DAMA: The Flavors of South America Represented Boldly By Chef Antonia Lofaso
The LA Fashion District is giving the Arts District a run for its money with the number of dining establishments making a home here. On one block you can get some of the best Italian food DTLA has to offer with Rossoblu, solid coffee options from Cognoscenti Coffee, the new SuperFine Pizza, the NOLA styles of Preux and Proper, and now DAMA. A true force to be reckoned with, DAMA is a South/Latin American heaven from beginning to end.
City Market South’s open-air design has everything Carolina Wicker needed to build the vision of a paradise that takes you to places like Colombia, Argentina, and Mexico. Mixed in with the tropical vibes of the Caribbean, the vibes in DAMA are unique to the LA dining scene, but brand new to DTLA.
When entering the pink hues, the use of wicker, the tiles on the patio floor, just about everything from top to bottom begs you to stare in awe. Master Chef All-Star and LA Native Chef Antonia Lofaso is the driving force behind all of this culture, and she reassures me that my feelings are not exaggerated- the main countries behind the inspiration for her cuisine at DAMA are indeed Colombia, Argentina, Mexico, Spain, but with the Angeleno twist, of course.
Coming from a long line of successful restaurants, i.e. Scopa Italian Roots, she made DAMA with the vision to bring forth a missing spotlight on the dishes of Latin America combined by her growing up in LA. Inspired by her travels, Chef Antonia handpicked her all-star team and a year ago DAMA opened its doors. They’re all people she has worked with in the past because according to Lofaso, “It is so important to have people around that know your next move before you do it because of the intensity of opening a restaurant.”
Upon looking at the impressive menu- go for the Whipped Beans, Chef Antonia’s favorite to prepare,
“Bean tostadas are something I had growing up in LA. It was an item that was accessible on the street, so the challenge for me was to find my interpretation of the specific flavor profile, but elevate its quality to put on the menu here at DAMA.”
Speaking of cocktails and wine, the bar program and wine list should not be looked over. Steve Livigni and Pablo Moix, both having worked with Lofaso at Black Market Liquor, are the creative minds behind the cocktails and imbibe-quality of the drinks such as the refreshing mezcal-based Sierra Norte. Taylor Grant, the sommelier extraordinaire and Wine Director at DAMA, features a list to pair perfectly with any dish Lofaso sends out.
Having been featured on Master Chef not once but twice, the biggest takeaway Lofaso gained from the experience is her timing and efficiency, both aspects are well executed. It shows her team in the back have all learned from her. What she hopes to teach people working anywhere near her environment is,
“I hope that all the young people, even if this is their first job, or if they’ve worked in other restaurants, but have not felt important to the overall structure of the business - that they actually feel that when they come to work, whether it is or isn’t where they spend the rest of their lives - that they feel like they are part of something better than just the average - that they come in every single day and feel a sense of pride for what it is that they do.”
DAMA isn’t going anywhere anytime soon so if you haven’t visited summer is here and it is a perfect time. As for Chef Antonia, she isn’t done taking over the world yet, look out for her new book, more traveling, and hopefully an airport line of restaurants soon.
Written by Mariana Ramos | Photography by GL Askew II