Not every place needs to be a neighborhood restaurant. Los Angeles is filled with big, showy affairs — rooms that double as backdrops for art or step-and-repeat walls for an endless cavalcade of well-dressed celebrities. LA loves to think big, even when its small communities and endless, sprawling suburbs often choose to stay small. At the new Amiga Amore in Highland Park, there’s a little bit of both at play. The tiny York Boulevard restaurant acts small in its presentation and its charm, but the food is thinking very large.
Amiga Amore is the work of longtime chef Danielle Duran-Zecca, who has cooked all over the city, including at Pasadena’s vaunted Italian restaurant Union. She’s really come into her own in recent years, though, working in partnership with Alessandro Zecca to hone a pop-up menu of truly cross-cultural food that leans into both Mexican and Italian flavors. It’s a uniquely fitting combination that marries corn and wheat, coastal seafood and seasonal produce, to craft something that feels deeply comforting and quietly compelling at the same time. Duran-Zecca has been adding to her menu at kitchen takeover nights and one-off events since the start of the pandemic, and now she’s got a restaurant to show for it. A neighborhood restaurant, to be exact.
Here the flash is mostly found on the plate, particularly the signature elote agnolotti, a stuffed and creamy corn pasta that sets off lightbulbs in the head. That pasta is a doorway to a new dimension, a world of chorizo-crusted cod, confit chicken with mole blanco, and cavatelli with chile de arbol and a guajillo-braised beef shank. Everything is fun and illuminating, a mix of personal and inventive that feels unique to Amiga Amore. That’s precisely the point, and what allows Amiga Amore to feel both like the freshest new thing on the block and the kind of restaurant that has been around, riffing and having a blast, for years. The opening menu is below.
Diners can find all of the charm and chicken tinga arancini at 5662 York Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90042, starting tonight. To start, Amiga Amore will keep hours from Wednesday through Saturday, 5 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. or later (opening at 4:30 p.m. on Saturday), with reservations available on Tock. Welcome to the neighborhood, indeed.