The former 9th Street Ramen space has been given new life in Downtown Los Angeles — and one heck of a new coat of paint. The former dark, neon-lit hangout for Japanese noodles has been transformed into a pastel party spot filled with Italian staples like bolognese, spaghetti alla vongole, and a veal chop Milanese. Welcome to Mona Pasta Bar.
Mona Pasta Bar quietly opened for dinner service on Friday, August 4 under the watchful eye of owner Devin Carlson, who was previously a partner at 9th Street Ramen. Carlson is a longtime Downtown resident and a builder and designer operating under his company Suplex Agency, and he wanted to craft the pink and tan space to feel reminiscent of certain Italian design movements in the 1980s. It’s a pocketbook of a space at under 850 square feet, filled with lots of chunky white tile and backless stools for a total of just over 30 seats.
On the food front, Mona Pasta Bar has hired Freylin Morales (All Time, L&E Oyster Bar) to oversee the opening menu, with a focus on Italian comforts that don’t quite reach to the sprawling East Coast American level of, say, the red-sauce-fueled Donna’s in Echo Park. One table might be diving into a plate of calamari fritti and meatballs while another dines on a burrata and tomato salad and some whole branzino with caramelized fennel. Solo diners can score a bucatini take on cacio e pepe, and everyone is likely to ask for some tiramisu and another glass of wine for dessert. Perhaps best of all, the restaurant is running a daily happy hour (5 p.m. to 7 p.m.) from the jump, meaning $10 glasses of wine and various dishes in the $10 - $13 range. The opening menu is below.
While new pasta-focused restaurants are a common sight for ever-churning Los Angeles, it’s rare to see a place like Mona Pasta Bar operate at such a small scale and with such a focused menu. That could be good news for Downtown locals looking to eat well (and potentially fast) for not a lot of money, as it’s a model that worked for years for longtime pop-up Cento Pasta Bar not far away. Now Cento has its own restaurant in West Adams, and Mona Pasta Bar is keeping hours from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. or later, Wednesday through Sunday (closed Monday and Tuesday) at 111 West 9th Street, Los Angeles, CA 90015. Reservations can be made via OpenTable.