Andiamo: New Jersey-Style Italian Red Sauce Spot in Silver Lake [CLOSED]

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Andiamo is a rare red sauce Italian restaurant in Silver Lake.

Growing up in New Jersey, I was surrounded by neighborhood Italian restaurants. My family would order takeout at least once a week to get the necessary dose of southern Italian red sauce. Since moving to Los Angeles nine years ago, I never managed to find a West Coast equivalent, until March 8, when Andiamo debuted in Silver Lake. Of course, New Jersey restaurants like Dimaio’s didn’t have cornstarch silverware or plates made from sugar cane pulp, but Andiamo comes pretty close to matching the neighborhood restaurants of my youth.

Anthony Spinella was raised in Morris Plains, New Jersey, just miles from my hometown. He was repeatedly implored by his grandfather (a former chef in Brooklyn) not to follow in his example, citing the grueling hours. Spinella “wound up gravitating to it anyway,” attending the French Culinary Institute in Manhattan. His first review came while he was heading the kitchen at Truffles in Meyersville, three-and-a-half stars from The Star Ledger. This propelled him to an eight year run with Peregrines, a fine dining restaurant in the Atlantic City Hilton. A lifelong New Jerseyan, Spinella was lured to the West Coast by his mother’s cousin, who hired him to run the kitchen at Villa Abbate in Rancho Mirage. In 2006, the move paid off in two-and-a-half stars from LA Times restaurant critic S. Irene Virbila.

Two hours west in Los Angeles, Billy Basha and wife Megan Dillon were both working in television production when they came up with an idea to partner an eco-friendly approach with Italian food. Since Billy’s brother is married to Anthony’s sister, they thought to bring Spinella in on the idea. He was instantly energized, coming up with the name – “Let’s go” in Italian – and wrote the menu based on old family recipes. The trio opened their restaurant in Silver Lake on March 8.

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Prior to Andiamo, Basha worked construction for television shows, which helped when transforming a rundown Filipino restaurant.

Basha wrapped wood boxes with orange vinyl from a local upholsterer. The color orange is pervasive, since Basha and his wife think the color gives off “positive energy.” The walls feature paintings from local artists like Rick Kurek. Community support extends to the music selection. Expect to hear Silver Lake bands like Pink Enemy, who just played SXSW.

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Chef Spinella uses produce from local growers, heading to the Silver Lake farmers market on Saturdays, but he tends to rely on Sicilian recipes like Spiedini ($8.50), savory meatball and mozzarella skewers, breaded and baked until golden, then plated on a zesty marinara sauce pool.

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Rosalia’s Peppers ($7.50), named for Spinella’s grandmother, were equally delicious, sweet bell peppers sautéed in olive oil with breadcrumbs, sprinkled with oregano and Caciocavallo cheese. Many of Spinella’s dishes incorporate breadcrumbs, which he describes as “an old Sicilian trick.”

Spinella has never worked in a pizzeria, which he says helped him to avoid any preconceptions. He said, “We used to have pizza on Sunday nights as part of family dinner. The concept is based on making good bread.” At Andiamo, he went with a stone oven because it allows for a “ nice, hot, even temperature” and “contact with the stone.” Spinella only offers whole pies, either 8, 14 or 18 inches. In a nod to health-conscious locals, he offers a whole-wheat crust, but we went for the old school “New York Style Hand Tossed.”

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The 8-inch Primavera ($8) sported roasted eggplant, zucchini, mushrooms, onions, herbs and crumbled feta.

Primavera was a pretty nice pie, but wasn’t as compelling as the Signore Roberto we ate on a previous visit, which comes piled with mozzarella, sweet Italian sausage, capicola, prosciutto, salami, Sicilian olives and fresh herbs. Neither crust was suitably pliable.

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The Andiamo! ($25) was a gargantuan Sicilian-style pizza that intimidated the entire table.

Andiamo’s signature pizza came buried in wild mushrooms, artichoke hearts, onions, anchovies, breadcrumbs, olive oil and Caciocavallo shavings. Despite the avalanche of browned-in-the-oven toppings, the crust improbably managed to remain dry. Too dry at the base. This was such a substantial pizza that four people each left with two slices.

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Andiamo allows customers to mix and match five pastas and seven sauces. Alon paired rigatoni with Rosa (vodka sauce) that came sprinkled with fresh herbs.

Italian Desserts Los Angeles

Spinella makes his Cannoli ($4.50) with shells imported from New Jersey, since they use vinegar, which allows for nice bubbling.

Andiamo fills cannoli shells to order with fresh ricotta, which was infinitely fluffier than typically pasty pastry case versions. Instead of being studded with low-grade chocolate chips, the cannoli were flavored with orange zest. Scoops of espresso gelato came from Pazzo Gelato down the street, flecked with finely ground espresso beans.

Andiamo has only been open a month, and as Chef Spinella becomes more familiar with farmers markets, I expect the restaurant to get even better. For now, it’s already a welcome casual addition to the Silver Lake dining scene.


Joshua Lurie

Joshua Lurie founded FoodGPS in 2005. Read about him here.

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