Take a chef who manned the kitchen at Valentino for 18 years, a co-owner who helmed Drago Centro, a highly knowledgable Director of Wine, and a barman with a talent for composing superior cocktails and you have the Factory Kitchen. Tucked away in Downtown LA’s Arts District, this superior trattoria ensconced in a 90-year-old warehouse offers outstanding Italian food and a well-crafted, oft-changing cocktail list.
During a recent visit, several food writers and bloggers, including yours truly, were invited to try every drink from its current cocktail list. It’s a dirty job, but someone’s gotta do it.
Bartender Andrew Gustafson offered up a great selection of unpredictable libations. Devotees of bitter drinks should like the Profondo Rosso (Plymouth Gin, Solerno blood orange liquor, Aperol, Peychaud’s Bitters). Fan of herbaceous gin drinks? Try Gustafson’s variation on the Prohibition-era classic the Last Word. Green Genes melds Amaro Meletti with green chartreuse, Luxardo maraschino, and lime juice.
The Polar Express is a real standout. This special winter offering consists of gin infused with Earl Grey tea, along with cream, honey, lemon, Peychaud’s bitters, and rosemary.
Vodka drinks can be boring to fans of complex liquors like whiskey, gin, and mezcal, and who orders Cosmopolitans nowadays anyway? But the Red Hood, which Gustafson nicknamed an “Italian Cosmo,” was a pleasant and welcome surprise. A blend of Loft & Bear vodka, Pama pomegranate liquor, and Arvero limoncello, it’s a sophisticated, lightly sweet update.
The frothy Zombie Woof (with a name inspired by a Frank Zappa song, apparently) is an eye-opening, delicious medley of Dos Maderas rum, fresh ginger, Steen’s cane syrup, egg white, nutmeg, and chocolate. The
Mezkiwi will keep the mezcal enthusiast on its toes, merging Xicaru Mezcal with Campari, muddled kiwi, serrano simple syrup, and lemon.
If you’re craving a warm drink, the apple toddy is a delicious melange of Applejack brandy, bourbon, Amaro Averna, apple vanilla bitters, honey, and cinnamon.
Also worth trying are the Trick O’Thyme (muddled huckleberries, thyme, Fernet Branca, lemon, and Templeton Rye) and the Skeleton Key (High West Campfire whiskey, Dos Maderas rum, sherry, and cherry syrup).
If you’re not looking for a full meal, great accompaniments to these drinks are Factory Kitchen’s pillowy, crispy Foccacina Cala di Recco Al Formaggio, topped with arugula, or the handkerchief pasta with Ligurian almond-basil pesto known as mandilli di seta.
Be sure to try the amazing cannoli. The food writer next to me, a New York City native, quietly scoffed when she heard we’d be presented with cannoli, but these housemade shells stuffed with ricotta — one side dotted with orange marmalade, the other with pistachios — made her change her tune about the supposedly impossible task of finding great cannoli in LA.
The Factory Kitchen is located at 1300 Factory Place, Los Angeles, CA, 90013.