FRANCO ON MELROSE
A HIDDEN DINING GEM
Along busy and trendy Melrose Avenue, tucked neatly between La Brea and Highland Avenues, is an Italian cuisine respite. You may not notice it from the street or you may not think it looks like much from the outside, but Franco on Melrose is legit and offers wonderfully authentic Italian fare.
From executive chef and owner Franco de Dominicis, Franco on Melrose serves traditional cuisine inspired by his own hometown region of the Amalfi coast in Italy. Born in Caracas, Venezuela and raised in Southern Italy—in his family’s 2,600-year-old hometown famous for its ancient Greek and Roman archeological ruins—Chef Franco was originally brought to Los Angeles by the esteemed Drago family to open Il Buco in Beverly Hills. Right there, with Chef’s connection to the Dragos, to me, means he’s the real thing. The Dragos are responsible for some of the best Italian eats in Los Angeles and I’m impressed that Chef Franco is a peer of theirs.
At Franco on Melrose, Chef Franco has created quite the dining experience. Step inside and your expectations will be turned upside down as you actually walk through the kitchen first. It almost feels like you’re walking into a quaint pizza joint but keep going forward and you’ll make your way into a beautiful courtyard just perfect for a wonderful dining getaway. The space is perfect for a romantic dinner or any special celebration.
During our recent visit for dinner, our big group ate family style working our way through the impressive menu. We started with the pleasing Winter Salad—a fine mix of spice infused poached beets, arugula, radicchio endive, goat cheese, and orange pomegranate dressing. The gold beets and the goat cheese added a richness to this fine salad.
Great starter items include the Polipo Grigliato—seared octopus with fingerling potato with lemon-parsley extra virgin—along with the Zucchini Blossom, think herb ricotta stuffed and fried squash blossoms, rustic basil-tomato, black olive tapenade. Likewise, the Burrata Caprese with organic heirloom tomatoes, “Di Stefano Burrata”, extra virgin olive oil and Genovese Pesto, is light and fresh and delicious.
I was a big fan of the Polpette—pork and beef meatball with tomato basil and parmesan. Talk about tasty! I would consider this a must-have among the appetizers.
We shared several big plates, including the Ravioli Zucca, an absolutely delicious roasted butternut squash ravioli with brown butter sage and Parmiggiano. I’m a big fan of butternut squash pasta and this dish was light but at the same time so rich and flavorful.
The Orecciette—broccoli Rapini puree, pork sausage, Calabria pepper winter peas, and Parmiggiano—was a delicious and decadent dish.
And the Creekstone Farm slow braised oxtail ragu with fava bean Parmiggiano was a total treat. I wish there had been more to go around but when you eat family style you have to be quick. And this dish is just so damn pleasing you would probably want more even if you had a full order.
The last of our big plate’s included the Branzino—a favorite of mine. The herb Mediterranean branzino, with sautéed spinach, roasted Yukon, Castelveltrano olive, and lemon reduction was good but by this point my expectations may have been too high. It was solid but not extraordinary. Likewise, the Pollo Ripieno—“Mary’s Farm” pan roasted chicken breast stuffed with spinach, apricots and plums, sauté Swiss chard roasted potato and Rosemary-roasted garlic sauce—was pleasing but not quite on par with some of our pastas and oxtail dishes. Don’t get me wrong, this was a solid chicken dish and I rarely order chicken when I go out for dinner but I think we had hit on some of the menu winners earlier.
Our dessert was pretty outstanding I must say. We enjoyed the Vanilla Bean Panna Cotta with fresh seasonal berries, which wasn’t too heavy or dessert overload. Instead it was nice and clean and ended our dynamic dinner on a soothing note.
Good food, fine wine, lovely company in a beautiful setting is pretty much all you can ask for when you dine out. And Franco on Melrose offers just that. I’m so happy to find this dining gem in my very own neighborhood. I now have a new walkable go-to place for fine, authentic Italian cuisine.
Franco on Melrose is located at 6919 Melrose Ave. Open daily for dinner. Call 323-934-3390.
Some Photography Courtesy Of: Franco on Melrose
Story by Jose Martinez