The Beast Within

From cucina povera to alta cucina at Bestia

At its best, Italian cooking is some of our favorite food in the world.

But if there's a downside to the ever-increasing ranks of trattorias, osterias and ristoranti in L.A., it's that the commonplace nature of spots serving fresh pastas, wood-fired pizzas and house-cured salumi forces us to mitigate our expectations. Not everyone can be Mozza.

So we were cautiously optimistic about visiting Bestia, the new Arts District restaurant from Bill Chait. With Angelini Osteria veteran Ori Menashe in the kitchen, Julian Cox handling cocktails and Maxwell Leer picking the wines, the restaurant has a surplus of talent–but would it translate onto the plate?

The answer is a resounding "yes." Our meal, which began with a no-frills dish of beef-heart tartare ($13) served on a slab of excellent bread, and ended with pillowy, ricotta-enhanced cavatelli in a sauce brimming with butter and black truffles ($25), was exceptional.

Menashe's pizzas are delightfully chewy and blistered, the puffy rounds of dough carrying toppings like San Marzano tomatoes and mozzarella ($14), or charred curls of Brussels sprouts and salumi ($16).

Speaking of salumi, don't skip the cured-meat platters ($15 and $20), which could rival Chad Colby's for the title of Best in Town.

Bestia, 2121 7th Pl., Downtown; 213-514-5724 or bestiala.com