Kevin dropped this review on a spot in Tustin (looks super good!) but I disagree with the statements that it’s hard to find red sauce Italian places in LA (not sure about OC…)
Not only are there plenty of red sauce Italian restaurants, they’re still very popular on every price point. Consider: Vito (crazy busy in SaMo), La Dolce Vita (BH), Dan Tana’s, and Madeo. Peppone, Matteo’s, Pace, Guido’s are still kicking around. On the outskirts, Pinocchio, Little Toni’s, Petrillo’s, Casa Bianca, heck even Scarantino’s is still serving in what I’m pretty sure is a mobster-owned place in Glendale. Andre’s, Jones Hollywood, Jon & Vinny’s (yes, this is red sauce Italian despite the modern look), and Little Dom’s. Anyway, it’s inspired us to do a map of it on Eater LA, so it’ll be easier to find them and enjoy some spaghetti and meatballs!
While I’m not a fan of the hype or scene, I’d have to go with Rao’s. Their meatball recipe is what I make at home and very close to what my grandmother - who grew up on Mulberry St. in NYC - made with her Sunday gravy.
I gave up on going to the LA Rao’s after some brutal early reviews. BUt it has somewhat rebounded on yelp–with an average of four stars. I will say, it has very few reviews given how long it’s been around now, suggesting business is not great.
my office is across the street from Matteo’s/Little Taste of Hoboken…i grew up eating often in Bronx red sauce/checkered table cloths restaurants…Hoboken is my go to for spaghetti & meat balls, baked ziti, caesar salad w/wo chicken…
It’s funny, this was the “cheap stuff” when I was growing up - homestyle food we often consumed in the kitchens and dining rooms of family and friends or ate as a weeknight cheapie restaurant dinner - but time and distance have somehow elevated humble dishes like spaghetti and meatballs to special occasion dining. This is especially true of places like Rao’s or Tana’s, that charge an arm and a leg for these sorts of red sauce dishes. $30 bucks for lasagna… ridiculous.