Several of our favorite dinner experiences in LA have been at the Terroni in the Fairfax district, near West Hollywood. It is well designed, has an intimate atmosphere, the service is always great, and I’ve never eaten anything there I didn’t love. Admittedly those favorite dinners also included some of our favorite people, but we always had a blast and felt inclined to stay for an extended dinner and plenty of great wine. So when we heard they were opening a location in Downtown LA (closer to where we live now), we kept an eye on its progress. We finally went there this weekend to check it out, and I was particularly excited to see the interior design after seeing some teaser photos during construction.
The downtown Terroni is located at 8th and Spring, in the old National City Bank building. Above the restaurant are some loft apartments, part of the gentrification that we’ve been seeing downtown over the past six years or so. When we first walked in, straight ahead was this awesome bar. Comfortable seats, slick, moody overhead pendant lamps, and highly designed wood set the tone. Especially striking was the under counter lighting that highlighted the texture of the wood on the bar. Around the bar were plenty of bar-style place settings. It felt like an updated version of the Terroni we have grown so familiar with, and I could just imagine this space packed with people eating, drinking, and laughing the night away. But it was right about then that I realized it was 7:30 and the place was nowhere near to becoming packed. I know that’s early for dinner for some folks, but usually we find that’s prime dining time at most of our favorite places, so we always make a reservation to eat at that time of night. I was surprised not to see more people there. I loved this striking modern chandelier, set over a large table right by the window (presumably so it can also be seen from outside). The hostess walked us around to the other side of the bar, where the larger dining room was located. Immediately I was loving all the original architectural details that they not only kept, but accentuated. My favorite bit of history was the ornamentation on the ceiling, just the kind of thing you would see on an LA Conservancy tour. And I loved that they were still able to include the modern sculptural design and red accents that play into Terroni’s Italian theme.The space was equipped with huge arched windows, another original architectural detail they embraced in designing this space. I loved the way the space looked. But after we were seated, I noticed that something didn’t quite feel right. I think a big part of it was that when we first arrived, the sun was still making its way down, so there was a significant amount of natural light spilling into the huge windows. The space was so open that, combined with the daylight and the booth-style seating throughout most of the dining area, there was something reminiscent of a food court or franchise restaurant. Also, all the walls were painted white. My personal opinion is that they need to do something to darken the space during daylight to make it feel more intimate. Plus, the service was good but way fast. We went there for a leisurely date night, but instead they had us in and out in 45 minutes. Not exactly the leisurely night out we were hoping for. (We went elsewhere for drinks afterward, because we weren’t ready to end the evening yet!) The still included their signature projected old black and white Italian movies. And we were enjoying trying to figure out this map, which was on the wall behind me in the booth. We think it’s some sort of recipe map. And my husband the foodie is always a fan of an open kitchen, so he can watch the bustle behind the scenes. I was loving that they had continued the awesome wood pattern and under counter lighting here from the front bar. As we were leaving, feeling a bit rushed out to be honest, we happened by this back room. Now, this is the environment we were hoping for. Intimate but modern, and the kind of place you could really take your time chatting over a glass (or three) of wine. Unfortunately this room is reserved for large parties only, but I really wanted to have dinner there. Who knows, maybe I’ll have a birthday party there or something sometime. (Although admittedly for a smaller, intimate dinner with my husband or just a couple friends, I probably won’t go back here. I will stay loyal to my Terroni on Beverly and Fairfax.) To me, this is a fantastic restaurant environment, which I would have loved to see continued throughout the whole space.
What makes a successful dining environment for you?