If you’re craving Italian comfort food and live in the South Bay, you won’t have to look far. Four side-by-side cities offer four great Italian restaurants to choose from. Alejo’s Presto Trattoria in Westchester, Deluca Trattoria in El Segundo, Mama D’s in Manhattan Beach and The Bottle Inn in Hermosa Beach are all unique, top-notch Italian spots.
When you think of restaurants you may not think of Westchester. But to fill up the family, make a trip north to this airport-adjacent town, where you’ll find Alejo’s (alejosrestaurant.com) on Sepulveda Blvd. Alejo’s, perhaps the most casual and reasonably priced of the four restaurants discussed here, has been thriving for years amid a strip of bars and restaurants frequented by local families and students from neighboring Loyola Marymount University. You can’t talk about Alejo’s without mentioning the olive oil and garlic dipping sauce that is delivered to the table before every meal. As you keep dipping, just remember that the garlic will stick with you for hours. Alejo’s is owned and operated by the Castro family and has employed the same fast and friendly staff of waiters and cooks for years. Alejo Castro, founder and original chef, honed his pasta-making skills in Europe and at La Scala in Beverly Hills. His traditional pasta recipes have been passed down and share the large menu with delicious chicken, fish and veal dishes, pizzas and calzones, a nice chopped Italian salad and finally, an unexpected paella, a tribute to the family’s Spanish roots. Entrée prices range from $9.95 to $16.00
In neighboring El Segundo, Deluca Trattoria (delucapasta.com) is part of a restaurant revival on downtown’s Richmond St. This whimsical spot is heavy on atmosphere with its dripping candles, painted frescos and live music. Your host is Chef Hannes, Johannes Kraschitzer, an Austrian who has worked throughout Europe, Los Angeles and the South Bay. His menu offers a mix of traditional and more contemporary pasta selections, as well as osso bucco and pizzas, all accompanied by an extensive wine selection. There is a kid’s menu and also daily lunch specials. Dinner is in the $10-$16 range.
Most folks in Manhattan Beach have heard of Mama D’s, a happy, noisy joint where the small tables are packed tight. The waits on Friday and Saturday nights can be maddening, but the restaurant plies you with lots of fresh, warm garlic bread and other appetizers to ease the wait. The friendly, attentive service here stands out perhaps more than the food, which runs the traditional gamut from calamari fritti to spaghetti and meatballs. Specialty of the house is a “pink sauce” served with a variety of pastas. For as casual a spot as it is, Mama D’s is not cheap, with simple pastas in the $15 range. A second restaurant in Hermosa Beach gets crowded, too.
Finally, for a special occasion or date night, head to the Bottle Inn (thebottleinn.com) near the sand in Hermosa Beach. This cozy and romantic, old-style European spot has been drawing customers for 35 years. The menu is large and varied, with delicious homemade soups, seafood dishes, a filet and scampi combo, and pastas ranging from pumpkin ravioli to lobster angel hair. The restaurant offers an alternative choice of gluten-free pastas. All of the food tastes authentic and as if each dish is made with care. As the restaurant name implies, The Bottle Inn has a wide and varied wine list and frequent wine-tasting events. Entrees range from $17 to $30.
Depending on your mood and budget, each of these restaurants is worth a try. Just hit the Pacific Coast Highway and follow the smell of garlic.