Maccheroni Republic Is Classic Italian | Downtown, Los Angeles

Maccheroni Republic highlights classic Italian cooking

You might not recognize their names, but chef Antonio Tommasi and restaurateur Jean-Louis De Mori have been instrumental players in L.A.'s Italian food scene for almost a quarter-century.

Founders of Locanda Veneta and other popular eateries, the duo recently turned their attention Downtown with Maccheroni Republic, their newest restaurant.

Hidden in a charming brick-lined space off Broadway, Maccheroni Republic eschews the modernized Italian fusion of Bestia or the ultra-regional specificity of Sotto for hearty and simple osteria fare, ideal for a leisurely meal. For proof, ask the editorial staff at the nearby Los Angeles Times, who populated half the restaurant during our last lunch visit.

The focus is on a dozen or so handmade pastas, including creamy spaghetti vongole tossed with manila clams ($14), or corkscrew-shaped boccaletti covered in tomato sauce and stewed pork belly ($11).

The pillow-soft potato gnocchi smothered in beef ragout ($11), one of Tommasi's longtime specialties, shouldn't be overlooked either.

Order some 'nduja, a spreadable spicy sausage from Calabria, with crostini ($7), or tender shrimp cakes called polpettine di gamberi ($9), then finish with a classic tiramisu ($6), and you've assembled a meal that recalls time spent wandering Roman piazzas.

Just remember to bring your own wine.

Maccheroni Republic, 332 S. Broadway, Downtown; 213-346-9725