While it’s part of a bigger restaurant chain, the Stella Barra in Santa Monica feels very much like a neighborhood spot. It’s almost always packed for dinner: parties of two can take advantage of the bar seating, and there’s usually room to hang in the café area (which sells unreal salted chocolate chip cookies) that connects Stella to next-door M Street Kitchen (whose bar is typically less crowded). Stella’s draw is the pizza, made from handcrafted dough, sized somewhere between a personal pizza and a pie, with a fairly crisp crust and addicting, soft center. First-timers should start with the Bloomsdale Spinach & Kale white pizza—and the Italian chopped salad is a solid side. (If you’re headed to the Arclight theater in Hollywood, check out the Stella location there.)

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