson. “I love Burgundy. I love the Loire Valley. I love Sicily and Piedmont, so you’ll definitely see a handful of references from those regions.” The Langhe nebbiolo from Agricola Brandini paired with the pork ribeye is especially enticing, he says.
Algorri and Lawson will lead a team of a dozen front- and back-of-house workers to run the restaurant. Hourly wages range from $17 to $25, and tips are pooled and divided evenly among servers and kitchen staff. While Ètra is unable to offer health and other benefits at this time, Lawson says that it is “absolutely something that is a goal for us.” He hopes to be able to offer benefits within the next six months to a year.
“We just wanted to make something that we both really, really love,” says Lawson. “We took our collective ideas of what we love about dining and dining rooms and about kitchens and put that into one package. Hopefully, that’s what we deliver.”
Ètra is open Tuesday through Sunday from 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. at 737 N. Western Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90029.