It’s been decades since downtown was a destination for a night out in the city of angels, but a slew of developers were keen on changing that reality — right before the economic crisis hit. The proliferation of (now empty) condominium developments, lofts, and apartment complexes was supposed to bring with it the ensuing demand for entertainment options that didn’t involve trekking across town. Wine bars, restaurants, and trendy lounges were supposed to follow, and in some sense, the transformation has begun. It’s definitely not the renaissance that was hoped for, but downtown isn’t what it used to be, either.
Enter Bottega Louie, one of the few successful emerging players in the downtown dining scene. Located on the ground floor of the historic beaux-arts Brockman Building, the space is huge. Parking can be a bit of a problem; there’s no valet and street parking is difficult at night, so it’s best to shell out the extra dough for a lot a few blocks away. But, once you finally step inside, the white marble floors and vaulted, 20-foot ceilings transport you to another time and place. It’s cavernous, it’s loud, and it’s crowded. There’s a pastry bar to the right, a proper bar to the left, and straight ahead, the maître d’ dressed like a bank manager. A fleeting, unfamiliar feeling passes over you — it’s a feeling of being underdressed, rare for Angelenos — that is, until someone stubbornly sporting flip-flops and a polo walks past you in the middle of January. The process of securing a table seems intimidating, but actually turns out to be quite painless, aided by competently mixed cocktails and a staff on top of its game.
So what to order? Pastas are reasonably priced, mostly fresh, and made in-house, so don’t miss the trenné with prime rib eye and Tuscan black kale, as well as the classic tagliatelle Bolognese. Pizzas are a bit steep but have a decent crust and prime, fresh ingredients; try the burrata pizza with broccoli rabe, garlic, and prosciutto. Some of the pizzas can get weighted down with too many ingredients though, and require a fork and knife to eat (the aforementioned included); if this bothers you, steer clear of any pizzas that sound like they have a salad or a mountain of meat and cheese on top. Notable entrées include the short ribs, braised and bathed in a lardon ragù, served on top of a bed of white polenta, and the hanger steak with black truffle sauce. Pacing can be an issue; the food can take awhile to come, but the space lends itself to some good people watching, and it’s entertaining to watch the action from the open kitchen, replete with a pizza station and a brick oven.
Modestly priced, well executed, and downright fun, here’s hoping that downtown’s revitalization brings Angelenos more restaurants like Bottega Louie.