Dining Icons: Is celebrity-favourite L.A restaurant Giorgio Baldi worth the hype?

Welcome to ‘Dining Icons’ where our writers take a look at some of the world’s most iconic food and drink experiences – both reputable and under-the-radar – and report back to answer the simple question: is it worth it?. For our first edition, we’re taking a look at Giorgio Baldi, an Italian restaurant just outside Santa Monica in Los Angeles..

“It’s a celebrity restaurant”, she tells me. I look at my friend with a half-cocked smile. “I’ve never been to a celebrity restaurant and left impressed.” But Giorgio Baldi’s larger-than-life reputation is hard to resist.

That’s not to say my taste is any more or less refined (probably less, if I’m being honest) than that of the rich and famous, but too much demand almost always pulls a restaurant apart and destroys a kitchen’s focus. I’ve seen it time and time again. Popularity is welcomed with open arms, but owners consistently fail to produce the same quality that sent them to the heavens in the first place. And then the poor, angry ratings start shovelling in. “It’s not what it used to be”, is said far too often by disgruntled regulars and these former beacons of top-tier hospitality start edging towards irrelevancy. The hype train finds a new beast to build and destroy.

Consistency is hard. But it’s almost always the key to staying afloat in a sea of pressure-building demand.

It’s rare to find a business that can confidently steer through such five-star expectations but this Pacific Palisades institution is far from your average “celebrity restaurant”. There’s no mistaking Giorgio Baldi for a Nobu or Hakkasan. You’ll find it’s much easier to score a reservation here than at spots like Carbone and whatever steakhouse is trending amongst Angelenos at the time. But this modest Italian eatery, just a skipping stone from Santa Monica, punches well above its weight.

The most remarkable thing about Giogio Baldi is that it is largely unremarkable. That’s not a slight against the food – at all – but rather a comment on how shockingly low-key this restaurant is, between its notably dark dining room and lively, fairy-lit backyard. There are zero showy design features; you can barely even see the sign out front.

So, what’s the food like?

Ravioli con Asparagi (photo by Giorgia Baldi)

Giorgio Baldi may be more recognised for its clientele than its food, but the romantic atmosphere isn’t the only thing pulling celebrities back. And I do mean back. Rihanna has been known to dine here multiple times per week (even before she could legally drink), to the point where her ex-boyfriend, Drake, even mentioned Rihanna’s love of the restaurant in a song (“Diplomatic Immunity”). Kanye West has also shouted it out on multiple occasions (the most recent being a line in “Problematic”).

JAY-Z, Beyonce, Rihanna, Justin Bieber, Kylie Jenner, Kim Kardashian, Drake. Kanye West, Tom Hanks, Taylor Swift, Selena Gomez, Jennifer Laurence. There isn’t a restaurateur on earth who wouldn’t kill for that list of regulars.

And they all seem to have their own favourite orders that they religiously cling to on each visit. Kimmy K, for example, swears by the soft corn agnolotti while Rihanna almost always gets a half-serve of her three favourite pastas – ravioli con asparagi, gnocchi al vostro gusto, and an off-menu spaghetti pomodoro.

None of these dishes look any different from what you’d get at a classic red-sauce eatery.

Ciabatta with mozzarella, prosciutto di Parma and melted butter (photo by Giorgio Baldi)

Rather than follow any celebrity’s taste, I sat down in the tight, intimate courtyard and shot off a few random orders. I went for Kim’s favourite, first ordering up a half-serve of the agnolotti, which is a dish of tiny, pillowy ravioli filled with gooey sweet white corn in a very light white truffle sauce.

The pasta is excellent. As is Rihanna’s beloved ricotta cheese and asparagus ravioli. The latter is the superior of the two, however. I’d recommend only ordering one and going for the full serve. Portions are fine, but those going for a half-serve would only get a dozen or so bits of pasta. The plate would be clean after just a few spoonfuls. That’s nowhere near enough, so your small table should ideally be packed with a few other items from the menu.

Aragosta Saltata (photo by Chris Singh)

You might want to make a move on something light like the Aragosta Saltata. The salad is beautiful and generous, fresh but surprisingly restrained despite the fleshy 2.5-pound Maine lobster which sits on top of the salad with cherry tomatoes, basil, parsley, lemon juice, chilli pepper and olive oil. It’s expensive and lacks the punchy flavours of the pasta, so only order it if you need something light to offset the rich, homemade pasta dishes.

The exceptional flourless chocolate cake (photo by Chris Singh)

It’s much better than the Tagliata, which is just a really nice New York steak cooked rare (by design) and served with baby artichokes. The $53 dish (just under A$80 with our dismal exchange rate) is only viable if it’s being shared. Although cost isn’t something I imagine many regulars would be too worried about.

My personal highlights is the show-stopping, fatty, creamy, rich and downright delicious toasted ciabatta with mozzarella, prosciutto di Parma and melted butter. Deceptively simple but an excellent, full-flavoured offering that feels appropriately indulgent. Although no more indulgent than the flourless chocolate cake served with seasonal ice cream. I’m surprised by how light it is given how rich the flavours are; a perfect dessert and the one that I’m not able to stop thinking about long after the meal.

Combining pastas is a popular option here (photo by Giorgia Baldi)


Giorgio Baldi is the first celebrity-loved restaurant that I’ve left feeling satisfied. Again, there’s almost zero indication that this is such a hotspot for celebrity-spotting, and you wouldn’t be able to tell if it wasn’t for the Paparazzi who line the streets every night hoping to get a shot of someone famous stepping out onto Channel Road.

What To Order

Make sure you’re trying at least two of the pastas. I’d recommend the ricotta cheese and asparagus ravioli above all, but there’s a good range listed on the menu. The corn pasta is just a bit too sweet for my taste. I’d much prefer something more savoury and fatty like the exceptional prosciutto and mozzarella starter. Skip the steak and only get the lobster salad if you need something light. The menu isn’t massively overwhelming but there are plenty of options so choose wisely. Finally, finish with that flourless chocolate cake. It’s one of the best I’ve had for a very long time.

Practical Information

Santa Monica is the gateway to the Pacific Palisades, which lies at the foot of hilly Malibu and isn’t too far from my other favourite spots in Santa Monica – the Romanesque Getty Villa and Esters Wine Shop & Bar. Fit all three in if you’re staying out in Santa Monica and you’ve just had the perfect day in this relaxed part of Los Angeles.

Giorgio Baldi is only open for dinner from 5pm to 10pm, six days a week. It’s closed Monday so take that into account before you plan your trip to Santa Monica.

As for where to stay in Santa Monica. The city has its fair share of iconic hotels like The Georgian Hotel and Shutters on the Beach. If you want something more affordable that doesn’t feel like a compromise on luxury, go for The Pierside, which is the closest hotel to the iconic Santa Monica Pier.

Address: 114 W Channel Rd, Santa Monica, CA 90402
Contact: +1 310-573-1660
Website: giorgio-baldi.com

Chris Singh dined as a guest of the city of Santa Monica.

Chris Singh

Chris Singh is an Editor-At-Large at the AU review, loves writing about travel and hospitality, and is partial to a perfectly textured octopus. You can reach him on Instagram: @chrisdsingh.