We have favorite restaurants for various reasons but when we’re asked these days what our overall favorite downtown restaurant is, it’s hard not to say The Factory Kitchen. Why do we love it so much? Partly because it’s so much fun to Uber over there with friends who’ve never been, and watch their faces as the driver heads down what appears to be an alley to nowhere. There’s a vertical neon sign that marks the spot but if you’re not paying attention, it’s easy to end up at the L.A. Gun Club at the end of the street.
But once up Factory Kitchen’s worn cement steps and inside the door of this old red brick former factory building, you’re welcomed by a room full of people. That’s the first impression which, I think, is all in the design. The space is open, the floor is concrete, the chairs are a little modern, the simple tables are made from reclaimed wood–but what really stands out is the community vibe of the restaurant where the people, food, and beverages are the standout ambiance elements–not the decor.
The menu has one of the most creative and varied assortment of Italian dishes that we’ve ever seen. It’s experimental but not “out there.” Among the dishes we love are the delicate little soft cheese stuffed sweet & spicy peppers. Factory does an amped-up version of a dinner salad with field greens, spring onion, radicchio, dates and goat cheese with a champagne vinaigrette. And frittura — puffy, light baby leek, beer batter chick pea fritters go really well with that first glass of wine.
There are two must-have entrees–the mandilli di seta, described as handkerchief pasta with ligurian almond basil pesto. Be careful, though, if you’ve sworn off carbs–should you succumb to a taste of this as a shared plate, don’t be surprised if you wake up in the middle of the night craving another mouthful of these delicate, house made thin sheets of pasta with their cloud-like filling! The other crave-worthy entree that makes you wonder “How DO they DO this?!” is the porchetta. This rolled pork belly cooked with aromatic herbs, fennel and their version of the holy trinity–carrots, celery and red onion; is almost a religious experience as the flavors of the pork and juices come together with those crispy pieces of pork fat. Did I say “religious?”–this one might require confession!
Side plates are as tempting as all the other menu options. our favorites are the cipolline, warm, balsamic-glazed small onions; ortaggi all’ agro which is a righteous combination of steamed kale, green chard, spinach and shallots cooked in ligurian olive oil; and the patate novelle-crisp on the outside and soft on the inside oven-roasted new potatoes with fine herbs.
The well-curated wine list represents a tour of Italy’s wine regions with a few hop-overs to California. Beers include Milano lager and some options from DTLA’s own Angel City brewery. The full bar has some inventive cocktail options –the Sweet Jane with barrel aged genever, rhubarb and lavender honey and the Italian Stallion made with fernet branca, lemon and ginger. I have no idea what either of those liquors are but someday I may be adventurous enough to find out. .. If you’ve ever tried them…let me know!