Monday, April 22, 2024

LOOK INSIDE: L’Antica Pizzeria da Michele’s beautiful Belmont Shore location in Long Beach

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Long Beach’s pizza scene continues to blossom: L’Antica Pizzeria da Michele, the famed Napoli pizzeria birthed in Italy, has officially taken over the space that was once home to Papalucci’s in Belmont Shore and will open at noon on Jan. 5—and proves to be one of the city’s most beautiful restaurant spaces that is but a fragment of the reflection of what the space once was.

And while many may recognize the name from the Julia Roberts-led “Eat Pray Love” film based on the international bestseller, the L’Antica locations of the U.S. are a beast that, yes, reflects that of the historic Napoli space but is, deservedly, its own thing.

L’Antica da Michele alters the former space entirely

“With the historic Spanish aesthetic, I felt like the space needed a Palm Springs feel,” said owner Francesco Zimone, who has (wildly) opened three new L’Antica spaces across the past few years after opening the first U.S. location in Hollywood in 2019.

And that aesthetic certainly stands out: Long gone is the front fountain and instead perpendicular posts with desert plants flanking each side, along with a horizontal fencing that lines the building’s east-facing facade. That east side will house the restaurants massive, wrap-around patio that extends to the building’s backside, where Zimone says two large tables for a “quieter experience” can be taken over by guests.

“This is not about exclusivity but catering to what each party desires,” Zimone said—and his sense of caring seems genuine: “When I watch a movie and I feel little, I ask, ‘What is the point?’ The same for food: Yes, the food is absolutely essential as is the experience—and if both leave no feeling, then what is the point?”

The former Papalucci’s space? That is the kitchen space for L’Antica alone, which Zimone notes is the “most beautiful and expansive kitchen we’ve ever built.”

The rest of the space, taking over what used to be Babette’s Feast/Ô Gourmet, features their pizza oven: Built in Napoli and shipped over once its baby blue-and-white broken pottery mosaic detailing was finished, it sits in an open air space on the restaurant’s northern corner while the dining room itself is broken into two spaces. When entering from 2nd Street, there’s an elevated space—with a 20-foot skylight leading the way—and then, at direct ground level, the other dining space.

“I cannot wait to see it packed at night, the windows glowing light, and hopefully not one person on their cell phone,” Zimone said.

The quick expansion of L’Antica da Michele into the U.S.

First reported by Eater LA, the announcement of L’Antica moving into Long Beach marked the final prong of a three-pronged expansion of their presence in the United States, with the original Hollywood location, the New York location (dubbed one of the city’s best new restaurants on multiple lists), and the Santa Barbara location.

The original L’Antica, a staple in Italy since 1870, allowed family to split off into international brands, with Zimone scoring the rights for here in the States.

L’Antica da Michele is located at 4611 E. 2nd St. and will open at noon on Jan. 5.

Brian Addison
Brian Addison
Brian Addison has been a writer, editor, and photographer for more than a decade, covering everything from food and culture to transportation and housing. In 2015, he was named Journalist of the Year by the Los Angeles Press Club and has since garnered 25 nominations and three additional wins. In 2019, he was awarded the Food/Culture Critic of the Year across any platform at the National Arts & Entertainment Journalism Awards.

2 COMMENTS

  1. Can’t wait! We have scouted out every high end pizzeria in the OC and have not found one where we want to go back. Belmont Shores is close to Huntington Beach, so we are just an earshot away. I can smell the sweet dough rising, and the red sauces, with a myriad of flavors, from fresh basil to zesty citrus.

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