Bestia is hands down one of the best restaurants in Los Angeles. It first opened its doors in the Arts District back in 2012, and to this day, it is still the biggest restaurant that's opened in LA in the past decade; in addition to that, it put the neighborhood on the map as a restaurant destination.
As of right now, I can confidently say Bestia is one of my top favorite restaurants in Los Angeles. When you walk into Bestia, you don't just get great food – you get incredible food, outstanding service, and an experience. More on that later; let's start with how it all began.
Ori Menashe and Genevieve Gergis are husband and wife, chef and pastry chef, and the visionaries behind Bestia.
Ori Menashe and Genevieve Gergis were both born in the Los Angeles area; however, Menashe and his family moved to Israel, where he spent the majority of his formative years, while Genevieve stayed in California.
Menashe grew up traveling with his family and was exposed to fine dining all over the world, but it wasn't until his yearlong stay to South America with friends that he realized his passion for cooking. Meanwhile, Genevieve Gergis, a self-taught pastry chef, started baking out of the necessity of satisfying her dessert cravings while in school to be a classical French horn player.
In 2001, Menashe returned to Los Angeles from South America to pursue his culinary career. He got his first kitchen job at an Israeli cafe and then took a job at La Terza, where Genevieve Gergis was a hostess, and they met for the first time.
After that, Menashe spent a lot of his time in the kitchens of Nancy Silverton's Pizzeria Mozza, All' Angelo, and under the legendary chef Gino Angelini at Angelini Osteria. Then, in 2010, Menashe and Gergis decided it was finally time to pursue their long-awaited dream of opening a restaurant together.
In their book, Bestia Italian Recipes Created In The Heart of L.A, Genevieve says, "Bestia is a restaurant that never should have worked."
They were two self-taught chefs that nobody even knew. While Ori had worked in several restaurants before, he was never the type to be showy or take credit, and as a result of that, very few people outside of the restaurant industry knew who he was. And Genevieve had never worked in a professional kitchen, so there was that insecurity as well. On top of that, the two decided to open an ambitious-sized restaurant on a dead-end street amidst nothing but empty warehouses and a strip club. It wasn't exactly a recipe for success, or so they thought.
"I walked through the dorm, and even though it was all under construction and still broken up into three different apartments, I saw the potential in all of the metal, the exposed ceiling, the bones. It was beautiful and ugly all at the same time. And then I walked out into the courtyard with fig trees and cactus and the sound of foundation and stillness. I got back into my car, called Genevieve, and said, "I found it." - Ori.
Genevieve and Ori were thrilled about this next step in their life. Ori was confident about the food; the menu would be Italian and feature amplified but less Traditional food. It would be authentically his style. He wanted to focus on meat and serve off-cuts like pan-seared chicken gizzards and grilled beef heart while also bringing in whole animals for house-cured salumi and steaks grilled over a wood fire.
The investors that tried Ori's food all loved it – but many pulled out when they saw the space, and yet Ori and Genevieve, against all odds, built a successful and incredible restaurant together.
Today, Bestia has evolved. They cover over 500 people a night, and the neighborhood itself has changed drastically. The Arts District now is more hip and full of lofts, cafes, and different types of shops.
The food remains as incredible as it was on day one, as Bestia's philosophy is, "Don't fix what isn't broken. Just make sure it continues to be excellent."
Bestia is a raw and industrial space that drips with character. You'll find integrations such as tile, marble, steel, and wood also provide pops of festive color.
Bestia, which is Italian for "Beast," echoes throughout the space through hard-edged design elements, like the wall covering's pattern of bar-fight weapons and intimidating meat-hook chandeliers suspended from soaring steel tracks. The tile in the bathroom looks unfinished. There are a lot of hexagonal patterns, warm amber tones, and airy booth seating that help soften the slightly aggressive industrial space and adds a bit of flair. The booths are engineered and built by District Millworks, a furniture maker in Redlands, California.
You'll notice a raw-copper bar top that provides a canvas that will continue changing throughout its lifetime as artisanal cocktails are created on it.
The emphasis on sustainable ingredients and products can be found not only on the menu but in the design of the space as well. Working with designer Greg Bleier, Genevieve sourced the contemporary elements from local artisans, who rely on reclaimed materials to create the unique elements found within Bestia, from the light fixtures to the stools and tables.
Bestia is a multi-faceted rustic Italian restaurant that prioritizes a "from scratch" approach, offering house-made charcuterie, handmade pasta, and pizza made in an Acunto oven. Gergis's desserts focus on a clean and minimal approach to create an evolving menu that is centered on the local and fresh ingredients.
Perhaps one of the most beautiful aspects of this restaurant is that Menashe and Gergis work together to create a true husband and wife restaurant.
In terms of food, while Bestia's food is influenced by Italian flavors and culture, the majority of the dishes also draw inspiration from what's local, fresh, and seasonal. For example, if you try the lamb ragu, you'll pick up the aroma of fig leaves. If you take a peek at the front patio, you'll notice the giant fig tree shading the patio.
In addition to that, when Ori creates recipes, he utilizes their life experiences, travels, and daily dishes to create authentic and original recipes.
"More than any geographic region or culinary canon, the foods of Bestia are a reflection of our combined life experiences, and more importantly, our desire to extract the most flavor we can from the highest quality ingredients."
Also, Bestia is dedicated to zero waste practices and sustainability.
I've lived in Los Angeles for almost five years now, and this was my first experience at Bestia, and I can confidently say it will not be the last. For starters, it took a while to get the reservation; I did book it in advance and highly recommend anyone else to do the same.
The dress code is casual but more on the trendy and classy side. I came in on a Friday night at 7 pm, and it was packed. We sat at the bar, and there were several tables which are sort of booth-style and retro, a courtyard, and a few communal tables as well. One of my many favorite parts about this specific experience was that it was extremely gloomy that evening, and you could see it from their massive windows.
I was seated quickly and actually had a fabulous view of the garde manger chef; typically, the Garde-Manger is the chef in charge of cold food, for example, salads, chilled soups, pates, caviar, etc., and I don't know about you, but there's something refreshing about being able to actually see your food being prepared. That evening alone, I saw the chef prepare over two dozen Herb-Caesar Salads with romaine endive, Parmigiano, squid ink breadcrumbs, and lemon zest. A clear favorite in the restaurant, and while I didn't get that, it's on my "to try next" list.
We started our meal with drinks, and per the server's recommendation, I went with the Angel from the Coast with reposado tequila, amaretto, apricot, lemon, and black pepper. This drink was a solid 10/10 for me. It was unique in flavor, slightly sweet, and the amaretto paired nicely with the apricot.
For an appetizer, I opted for the Housemade Buttermilk Ricotta with aged balsamic, fennel pollen, herb oil, lava salt, and a side of grilled bread. Here's the thing, I genuinely wanted to love this dish, and it was good, but I mixed ricotta with burrata in my mind, so I would not order this specific dish again. However, it was eaten and enjoyed by my guest.
The next appetizer I tried did indeed blow my mind – I read hundreds of reviews from people raging about the Roasted Marrow Bone with spinach gnocchetti, crispy bread crumbs, and aged balsamic. Now, I've never tried Bone Marrow before, and I'm not a fan of spinach, but this dish was beyond incredible. For how simple it was, it had an abundant amount of flavor, and the spinach gnocchetti was delicious and al-dente; the bone marrow melts in your mouth, and right as the server brings it to you, they scrape it out of the bone, and mix it into the pasta.
It's a transcendent plate. Rich, buttery, and crunchy, you'll end up fighting your partner or whoever else you're with for the final bite.
Prioritize this dish, not only because bone marrow has numerous health benefits, but because it's an experience in itself and delicious. Next time, I'm ordering two.
That was it for appetizers, but next time, as mentioned, I'd definitely try the Herb-Caesar Salad, as it was ordered every two minutes by other guests, and the salumi, according to their book and research I did online, chef Ori is passionate about curing meats and utilizing absolutely everything from the animal. They offer a gigantic selection of house-cured meats that changes daily, ensuring you get a mix of meats you know and don't know, and the result is the best salumi plate in the city.
Next, wood-fired pizza. For those of you who are new here, I am a pizza fanatic. It's my favorite food of all time, tying in with steak in first place. The pizza at Bestia is probably one of the best I've had outside of Gjelina, another favorite restaurant of mine.
There are currently five different types of pizza. There's a margarita with San Marzano tomatoes, mozzarella, basil, olive oil, and sea salt – simple, but I'd bet anybody it's most likely one of the best margaritas out there. Then there's a burrata with san Marzano tomatoes, castelvetrano olives, oregano, and fermented chilies – I debated on this one because I'm in a burrata phase, right now, and castelvetrano olives are fantastic on a pizza. Next, there's a Leek & Gorgonzola pizza with mozzarella, dill, oregano, poppyseed, and black pepper – I feel that this one sounds adventurous; maybe next time.
Next up is Sage & Mortadella with grana padano, caciocavallo and aged balsamic. This pizza is on my "try next" list.
Finally, our winner: Spicy Lamb Sausage, a sweet and savory style of a pizza with spicy sausage that was to die for, confit tomato, red onion, which, let's face it, makes everything taste better, and sliced chilies – all on the most perfect chewy-crispy crust they had perfected years ago.
I urge you to order this pizza or at least try one of them because they're probably all phenomenal, but you can't go wrong with spicy sausage.
There's a small selection of pasta and entrees, which, to be quite honest, I love. There's nothing worse than having 20+ different options. I prefer when a restaurant scales the quantity down but elevates the quality, which is what Bestia is good at.
For pasta, you'll probably struggle with choosing one. Everything sounds incredible, which is why I chose two different ones and have a third ready for my "to try next" list. The first one I ordered was the infamous Cavatelli alla Norcina – ricotta dumplings, black truffles, pork sausage, and Grana Padano. Flavor, flavor, flavor. If I had to make a list of top pasta in Los Angeles, this one would be at the top.
The second one was Ricotta Tortellini – with guanciale, zia tomatoes, cream and calabrian chili. It was delicious, but the Cavatelli has my heart for life.
On my "to try next" is the Sourdough Quadretti – with chicken liver and pork sausage, brown butter, Grana Padano, button mushrooms, and sage. This dish sounds adventurous due to the chicken liver, but I reckon it's incredible, especially considering the numerous positive reviews about it.
In terms of entrees, I decided to skip out as the pasta and pizza were too good – but there's a Grilled Whole Branzino with crispy seeds, chili, basil, and lime that seems to be all the rage on Yelp. I've never tried an entire fish before, but my next trip to Bestia will most likely be on the more adventurous side, so I might have it next.
I'm never satisfied with a meal unless I have something sweet to end it off with, and Bestia is known for its desserts as Genevieve is the pastry chef.
You'll find things like Strawberry Crostata with frangipane, roasted blueberries, strawberry Tahitian vanilla bean whipped cream, or their infamous Chocolate Budino Tart with salted caramel, cacao crust, olive oil, and sea salt; there's also a cherry cobbler with mascarpone and a honey and hazelnut nougat semifreddo with dark chocolate stracciatella.
I wish I could tell you I tried each and every one of those desserts, but I opted for the Strawberry Crostata, which was very unlike me, considering I'm a die-hard chocolate-for-dessert type of person, but this strawberry crostata was a fantastic choice. It tasted fresh, flakey, and the strawberry vanilla bean whipped cream was impeccable.
On my "to try next" list, I'm going for the chocolate budino tart.
As mentioned multiple times at this point, Bestia is one of the best restaurants you'll go to in Los Angeles. The atmosphere, the vibe, the ambiance – all of it is something anybody in Los Angeles should experience, and pair all of those things with phenomenal food; well, you've got a hit. It's no wonder Bestia has been such a raging success.
Don't forget to make reservations in advance for this spot; there is valet parking, and prepare for traffic if you're on the west side going downtown. However, to be quite frank, it's all worth it, and the drive back will be significantly quicker.
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