The Factory Kitchen is an Italian restaurant that is located in the heart of downtown LA. This trattoria style restaurant is the product of a long-standing friendship between Restaurateur Matteo Ferdinandi and Chef Angelo Auriana. After years of good friendship between the two passionate professionals, Ferdinandi and Auriana decided to channel their Italian culture and warm memories of food and hospitality into an eating establishment. In the kitchen, Chef Auriana prepares dishes using fresh, seasonal, and locally sourced ingredients. The approachable Factory Kitchen menu highlights the simplicity of traditional local recipes. The Factory Kitchen got its name from the street it’s located on and the complex that hosts it, but the restaurant itself is purely Italian, both inside and out.
I finally tried this place after reading so many food articles about it. I can see why it’s one of the top new places to check out…it’s hip, trendy, and in the Arts District. What more could you ask for?
The Art District
The Factory Kitchen is located in the industrial area known as The Arts District. It occupies the eastern side of Downtown Los Angeles, east of Little Tokyo and west of the LA River. The area is made up of old, abandoned industrial buildings and has become a thriving center for young professionals in creative industries, including L.A.’s huge TV and film industry. The city community planning boundaries are Alameda Street on the west, First Street on the north, the LA River to the east, and Violet Street on the south. Due to its young and hip population, The Arts District is one of the most popular places to be downtown.
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Going about the restaurant is simple. First make a reservation, which can either by done online or through a good old-fashioned phone call. If you don’t have reservation, never fear: the restaurant does in fact take walk-ins. Parking, on the other hand, may be a bit more difficult – which is why there is an option for valet parking. However, if you’re stubborn and don’t feel like paying to get your car parked, then you can go ahead and try to find parking yourself. You’ll get there eventually! Just make sure to come a half hour in advance.
The Founders: Matteo Ferdinandi and Chef Angelo Auriana
Let’s meet the creators of the Factory Kitchen, shall we?
Matteo Ferdinandi grew up in Chioggia, an Italian island south of Venice. Having such strong Italian roots, he knows what it takes to bring an authentic Italian dish to the table. He was introduced to the food industry at a young age thanks to the family bakery and hotel in his hometown.
Ferdinandi started off in a very different career, pursuing a future as a civil engineer. He credits the mathematics and building design courses he had taken as providing the foundation for a successful career as a restaurateur with a focus on Northern Italian regional menus and inventive design concepts.
While attending school, Ferdinandi spent summers in England to improve his English. In the summer of 1986, he began working at an Italian restaurant in Mayfair, preparing salads as a way to earn some pocket money. Once finding himself in the kitchen, Ferdinandi left behind his civil engineering studies to become a member of the food and beverage industry.
Before starting the Factory Place Hospitality Group with his wife Francine and longtime friend Chef Angelo Auriana, Ferdinandi worked for several prominent restaurants, including Wolfgang Puck’s Spago and CUT in Las Vegas and Los Angeles. Since venturing on his own with the opening of The Factory Kitchen (in an impressive nine months and 11 days), Ferdinandi has introduced Angelenos to regional, Northern Italian cuisine in a creative, urban-industrial space located in Downtown Los Angeles’ Arts District.
Growing up in Bergamo, Executive Chef Angelo Auriana would look forward to the special occasion where he would get to dine with his father at business meetings in fancy restaurants. When his father asked what he wanted to do when he grew up, Auriana said that he was going to become a chef. Pursuing his dream, Auriana attended the San Pellegrino Hotel School, and graduated with honors at the age of 17.
The highlight of Auriana’s culinary career was several years later in 1982, when he was asked to open a restaurant in Italy. Shortly after, with his sights set on the United States and the popularity of Miami Vice, Auriana moved to Florida and began working at an Italian restaurant called Stefano’s.
Auriana decided to move to Los Angeles in 1984, hoping to find bigger and better opportunities. He started off by working at an Italian tapas-style restaurant on Pico Boulevard for nine months before joining fellow Italian and restaurateur Piero Selvaggio. After 18 years as executive chef at Selvaggio’s Valentino Ristorante, Auriana ventured to Lake Tahoe, where he opened his own restaurant in 2003. Two years later, he found himself opening Farina in San Francisco’s Marina District before landing back in Los Angeles in 2013 to partner up with Matteo and Francine Ferdinandi for the opening of The Factory Kitchen.
Auriana’s inspiration in the kitchen comes from the heart, drawing from his Italian roots and the flavors and presentation of Northern Italy. Auriana received a diploma from the mayor of his hometown, recognizing the impact of his culinary pursuits in the United States and how he has helped share Bergamo’s culture and traditions through his food. Auriana is also an avid wine collector, with a personal collection that originated in 1985.
The “Factory” Setting
Behind the hard brick facade of Factory Kitchen is a warm, welcoming den, filled with dim lights and bright laughter. And the space in this restaurant fills up fast.
You can tell by the interesting name of the restaurant that the ambiance inside won’t disappoint. Dining inside, surrounded by cement walls, makes you feel like you’re in a well-designed and beautiful factory.
The interior isn’t very spacious, but it has an open industrial feel with large concrete pillars that hold up the ceiling. A modern open stainless steel lined kitchen/prep area with outstanding copper colored heat lamps is on one side of the room. Behind a glass partition, you can see staff working quickly and efficiently at making fresh pasta, and at the other end of the room is a modest but reasonably well-stocked bar. The window side of the room has automatic louvers to temper any direct sunlight, but once night falls, the ambiance turns to a more subdued luminescence without getting too dark.
It could get loud from time to time, but only at night. I would say the overall ambiance is chilled out and retro. The wooden tables add a nice touch.
If you’re someone who can never decide whether to sit inside or out, then you’ll love the Factory Kitchen for saving you the trouble of making a decision – there is only an option of sitting inside.
Assistance Please?: Staff
From my personal experiences there, I would say the staff is pretty top notch. I’ve seen people coming and asking for “ assistance” regarding just about every single part of their dining experience, and the staff remains by their side making sure that the customer is satisfied. I think it’s rare to see people who are genuine and knowledgeable, and I was impressed by their speedy and efficient service.
A Sneak Peak at the Menu…
Okay, now what you’ve all been waiting for… a sneak peak at the menu! You don’t want to be that person who takes longer ordering than actually eating the meal. Be prepared before you go in! Go ahead… take a look at the lunch menu below.
Minestrone – organic vegetable medley soup, basil pesto
Peperu – soft cheese stuffed sweet and spicy peppers, grana padano, arugula oil
Campo – organic green kale salad, apple, shaved carrots, golden raisin, citrus vinaigrette
Ortolana – field greens, spring onions, radicchio, dates, goat cheese, champagne vinaigrette
Cremosella – creamy mozzarella salad, shelled peas, pea shoot, ligurian oil
To start off my meal, I had the minestrone soup. This isn’t normally my favorite dish, but something told me to go about and order it anyway. I’m so happy that I went with my gut feeling! This restaurant adds a certain pesto to it, making it taste like something completely different from your run-of-the-mill minestrone. Something that I also appreciated was the generous amount of olive oil that they gave with it. Thumbs up!
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Tradizionale – crescenza, wild arugula ligurian olive oil
Pizzata – crescenza, san marzano tomato, capers, anchovies, oregano
Cotto – crescenza, imported ham, rosemary, ligurian olive oil
Frittata Milanese – cage free eggs, mushrooms, onions, red peppers, pecorino zafferano
Prosciutto – parma prosciutto 24 months, lightly fried sage dough, stracciatella
Marinaresca – local calamari&octopus salad, celery, cherry tomato, olives, italian parsley
Salmon – seared organic salmon, savoy spinach, artichoke hearts, whipped potatoes
Trota – pan seared trout filet, romanesco&cauliflower, vermentino fish sauce
Fegato – sautéed calf’s liver, san marzano, onions, fresh mint, broccoli di cicco
Cotechino – traditional modenese pork sausage, broccoli di cicco, polenta crostini
Porchetta – rolled pork belly, aromatic herbs, red onion, carrots, fennel, celery
Manzo – sautéed beef tenderloin, whipped potatoes, neibbolo pink peppercorn sauce
On the side I decided to go with the Prosciutto, because let’s be honest, who actually cares about calories these days? It was MOUTH WATERING. I have to say that although the dish was simple, it was worth every penny and every calorie.
Pannacotta – wild mixed berries, sugar cookie, coulis sauce
Paciugo – fior di latte, meringue, hazelnuts, chocolate sauce, amarena cherries, berries
Cannoli – ricotta filling, pistachios, orange marmalade
Bigné – white chocolate filled cream puffs, butterscotch sauce, praline dust
Crostata – chocolate pudding filling, feuillitine crunch, red wine poached pears
Saracena – espresso soaked buckwheat tiramisú cake, mascarpone mousse, toffee crunch
I have to say that desert was a tricky one. Everything on the menu looked so good that I really had a hard time choosing. In the end, I decided to go with the crostata, the cannoli, and the budino di chocolat. They were all tasty but my personal favorite was the chocolate budino.
WINE & COCKTAILS
The Kitchen Factory has a vast and diverse menu of all different kinds of wines and cocktails.
HEADS UP: Corkage Fee….. The Factory Kitchen does in fact allow guests to bring two 750 ml bottles of wine of labels that aren’t present on current wine lists at $20 per bottle. There is no exception to the rule. If you’re planning on bringing your own bottle, just take the $20 fee into consideration!
When it comes to the wine, they have all different kinds of sparkling, red, white, and rose bottles. My person favorite was the 2012 Chardonnay – “vie di romans”, vie di romans, friuli, italy, and the 2013 gewürztraminer – “kastelaz”, elena walch, alto adige, Italy. Some people might prefer to bring their own bottle, but in my experience, I feel it’s better to get everything at the restaurant.
Although I prefer wine, I have tried a few of their cocktails. I tried the “Don Corleone” which was made up of scotch, fernet branca, and brown sugar. I thought it was good, but can’t say that I loved it. I also tried the “Aeroplano”, made of dos maderas rum, absinthe, lime, fresh pressed ginger, and smoked paprika. I really enjoyed that drink and recommend it for anyone looking to try something out of the ordinary.
I would definitely give this restaurant 5 stars. All of my favorite LA restaurants follow the same formula: good service, quality fresh food, a warm environment, and convenient location. The Factory Kitchen has it all in one package. (Just don’t mistakenly refer to it as the “Kitchen Factory”!)
The only thing I wasn’t thrilled about was the corkage fee. I had heard that I was allowed to bring my own bottle, but it turns out I had to pay $20. I can understand why this rule exists, but it was unpleasant to be surprised when I hadn’t been expecting this.
The Factory Kitchen menu was definitely creative and diverse. The chef at this place most definitely knows what he’s doing and how to do it! Not only was I impressed with the quality and taste of the food, but the presentation was beautiful as well. I think it’s important to have a nice presentation because it says a lot about what the restaurant is all about. Personally, this is my favorite Italian restaurant near me!
The Factory Kitchen has become a super popular place to eat in just a matter of years. I would recommend this place to anyone and everyone looking for one of the most top-notch, nice restaurants in LA with good prices and awesome food.