There’s something incredibly comforting and nostalgic (for many) about a bowl of spaghetti and meatballs or cheesy lasagna served atop a red checkered tablecloth. While there’s no shortage of contemporary California Italian restaurants around town, red sauce Italian joints have a timelessness and charm that can’t easily be matched. Many of LA’s most beloved spots date back decades, though a new crop of recent Italian American arrivals are just as eager to keep the conversation going for a new, young generation of fans. Here new are 17 spots around Los Angeles that dive deep into red sauce Italian delights.Read More
17 Old-School Red Sauce Italian Restaurants in Los Angeles
Where to find spaghetti, eggplant Parm, and endless glasses of Chianti
The family behind Grandi Italiani may be better known for its old-school spot Andre’s, which used to sit across from the Grove, but this Canoga Park option is no slouch, either. Expect the usual staples like spaghetti, ravioli, lasagna, and chicken Parmesan, of course.
Vito in Santa Monica has been serving for over 40 years, and all from their charming digs along Ocean Park Boulevard. The place hasn’t changed much since opening all those years ago, as their pasta and traditional cocktail list — Vesper, Sidecar, or Sazerac — can absolutely attest. The kitchen loves to tout its veal dishes, especially the veal Parmesan.
Cantalini’s Salerno Beach Restaurant
Anyone who’s driven through Playa del Rey has undoubtedly noticed the old-school neon signage, in the colors of the Italian flag, no less, outside Cantalini’s. The menu leans toward the owners’ home region of Abruzzi, with housemade ravioli available to mix and match with different sauces; baked ziti; and chicken or veal available in Milanese, marsala, piccata, saltimbocca, and Parmesan preparations.
La Dolce Vita
What’s new is old again at La Dolce Vita, the reborn Beverly Hills hangout once favorited by the likes of Frank Sinatra. The redone destination oozes a kind of throwback charm, from the leopard print carpet to the booths and the big production around the show. This is the spot to see and be seen, and to definitely eat well.
Is there any more iconic old-school Italian restaurant than Dan Tana’s? From its historic location adjacent to the legendary Troubadour music venue to its timeless clientele of celebs, tourists, and cranky old-timers, this is the place to see and be seen over a big plate of chicken Parm and red sauce pasta.
Sunday Gravy owners Sol and Ghazi Bashirian have deep roots in Inglewood, as their father operated Jino’s Pizza from the same space for decades. The siblings put together a cozy restaurant that successfully serves Italian American classics, including a signature short rib ragu, plus a weekend-only lasagna that always sells out.
Frankie's on Melrose
Despite its prime location, Frankie’s on Melrose does not get the same kind of love or attention as spots like Dan Tana’s. That’s okay, because this decades-old hangout is happier playing to the locals anyway, serving up bruschetta starters, bit plates of angel hair pasta, and hefty chicken Parm mains offered at under $25.
Now celebrating almost three decades in the business, Jones on Santa Monica Boulevard has cemented itself as a modern Italian red-sauce joint. Sure, during normal times the bar gets more love (and rightfully so), but sitting up front with the checkered tablecloths and a big plate of spaghetti and meatballs is, on the right night, where the party’s really at.
Pinocchio’s is a Valley staple, the kind of casual Italian American destination that doesn’t try too hard, and that’s just perfect. While one half of the building is a dedicated market, the real focus is on the steam table restaurant portion of the place to the left, where diners snag trays to fill with whatever noodle-sauce-and-side combo they care to enjoy. It’s inexpensive, satisfying, and busy — a perfect Valley combo.
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An offshoot of an impossible-to-eat-at New York City original, Rao’s in Hollywood is a little quieter and a little more subdued, but still a lot of fun. The kitchen pushes out big portions to everyone, where families, dates, and anyone looking to recreate a bit of magic can lean in for a taste of East Coast Italian.
Lomeli's Italian Restaurant
This Gardena legend feels like it’s trapped in time, in the best way possible. The garlic bread baskets, squiggly spaghetti plates, and simple desserts have been in place since the late 1970s, and there’s little chance that they’ll ever go away.
Little Dom’s in Los Feliz is perennially packed with diners vying for a highly coveted bar booth, where they can dig into big-as-your-head cheesy, mushroom-flecked fried rice balls; gargantuan portions of chicken Parm; and bowls of spaghetti topped with beef-and-pork meatballs. A mirrored bar, red leather-topped bar stools, and Cinzano tables outside lend themselves to the place’s clubby atmosphere.
Occupying a large warehouse-style dining room with open kitchens and bar, this anomaly of an Italian restaurant hides in an industrial portion of Gardena, catering to hardworking folks and quieter South Bay neighborhood. Expect well-executed pasta like carbonara and thin-crust pizzas that please a crowd.
While not old in the traditional sense, the recently opened Donna’s in Echo Park certainly exudes the kind of timeless charm of an East Coast Italian destination. Rich with pastas, red sauce, and all the trappings of a lived-in restaurant space, this is one of the hottest new tickets in town.
Downtown staple Maccheroni Republic is a perfect kind of red sauce meets California mix, with loads of housemade pastas, a charming patio, and the kind of enduring fanbase that anyone would love to enjoy. Diners will find lasagna, fried mozzarella, and all the rest here, along with salads and more updated dishes for a modern clientele.
Colombo's Italian Steakhouse & Jazz Club
Colombo’s in Eagle Rock checks every old-school Italian box there is, featuring throwback photos of bygone stars, white tablecloths, deep red booths, and a red sauce-heavy menu that doesn’t skip on basics like chicken Parm, pasta, and meatballs. The place does deviate in its own delightful ways at times, too, with a breakfast menu and TVs at the bar, for example.
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Commerce’s Il Saggio is never going to draw in the across-town traffic, so instead the bustling space relies happily on local customers. Find eggplant manicotti, seafood pastas, and all the rest at this sprawling upscale casual hangout.