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FIRST LOOK

The new Little Dom's is already a Los Feliz fixture

February 07, 2008|S. Irene Virbila

From the way Los Feliz hipsters push open the door as if they're longtime regulars, asking for their usual booth or a sweet little table for two along the windows, you'd think Little Dom's had been dishing up Italian wedding soup and spaghetti and meatballs forever. But this neighborhood spot, an offshoot of Dominick's in West Hollywood, has only been open two weeks.

The hostesses are real pros, coolly checking reservations and estimating, quite accurately, when the next table will be vacated. For those without reservations, there just might be a seat or two at the bar already set.

Warner Ebbink, who co-owns both Little Dom's and Dominick's with chef Brandon Boudet, has given the place an authentic-looking patina with an old wood bar, salvaged stained glass windows and curved leather booths beneath vintage black-and-white photos of Hollywood royalty.

The menu is briefer than Dominick's and, at this point, has no specials. Expect to find some of Dominick's signature dishes, though, like that Italian wedding soup laced with Swiss chard and tiny meatballs, the gutsy grilled artichoke, and fried rice balls with a heart of creamy burrata cheese.

Pizzas are thin-crusted and, just to be different, oval. The Margherita sets you back $10, but you can add toppings like pork sausage or arugula for a couple dollars more.

Spaghetti comes in a red sauce swirl with two large, fluffy meatballs on top. Other pastas, though, aren't quite ready for prime time. Baked tortiglioni is basically a casserole of ridged pasta loaded with roasted fennel, pork sausage and cheese for carbo-loaders out there. Chicken cacciatore comes with pasta too -- big round noodles swimming in an overly intense tomato sauce, with pieces of chicken that spent too long languishing in the wood-burning oven. Get the grilled hanger steak instead, a good deal at $17 that includes wilted spinach and sauteed mushrooms. Or the hefty wood-grilled hamburger with burrata and speck (smoked Italian ham). Come dessert, there's a gelato sundae wearing lots of whipped cream and served with a thick, dark fudge sauce on the side, or that L.A. Italian favorite, torta della nonna -- this one embedded with pine nuts -- to be followed, naturalmente, by an espresso.

There's more to come from Ebbink and Boudet: namely, a deli next door, and expanded hours. Little Dom's will soon be serving breakfast and lunch, affording diners a much better chance of nabbing one of those swell booths.

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theguide@latimes.com

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LITTLE DOM'S

WHERE: 2128 Hillhurst Ave., Los Feliz

WHEN: 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. daily. Wine and beer. (Breakfast and lunch and full bar to come in early March.)

PRICE: Dinner appetizers, $7 to $15; pizza, $10 (more for extra toppings); sandwiches, $14 to $15; pasta, $12 to $14; main courses, $16 to $24; sides, $8; desserts, $8.

INFO: (323) 661-0055

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