It was almost 25 years ago that Jean Louis DeMori and Antonio Tomassi opened an unprepossessing little Italian restaurant on a strip of no-man’s land across from Cedars-Sinai Hospital. It was called Locanda Veneta and it kicked off the first round of terrific, small, very specific Italian restaurants in Southern California.
Today, they’re trying to repeat the magic in another part of town. This week the two opened Maccheroni Republic on a formerly bedraggled strip of Broadway downtown, almost across the street from the Grand Central Market.
It’s in the space that formerly housed a Korean fast-food stop called Kalbi Gogo. If you ever went (actually, it wasn’t bad for a quick bibimbap), you won’t recognize the place. What once was a vanilla storefront with drop ceilings and fluorescent lights now has quite a bit of charm, with an exposed brick wall, some antique-y looking furniture and a bar where once was dished up steam-table beef ribs. Squint really hard and you could believe you’re in a bar-tabacchi in Umbria.
But let’s face it, you’re not going to Maccheroni Republic for the scenery. The food is terrific. As per the name, it’s basically a pasta place, though pasta in the Italian sense – meaning, in addition to noodles, it offers gnocchi (if you remember the gnocchi from Locanda, you’ll want these), risotto and polenta.