332 S Broadway
Los Angeles, CA 90013
Dining date: 2/2/13 and 3/16/13
Maccheroni Republic opened at the end of last year, from the old owners of Locanda Veneta in mid-city. The location couldn’t be more different, from the Beverly Hills-adjacent Locanda Veneta to this spot across the street from Grand Central Market in downtown. It’s not exactly the kind of area where you feel comfortable walking around alone at night.
The restaurant has a real neighborhood feel to it, charming with a large patio outside of the main dining room.
The menu seems to be sort of Italian comfort food, with a number of familiar appetizers (minestrone, arancini, bruschetta) and larger plates centered around housemade pastas. Most everything is pretty simple, relying on ingredients and execution of the classic Italian fare. The food tends to be pretty hearty (and carb-heavy) and portions are on the generous side, so even one pasta dish would fill most people up. With everything on the menu hovering around $10 (the most expensive is $14) it’s definitely reasonably priced for downtown LA standards.
Right now, the restaurant is BYOB although I’ve heard they’re working on getting their wine & beer license…so take advantage of BYOB while you can!
Service is on the slow side especially when it’s a full house; there’s pretty much two servers for the entire place. This post is actually a summary of two separate visits – on both Saturday nights, the restaurant was packed. There hasn’t been a ton of publicity around the restaurant, but clearly the word’s gotten out.
Given sizeable portions and the hearty fare, two dishes per person is probably more than enough (whatever combination of appetizer/pasta/dessert).
Minestrone di Verdure fresh seasonal vegetable soup with rice
One of the appetizers we tried was this soup; packed with a bunch of vegetables, it ate like a stew.
Bruschetta con Funghi toasted crostini with sauteed mushrooms
Lightly toasted crostini were topped with sautéed, buttery mushrooms. Nothing really special, but satisfying.
Guazzetto di Cozze mussels in red sauce (soup)
One of the specials on my second visit was this “soup” which was really a large bowl of mussels in a tomato-based broth. The mussels were pretty tasty when scooped up with the broth, while crispy garlicky bread helped soak up the rest of the liquid.
Gnocchi handmade potato gnocchi with meat ragout and mushroom
Another daily special on the second visit, these pillowy, cheesy balls of dough were light and delicious. A rich meat and mushroom ragu rounded out the hearty plate.
Risotto carnaroli rice, mushrooms, boneless ossobuco
Risotto topped with ossobuco? I had to order this on my first visit. Al dente rice served as the platform for the rich, braised veal shank. I didn’t think the shank was quite as tender and moist as expected, but it did have a pretty good flavor. I didn’t find this quite as exciting as expected.
Risotto mixed mushrooms and prosciutto
A daily special on the second visit, the same chewy rice was complemented with mushrooms and prosciutto. I enjoyed the earthy, meaty texture of the mushrooms with the salty prosciutto. My friend didn’t think any particular flavors stood out, though.
Rigatoni in kale sauce
A special on the first visit, this vegetarian dish featured a delicately chewy rigatoni bathed in a kale sauce. The kale wasn’t overpowering here, mellowed by the butter/cream.
Fettucine with a venetian braised duck sauce
A standby on the regular menu, this was my favorite dish. Thin ribbons of the fettuccine were fantastic, dressed in a rich red wine ragu. Chunks of duck completed some delicious bites.
Bigoli ai Frutti di Mare thick spaghetti with seafood in a tomato base
Bay scallops, clams, and shrimp sat in a tomato-based sauce with thick chewy spaghetti. I liked the texture of the pasta which really held its chew. The bay scallops were kind of fishy but the clams were excellent.
I’ve left Maccheroni Republic stuffed and thoroughly satisfied each time. I’m not going to say they serve the best pastas downtown (I think Drago Centro does) but it’s hard to beat at this price point. You can really capture the difference handmade pasta makes here. Given the value in the tasty food and the current BYOB policy, it’s easy to see why the restaurant has been so popular early on…and I don’t see that changing anytime soon.
Pictures from other meals at Maccheroni Republic: http://www.flickr.com/photos/darindines/sets/72157633269275851/