Nearly four years ago, restaurateurs Antonio Tommasi and Jean Louis De Mori launched a new local concept on 3rd and Broadway: Maccheroni Republic, a cozy Italian trattoria specializing in organic, handmade pasta at an affordable cost. Not much has changed for the downtown mainstay since then, save for the addition of a beer and wine menu. The pasta is plentiful in portion, and the outdoor patio, lined with garden foliage, continues to charm. Most surprising of all, even as new development projects stake their claim on downtown day by day, are the unwavering menu prices. Here, consistency is king. As a seasoned veteran with a storied reputation, De Mori — a French-born Italian and long-time Los Angeleno — readily extols insights on how the restaurant scene in Los Angeles has changed over the past 30 years, ever since he launched his first venture, Locanda Veneta, in 1988. Change makes it difficult to keep menu prices down, especially as rising overhead in the neighborhood continues to impose pressure on business owners. For the restaurant’s consistency, De Mori gives much of the credit to the community for its steady support and patronage.
“We see most of the offices around here, judges, and lawyers, as well as people living in downtown. It’s been the perfect situation,” says De Mori. “Today I was speaking with some customers, and they were saying, ‘Never move, stay here.’ That’s the best thing you can have as an owner of a restaurant.” Scope out the menu offerings, which boast over a dozen pasta dishes, and you’ll see why Maccheroni Republic is a local favorite. Made with organic flour and semolina, the pasta here is vegan, gluten-free, and produced in-house in all shapes, sizes, and colors: thin, thick, curly, filled, star-shaped, pale-gold, and dark as night. Here, squid ink pasta, by now well-documented as both rich in antioxidants and bold in its stark presentation, comes in several forms: a shrimp polenta, a starchy cuffie pasta with saffron fish, and a black and white (bianca e nero) pasta, tossed with shrimp, mushrooms, and roasted pancetta. All three dishes taste as good as they look.
“The bianca e nero, we call it mare e monti — a bit from the mountain, a bit from the sea,” says manager Stefano De Lorenzo, who previously helmed at La Botte and Piccolo Ristorante, both in Santa Monica. “It is a beautiful combination.”
As for what to expect in the new year, there’s talk of new business ventures, but few changes to the food or to the actual eatery itself. De Mori mentions the possibility of a local expansion, but first, he’s holding out on a good location. Aside from that, the franchise is anticipating a big opportunity in Hawaii and elsewhere with Roy Yamaguchi, and in downtown, the team is putting the finishing touches on a standalone pasta station, located right behind the restaurant, which patrons will be able to visit and catch a glimpse of pasta making magic.
“I’m not a big change person,” says De Mori. “I want to continue with the quality and the consistency. I want this place to become an institution.”
Written by Sophie He
Photographed by Kort Havens
Videography by Kort Havens