Lunching in Los Feliz:
PHOTO by ROSHEILA ROBLES
Little Dom’s seems like it could have inhabited its Hillhurst corner forever. It’s a Los Feliz local packed with the kind of history – street-side chairs reclaimed from the Philadelphia Civic Light Opera and a bar mixing up classic highballs – that’s inevitably endearing. That the one-year-old restaurant has already become a neighborhood favorite isn’t much of a surprise. At least part of that popularity derives from its vision: Little Dom’s doesn’t pull from a different place so much as it does a different time. It’s a restaurant confident in its embrace of the Italian-American cooking of decades past.
Birthed from the minds that created the 101 Coffee Shop and spun off from West Hollywood’s original Dominick’s, Little Dom’s began as a dinner-only spot – a low-lit place to spin forkfuls of pasta and crack into thin-crust pizzas. But the restaurant has slowly grown since those early months, adding breakfast and lunch service, a full liquor license, and now even a separate deli. Judged on dinner alone, Little Dom’s might underwhelm – even the simplest meals can be inconsistent. But with all the new things considered, the restaurant approaches a certain kind of neighborly indispensability.
Of those additions, breakfast is the best. Not only does it draw a more local crowd – newspapers delicately unfolded, dogs waiting patiently at the corner – but breakfast also presents some of the restaurant’s soon-to-be-signature dishes. Essential to any morning here is an order of the ricotta blueberry pancakes. Close to silver dollar size, the pancakes are some of the most pleasing you can find: crisp discs studded with molten berries that seem to sprout up from each cake’s tender center. If you want protein with your pancakes, you can also pick up a side of Italian sausage – meaty pucks peppered with fennel seeds.
Sweetening things even more is the Nutella panino, a sandwich that balances the chocolate-hazelnut spread with a little mascarpone cheese. There are roasted eggs and frittatas, too, both of which are good but sometimes overshadowed by specials like the recent salmon paillard in a cream of porcini mushroom sauce.
Lunch is an equally appealing option because it includes some of the restaurant’s strongest dinner dishes. Arancini, for example, find room on the lunch menu – ping pong-ball-sized scoops of rice formed around a creamy slice of burrata cheese and then fried. Little Dom’s also offers a number of other appetizers, including a pleasantly light roasted chicken and celery root salad.
L.A.’s top pizza practitioners (Mozza, Riva and the like) have expanded the traditional definition of a classic pie, and Little Dom’s keeps the trend going with creations like a smoked salmon flatbread. But the best pizzas here are those that return to simplicity, with the Margherita pizza being the ultimate example.
There are sandwiches if you prefer – a classic meatball and a tuna melt, among others – but the wood-fired burger is worth the diversion. Though it can end up on the dry side, the burger is saved by two important toppings: a roasted tomato mostarda and some crispy speck ham, a paper-thin stand-in for the usual bacon.
The deli at Little Dom’s is still in its infancy, but it’s already serving takeout staples like pasta salads, sandwiches and, on its opening day, a sweet focaccia that matched rosemary with grapes, blueberries and blackberries. To stimulate business, the restaurant has also instituted a regular Monday night supper, which, for $15, nets you a three-course meal of dishes like minestrone, sausage and peppers, and a trifle.
You can’t compose a single exotic meal at Little Dom’s, but that’s always been the appeal – even its updated flavors still cull inspiration from the classics. But Little Dom’s hasn’t stopped building. Restaurants that fail to adapt don’t just fall out of favor – they drop out of existence. But by the time Little Dom’s finishes evolving, it might just have its own history to celebrate.
Little Dom’s, 2128 Hillhurst Ave., Los Feliz, (323) 661-0055. Open daily 8 a.m.-3 p.m. and 6 p.m.-11 p.m. Street parking. Full bar. Food for two: $20-$50. littledoms.com.