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Culver City’s Etta: Modern Italian cuisine made with old-school skill

Etta Pepperoni pizza Etta’s chef, Danny Grant, shows his skill with wood-fired pepperoni pizza.

Between the opening of Chicago superstars Girl and the Goat in downtown L.A. and Etta in Culver City, the Windy City is coming west—and nothing has been lost on the journey. If you’ve ever yearned for an Italian restaurant that makes pastas and pizzas with the deftness of a high-end, white-tablecloth joint but without the hushed self-importance, Etta hits the sweetest of spots. The menu is full of modern, creative touches. The atmosphere is fun. And the food is made with old-school precision.

Start with a clarified piña colada, an eye-opening version that strips the fruity cocktail down to its minimalist essence. The Oaxacan bianco Negroni, which replaces gin with two kinds of mescal and throws in a SoCal-based, orange-tinged amaro, is also delicious.

Whether it’s oysters roasted with a smoky tomato butter; branzino with flawlessly crisp, flame-kissed skin; a fluffy mound of focaccia; or a dish of spicy, gingery shrimp, chef-owner Danny Grant loves to play with fire.

Etta Oysters

Oysters roasted with a smoky tomato butter.

This skill shows in the wood-fired pizzas. The crusts are blistered at the edges, soft and chewy throughout, and never soggy. Pepperoni slices curl up and crisp at the edges exactly as they should, while a stunning seasonal pizza pairs sweet summer corn with even sweeter Jimmy Nardello peppers.

You’ll also taste the flames in the spinalis, a grilled rib eye cap steak served with a side of tomato and arugula. The pasta list is small—just 5 offerings—but each is a work of art. Little twists of pasta in the casareccie Bolognese are perfect for catching the chunky meat sauce. With the cacio e pepe, the kitchen opts for agnolotti instead of a ribbon pasta, all the better to hold the cheesy, peppery sauce. If you have room, the tiramisu ice cream adds a coffee granita and a cocoa nib brittle to brighten the traditional dessert.

Located in the base of The Shay (a boutique hotel brand from Hyatt), Etta is spacious, with a long bar backed by shelves of glowing liquor bottles. Want more? Grant is opening a rooftop bar, Celestina, at The Shay, and he’s planning 10 more Etta locations around the U.S. in the near future.

Etta Bolognese

Casareccie Bolognese

Best dishes: Charred eggplant, bubbling shrimp, meatballs, casareccie Bolognese, cacio e pepe agnolotti, pepperoni pizza, spinalis, tiramisu ice cream.

Dinner prices: Starters, $17–$24; entrées, $26–$66; desserts, $6–$18.

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