(Clockwise from top left) In a vast warehouse space in Gardena, Eatalían Cafe is delighting locals and foodies alike with its authentic Italian offerings, including pizza, farm-fresh grilled vegetables with parmigiano-reggiano, and house-made gelati.
Setting: A white-and-glass warehouse space; old movies and soccer matches are projected on a big white wall
Service: Amateurish, but friendly and hard-working
Best dishes: Grilled vegetables with parmigiano; thin-crust pizzas; gnocchi with four cheeses; gelati
Dinner prices: Starters, $4–$5.50; entrées, $6–$15; desserts, $1.50–$4
I don’t think I’ve ever seen happier diners than the ones filling every table and counter seat at Eatalían. Even now, several months after its opening, the many regulars simply cannot believe their good fortune—that an excellent, inexpensive, authentic Italian trattoria opened in this Gardena warren of warehouses and light-industrial businesses. Other than a McDonald’s and some basic Mexican spots (and good Japanese food a few miles west), there aren’t many places to eat at around here. But now there’s Eatalían, and it is so good that it’s attracting not just local warehouse folks but food lovers from miles around. It got a bit rocky after a rave review in the Los Angeles Times brought huge crowds, but now things have settled down, and the kitchen is more consistent.
Emilia-Romagna native Antonio Pellini took over this vast former textile factory with plans to make cheeses, baked goods, and gelati, but then he figured with all that space, he might as well put in a brick pizza oven and serve lunch and dinner. His pizzas are proper Italians: Thin of crust and light of cheese, they are both delicate and deeply satisfying, a perfect main dish for one person or shared starter for the table. (Eat them quickly—they’re so thin and light that they cool fast.) As for the pastas, some are better than others. Try the penne with speck and trevigiano (an Italian radicchio) and the light gnocchi with a not-so-light four-cheese sauce, and you’ll be very happy. Wine lovers should take note that this is a BYOB place—with no corkage fee.
To start, consider the plate of colorful grilled vegetables topped with shavings of excellent parmigiano-reggiano; to conclude, there are very good cannoli and tiramisu, but they pale when compared to the perfection of the gelati, served in little cups, a cone, or sandwiched between sweet focaccina. I prefer the Nutella and the pistachio; but really, they’re all wonderful. Add a flawless espresso from the serious machine, and you’ve just gone to Emilia-Romagna by way of the 110 Freeway.
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