There’s a noticeable hum coming from a small stretch of Echo Park’s Sunset Boulevard. Along with the popular Bar Flores, and Lowboy just below, is the new Italian American, classic red sauce joint Donna’s, which opened just next door before the holiday weekend.
Donna’s is an Echo Park neighborhood joint with a sprinkling of the East Coast. Park Hospitality partner Michael Francesconi has never met this Donna, but he knows exactly who she is. “Donna is a persona. We talked about the food that we wanted to do and create,” says Francesconi. “Plus, there’s a lot of [partner Matthew Glaser’s] personal touches and heart. If we were hanging on the East Coast out on a hot summer day, hungry for this kind of food, and someone asked, ‘Where should we go to dinner?’, we’re all going to Donna’s house. [Donna] feels like the person that would host and have us over for this kind of food and conviviality.”
Former Felix and Union chef Sathia Sun’s menu is easy to navigate with marinated olives, garlic bread, and giardiniera for starters. The antipasti has something for all: chopped salad, a tonnato Caesar, meatballs, and an overwhelmingly cheesy — in a good way — garlic bread. Donna’s primi and secondi sections will feel familiar, with dishes like fusilli alla vodka and linguini alla vongole with manila clams for primi, while the latter has chicken Parmesan, chicken marsala, and veal piccata. If in need of a small bowl of spaghetti, Donna’s got it along with broccolini with herbed breadcrumbs and anchovy. If venturing into dessert, opt for the tiramisu, cannoli, or strawberry tart.
Bar Flores partner Karla Flores-Mercado’s creative touches are all over the cocktail menu with classic cocktails, a Negroni menu, a handful of refreshing spritzes, and martinis. By design, there’s a truncated wine list for ease.
Park Hospitality took two years to rework the space, which was made possible in part due to the pandemic, which gave the group time to exercise patience and work without having to find outside investors. When scanning the former Adamae space, Aero Collective reconfigured the 67-seat room by knocking down and adding walls, and inserting a gold curtain at the entrance. Donna’s takes advantage of the skylight for moods that change according to sunlight. Take in the retro but modern wallpaper, hanging plants, and peekaboo wall that stealthily separates the bar from the dining area.
Francesconi and Glaser opened Little Tokyo’s decade-old Wolf & Crane. The two brought on additional partners as they took over this busy stretch of Echo Park. Creative director Daniel Baeza and Flores-Mercado came on as the crew opened both Lowboy and Bar Flores in 2019, and general manager Shawna Driscoll joined the team ahead of the Donna’s opening.
Donna’s is open Wednesday through Sunday from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. at 1538 Sunset Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90026. Secure a reservation via Resy.