Come to Élephante Beach House for the ocean breeze, stay for cocktails and ricotta hotcakes
By Jacqueline Fitzgerald
Élephante Beach House, 1332 2nd St., Santa Monica (424) 320-2384, elephantela.com
Italian restaurants might not pop into your head if you’re brainstorming weekend brunch venues, but think again: there are plenty of local options that will get your lazy day off to a lovely start or help with that hangover, as the case may be.
Brunching at Élephante Beach House, you’ll probably feel as if you woke up on vacation, minus the jetlag. With its roomy layout and mix of textural elements, this rooftop restaurant overlooking the ocean is instantly relaxing.
“I wanted the space to feel Mediterranean,” says restaurateur and designer Nick Mathers. “As long as you feel you’ve been transported, I’ve done my job.”
Though the space conjures many exotic locales (North Africa, Hawaii and Costa Rica, for example) the menu’s emphasis is coastal Italian fare, particularly the Amalfi Coast and Sicily. Mathers was inspired, he says, by a trip to Pantelleria, an island near Sicily.
Mathers and executive chef/partner Thomas Lim are world travelers who hail from Australia. Upon visiting California, they fell in love with Los Angeles. Apparently it took the fresh eyes of two outsiders to execute what seems to be a common-sense business proposition but, surprisingly, can be hard to find near the ocean: serve excellent food in a great space with an amazing view.
“We wanted to offer top-quality food — of the white-tablecloth caliber — but much less formal and fussy,” says Mathers. And he knew he’d found the ideal location on Second Street. “I want this roof!” he remembers saying.
Lim explains it this way: “There was a gap in the market on the Westside. No one was making the most of the coastline, the vista and the good weather. When you have a view like that, you’re in for something special.”
And one more key component: service, Australian style.
“We try to be very hospitable,” says Mathews. “We try to be very open, very friendly from the get-go. We’re not just taking your order; we’re your friends as well.”
That trifecta made Élephante an instant hit and a neighborhood hangout since it opened in the summer of 2018.
So, back to brunch (which, by the way, is Mathers’ favorite time to come): “It’s busy and packed, but you don’t have a crazy-busy bar.”
Speaking of busy, it’s a good idea to make a reservation here anytime you come.
The menu is concise, but as you are deciding a nice way to start is with a plate of warm, fluffy banana bread and butter, paired with the refreshing, bright and not too sweet Élephante cocktail. Next, the polenta and eggs topped with crab, sweet corn and scallions is prettily plated, lightly seasoned and gently satisfying.
Some diners believe brunch is nothing if not decadent. For those weekend warriors, the ricotta hotcakes with nutella, banana and honeycomb butter is a must-try. Also, the delicious breakfast pizza is hard to resist — leave resistance and discipline for later. (Maybe.)
Speaking of giving in to temptation, a few more fantastic Italian brunch spots that should also be on your radar:
At Scopa Italian Roots (2905 Washington Blvd.), chef Antonia Lofaso prepares old-school Italian food with a side of New York City. So, it’s not surprising to see a Nathan’s hot dog, NYC school special sandwich, Boardwalk waffle, and challah French toast (with mascarpone and warm prunes) on the restaurant’s enticing brunch menu. Also, Scopa’s spaghetti and meatballs is available only during weekend brunch. Cocktail favorites include the Mezcal Mary, Mocking Dove and Gin Fix. (310-821-1100;
Forma Restaurant & Cheese Bar (1610 Montana Ave.) exudes casual elegance. On the brunch menu, filet mignon steak and eggs, salmon pizza, nutella bread pudding and bombolone alla crema are stand-outs. (424-231-2868; formarestaurant.com)
Part of the Rustic Canyon family, Milo & Olive (2723 Wilshire Blvd.) has some weekend brunch items that cross over into lunch until 1:30 p.m. , including the breakfast pizza and breakfast sandwich. (310-453-6776;.miloandolive.com)
Stella Barra (2000 Main St.), known for Chicago-style pizza, offers laidback Midwestern hospitality and a luscious menu. Locally sourced ingredients, such as the tomatoes on the breakfast pizza and avocado cruncher, are a top priority. And don’t forget to order the cinnamon rolls, full of sweet swagger. (310-396-9250; stellabarra.com)