Los Angeles' Amiga Amore, the lovechild of rising star chef Danielle Duran-Zecca and her husband Alessandro Zecca, is a divine mix of savory Mex-Italian cuisine. Imagine a chile Relleno tucked inside a manicotti – and you can understand what Amiga Amore is all about. In addition to their brunch and dinner space held in a festive Highland Park lot, the duo has been hosting pop-ups up at key dining locations around L.A. and offering plant-based twists on their unique signature dishes.

“We are excited to offer vegan dishes and find new ways to put the focus on the incredible produce we have here in L.A.,” says Duran-Zecca, who grew up cooking with her Mexican grandmothers not far from the professional kitchen she uses today. “It’s about listening to our clients, feeding people delicious food during these crazy times, and giving back to the community.”

At a recent pop-up at Jewel, a vegan hotspot in Silverlake, Duran-Zecca’s creative menu featured locally sourced vegetables with unexpected toppings. We started with heavenly Sweet Potato Ceviche Tostadas, and followed with a Noprese Salad made with cured nopales, kumquats, and cherry tomatoes, flavored with chile de Arbol tajin and hibiscus salt. Next up: a Fritto Misto medley of Shishito peppers, green beans, purple kale, and Romanesco cauliflower, served with a chile-lime sauce. We also devoured the tortilla tacos with crispy Brussel Sprouts, flavored with Calabrian chili vinaigrette and sesame seeds. Two stand-out dishes were the homemade agnolotti pasta filled with street corn and topped with homemade tajin and lime, and the to-die-for chile Relleno tucked inside a manicotti, served with a tableside pour of concentrated tomato water.

“Our story is about friends falling in love and blending cultures and cuisines,” said Duran-Zecca, a Highland Park native of Mexican descent, who met her Veronese husband in an Irish pub in New York in 2013, while working at The Modern. Wowed by a resume that includes Le Cou Cou, Allesandro soon discovered he’d found the chef for his soon-to-open restaurant, Vespa, on Manhattan’s Upper East Side – as well as his soulmate.

Upon returning to L.A., Duran-Zecca had some trouble convincing her Italophile husband that the mix of their two cuisines was a heavenly match. “I’d offer the most amazing authentic Mexican tacos and later my husband would say, ‘that was good but can we please order a pizza?’“

It took Allesandro’s mother, who owned a pizzeria in Verona, to seal the deal. She came from Italy to L.A. to teach Duran-Zecca how to prepare some of the more traditional Italian dishes and later got hooked on the wonders of Mexican mole. After forging a bond in and out of the kitchen, Duran-Zecca and her mother-in-law were able to persuade Alessandro that there was nothing more delicious than the distinctive and flavorful fusion of Mex-Italian. And that’s how Amiga Amore was born.

“People ask for our dishes by name,” said Duran-Zecca. “They want fresh, delicious, authentic food. I like to change it up and try new things and that’s why the pop-ups are a great way to experiment with plant-based versions of some of our most popular dishes. People also identify with our story. They’ll say, ‘We’re like you – I'm Italian and she’s Mexican.’”

The partners are renovating the Highland Park space, located on buzzy York Avenue. Amiga Amore will be open for indoor and outdoor dining this summer at 5668 York Blvd, in Highland Park, California. Follow the restaurant's Instagram account to stay up to date on pop-ups.

For more great plant-based restaurants around the world, check out The Beet's Find Vegan Near Me articles. 

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