Though Celestino Drago made his name in L.A. thanks to the incomparable Italian food at Beverly Hills' Enoteca Drago, with this newer incarnation at the City National Plaza, Drago has really given free rein to his philosophy of "passion and innovation" to create "local Italian dishes revisited with modern techniques" so that every dish that comes out of the kitchen (run by Chef de Cuisine Ian Gresik) inspires the diner to clean his plate.
Per cominciare, the antipasti combine familiar and novel tastes like smoked salmon served over chilled cauliflower panna cotta, or luscious pork belly with farro, spinach, and roasted blueberries, providing a bright color palette to match the intense taste palate.
Now that it's no longer beach season, jump off the no-carb wagon for Drago Centro's perfectly al dente pastas like taglioni with Dungeness crab, tomatoes and basil; thick brown parpardelle swirling with gamy pheasant and morel mushrooms; and homemade buckwheat pizzoccheri with cabbage, cubed potatoes, fontina and sage cream. The dishes, though rich, are also inexplicably light, so you can finish an entire plate and not feel over-full.
Though the bone-in ribeye for two with rosemary hollandaise and thyme is the house specialty, the fish dishes are also quite special, like the juicy monkfish with a crispy potato sidebar, tiny cherry tomato flavor bombs, and olive tapenade.
The dessert menu is just as hard to choose from, with tough decisions like whether to get the nutty walnut tart with marsala grapes and parmesan gelato, or the chocolate budino (mousse) with bruléed bananas, praline gelato and a hint of pancetta dust to counter the sweetness with a hint of salt.
The wine list is one of the best representations of Italian appellations in a Los Angeles restaurant, though there are options from other countries that we love, like Austria and Germany, as well as plenty of California options if you just have to stay in-state.
For those of you who want to score mitzvah points by taking your nonna to the philharmonic, dinner starts on Sundays at 4pm, and a small bites menu is available at the bar every day.
Address: 525 S. Flower St., Suite 120
Cross Street: 5th St.
Phone: (213) 228-8998
Hours: Mon-Fri 11:30am-2:30pm, Mon-Sat 5:00pm-10:30pm, Sun 4:00-9:00pm