Opened in 2015, Spartina is a modern Italian trattoria, with sophisticated food and stylish flair. The extensive menu offers everything from grilled avocado to pizzas, and the exquisite pastas are as unique as they are tasty, from the cauliflower to the Burrata Ravioli with Sea Urchin.
Chef and owner Stephen Kalt is in his element here, creating something quite different than the original, New York iteration of Spartina. That Tribeca dining spot melded tastes from Spain and North Africa to contemporary Italian, a unique fusion that was like nothing else when the restaurant opened in 1994.
Kalt did not immediately open Spartina after moving to L.A., rather, he got the lay of the land, its variety of ethnic eateries, spices, and styles, and absorbed the city’s delight in al fresco dining spots. He has included these elements in his new restaurant. With a capacious patio as airy and bright as many of the dishes on the menu, Spartina offers rich and perfect Italian cuisine, but it also takes those dishes to a new, fresh place—one that thrives on the freshness of local farmers’ market produce and a sunny California flavor palette.
In the starters section of the menu alone, you can find fried cauliflower, tomatillo salsa verde, parmigiano reggiano as one dish, a surprisingly light and textured grilled avocado, with Moroccan lemon, Calabrian chili oil, and ricotta salata as another. Mains can be as simple as a perfect margarita pizza, or as layered and lush as buckwheat pappardelle, Brussels sprouts, bacon, fontina d’aosta, and sage.
Kalt worked at Caulfield’s when he first moved to Los Angeles, but built Spartina when he found a space he liked on Melrose Ave. The name may be the same as his original New York City enclave, but the emphasis on regional Italian cuisine and the diversity of ingredients from many different parts of Los Angeles are as fresh as the crispy sweet Gem Caeser salad.
Kalt’s fresh ingredient-driven cuisine is in some ways quintessentially Californian, while maintaining an emphasis on Italian fare. Examples include Burrata Raviolo with sea urchin, shiso and basil, or the pizza with clams and whipped ricotta. Ingredients such as Calabrian chiles or fresh pistachios add a flavorful zing to dishes. Desserts are nothing like the tired tiramisu on so many Italian menus in town. Here diners will find a lemon tart, a walnut tart, and sweets that defy categorization.
On Saturday and Sunday, Kalt moves into brunch territory with a deft hand. Served all day, breakfast items include raspberry filled bombolini, or a frittata with mushrooms, onions, avocado, and potatoes. A more lunch driven menu is also offered after 11:30 a.m., with choices such as an arugula salad or pork meatballs with salsa verde Genovese. There’s pasta and paninis, and even a cast iron burger with beef belly and caramelized onions, melted fontina, and fries.
As eclectic a menu as it is an Italian feast, Spartina is also a gathering spot, welcoming and bright, lively and open. It is hardly a surprise, although it is a very good idea, that the restaurant even has its own “Spartina Social Club,” in which diners who post positive words about the restaurant on social media from Facebook to Instagram – and use the hash tag #spartinasocial club – get deals and discounts when dining. The restaurant also has Monday night specials with food and beverages ranging from $5 to $15 all night. And, there’s a pizza happy hour nightly, with $10 pizzas from 5:30 to 7.
So taste the fusion of Italian and Californian, and enjoy the food and the family vibe as Kalt transforms Melrose Ave. to a little slice of Italy with California style.
7505 Melrose Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90046