THE FACTORY KITCHEN
FINE ITALIAN FARE IN DOWNTOWN’S ARTS DISTRICT
I have to admit—probably the only thing not impressive about The Factory Kitchen, a fantastic trattoria serving traditional Italian fare in the heart of the Arts District in Downtown LA, is its name. It doesn’t tell you anything. You might think it’s a place you can buy kitchen supplies, but it sure doesn’t tell you anything about its first rate food. Actually, The Factory Kitchen takes its name from the street it’s located on and the complex that hosts it, but rest assured, the restaurant’s soul is wholeheartedly Italian.
Located in a somewhat sketchy and industrial area of downtown LA, fear not, the neighborhood isn’t as bad as nearby Church & State, and the actual block where the restaurant is located has been built up nicely. There’s definitely an energy in the area and it continues inside the lively and modern dining room.
The Factory Kitchen is the creation of Chef Angelo Auriana, the former chef at Valentino in Santa Monica, regarded as the grandest Italian restaurant in town, and restaurateur Matteo Ferdinandi who most recently ran the front of the house at Drago Centro. The Factory Kitchen offers guests fine-dining cuisine, but in a casual, comfortable environment. Honestly, dinner at The Factory Kitchen was one of the best meals I had in all of 2013.
“We are thrilled to bring a restaurant that features our Italian roots to LA’s Arts District,” says Ferdinandi. “We want to offer upscale, elegant cuisine and a meticulously thought out wine list to our customers, but in a comfortable atmosphere.”
During my visit for dinner, as usual, I started the night with a cocktail. The Sfactory 1923, a mix of St. George terroir gin, carpana antica, and gran classico bitter. It was nice and Negroni-like.
The Italian Stallion, Fernet Blanca, lemon and ginger, was too sweet for my liking. I actually wasn’t very impressed with their bar program. Something that I really did like was the $20 corkage fee. You are allowed up to two bottles of labels not present in their wine list. That helps keep costs down and ensures you like what you drink.
A must-have starter item from the “to begin” section of the menu is the Peperu—soft cheese stuffed sweet and spicy peppers, grana padano, and arugula oil. This dish is phenomenal and so ridiculously flavorful.
Another great appetizer is the Pancotto—duck egg, red potato vellutata, sautéed greens, semolina bread crostone, and speck. This one is a house specialty and it’s decadent and so savory. Think of this as a kind of bread-thickened soup with the broth soaked into the bread.
From the “to continue to share” section of the menu, we chose the Prosciutto, prepared with 24-month parma prosiutto, lightly fried sage dough, and stracciatella (a cheese used to make burrata). Very nice!
From the “to begin Italian style” section of the menu, we shared the Pappardelle, made with taggia olives speckled pasta, duck raga and Italian parsley. Pappardelle are large, very broad, flat pasta noodles whose name derives from “pappare,” which means to gobble up. And we did!
And other house specialty and a dish not to miss is the Mandilli di Seta—handkerchief pasta, Ligurian almond basil pesto, and fiore sardo. This was fantastic! Jonathan Gold of the LA Times called this the “best pasta at Factory Kitchen.” Adding: “thin as fine silk, almost too fragile to pick up with a fork.”
For our entrée, chosen from the “from the sea and land…” section of the menu we went with the Porchetta—rolled pork belly, red onion, carrots, fennel and celery. It was phenomenal! It cut like butter and was seriously a Top 10 dish of the year. It’s so flavorful. Consider this a must-have.
While the cuisine is definitely upscale, the vibe and energy of the room is pretty relaxed, so much so that we started a conversation with the people at the table next to us, one of whom was a regular working his way down the menu. He felt comfortable enough to suggest the Cannoli for dessert. I have to admit, I wasn’t too thrilled about ordering a cannoli but he was so enthusiastic I felt guilty not to. Thank God I did as I swear it was the best cannoli I’ve ever had. It’s big (think Claim Jumper’s size) and rich and decadent and prepared with ricotta filling, pistachios, and orange marmalade. Delicious!
While I definitely want to work my down the menu too, I know I can always go to The Factory Kitchen, order the Peperu, Mandilli de Seta, and Porchetta and have one of the best meals in town…guaranteed for just about $50, which is pretty incredible if you share, unless you want your own private Italian feast. Add the cannoli for $8 if you really want to make a night out of it.
FYI, The Factory Kitchen also serves up a lighter menu for lunch and brunch.
The Factory Kitchen is located at 1300 Factory Place in downtown LA. Hours: Sunday – Thursday, 11am – 10pm and Friday – Saturday, 10am – 11pm. Call 213-996-6000.
By: Jose Martinez.
Photography courtesy of: The Factory Kitchen