Love & Salt Is Still One Of The Best Italian Restaurants In The South Bay

Manhattan Beach is a resort town. It has impossibly soft sand, modernist beach-front properties, an iconic pancake house, and just enough sports bars to remind you that Redondo Beach is only a couple miles south. It also has impossibly good food. The tiny, blocks-long commercial stretch of Manhattan Beach Boulevard is home to M.B. Post (arguably the restaurant whose opening ushered in the new era of dining in the South Bay), Little Sister, Fishing with Dynamite, The Strand House, and the Arthur J only a few steps further away. At the easternmost point of the developed strip sits Love & Salt, the Italian restaurant only a couple years old. It’s easy to overlook it from the street at night, with its hidden door and painted logo in the far corner, but the door opens into a consistently-packed dining room. Missable, this place is not.

When it opened in 2015, Love & Salt was greeted with fanfare; a spot on LA Magazine’s Top 10 of 2015, a three-star review from Besha Rodell, and the coo-cooing of Manhattan Beach’s newfound culinary importance. The excitement has since tempered, and Love & Salt has settled into a role as neighborhood stalwart, which gives it room to breathe and continue churning out truly fantastic pastas, wood-fired pizzas, and possibly the best fennel salad in Los Angeles.

Besides being packed, the dining room is also cut down the middle. A long communal table separates the bar from the more intimate tables, creating several distinct experiences in the process. On one side sits the long bar, a wall of liquor behind the bartender, offering the opportunity to squeeze in for a meal or a last-minute drinks date. On the other side, booths and small tables make space for an extravagant meal. And all the way in the back, a chef’s counter overlooks the kitchen.

Love & Salt knows it’s crucial to create several experiences within the same space—why come back if it’s always going to feel the exact same? Why not create enough room for every possible iteration of an evening, tying it all together with consistently good food?

The restaurant describes itself as “Italian inspired with California soul,” which is code for “Italian, but we use our farmers’ markets wisely.” It means jewel-toned housemade pickles, silky black kale on top of the bucatini, fennel so crisp and refreshing and light it’s a wonder why anyone ever eats anything else. Food that comforts and refreshes at the same time.

The famous English muffins are still worth their legendary status. Airy and fluffy and a little bit sour, with plenty of rosemary-topped butter to spread on top. Eating them with dinner may seem odd at first (don’t we all really want jam on our English muffins?) but they’re too delicious to skip. Maybe leaning into the Italian is more your style, in which case the arancini bolognese will probably do the trick. Or maybe you’re hoping for some indulgent vegetables? Try the new roasted romanesco and cauliflower with lemon-herb pesto.

The salads are refreshingly simple and offer a nice balance between acidity and sweetness, depending on your choice. They’re big, too, and will likely still be unfinished when the pastas and pizzas arrive—and the meal is all the better for it. The pastas and pizzas at Love & Salt have always been delicious, and this fall the restaurant introduced a squid ink rigatoni to the menu. Chef Michael Fiorelli is also now experimenting with milling his own flour for the pastas, and the chewy decadence of the bucatini and spaghettini show off the in-house expertise. Every pizza is a little left of center, making them an equally exciting option as any of the pastas or larger dishes.

And as for the larger dishes, they’re most appropriate for larger groups (pasta, pizza, and appetizers is more than enough for a party of two). An entire Mediterranean Branzino, or a 12 oz pork chop Milanese, are beautiful and delicious, but are only really options if you have lots of people to share with.

The weekend brunch is still as good as ever as well. The menu only has a few dishes that embody the restaurant's Italian roots, but the everything bagel with lox and capers and the chicken sausage and cheesy egg scramble breakfast sandwich are too delicious for the inconsistency to matter. Plus, it gives diners another chance to experience a whole new side of the restaurant.

Love and Salt is open Monday through Friday for dinner from 5:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. It is open from 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. on Saturdays, and 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Sundays. Reservations are available on their website.