Close your eyes and imagine an Italian-themed hotel. You’re probably thinking of something kitschy, something Vegas-like—perhaps, Caesar’s Palace or the Venetian. Maybe, you’re even conjuring up Buco di Bepo, but as a hotel. Of course, if you’ve ever been to Italy, these are horrifying extremes, deformed amalgamations of a beautiful, cultured country. So, it’s refreshing, even delightful, that the NoMad Hotel has paid homage to Italy by creating a hotel that feels like Italy.
Though it only opened in 2018, the building is from the Once-Upon-a-Time Era of Downtown Los Angeles, back when this city was first being dreamt up. It was originally the site of the Los Angeles headquarters of the Bank of Italy, which was founded to help Italian immigrants in the United States (the bank eventually merged with Bank of America, Los Angeles to form Bank of America)—hence the theme. It’s been impeccably converted into a hotel with a gorgeous design by Jacques Garcia, who expertly made the Coffee Bar feel like Venice, the Giannini Bar like Florence, and the rooms like the most modernly exquisite in all of Rome.
Add to the mix the talents behind Eleven Madison Park (which was considered the best restaurant in the world in 2017 by The World’s 50 Best list), Daniel Humm and Will Guidara to helm the restaurant program, and you’ve got the makings for not just a hotel, but an experience.
And, it should be noted, the service is impeccable. Although the NoMad is incredibly trendy, the staff does everything they can to make every guest feel like they belong—it’s a rare but wonderful thing in a bougie hotel.
YOU SHOULD KNOW Downtown LA has often been compared to New York City in the ‘70s. It’s got a lot going for it, but there’s a gritty underbelly. The NoMad is on 7th Street, which is one of the more lively streets in the neighborhood, full of bars and restaurant—and is on a particularly upscale block, which also include hotspot restaurant Bottega Louie. But, there is a problem child, too. Just across the street from the hotel, at the southwest corner of 7th and Olive is a 7-11 which has its fair share of homelessness and addiction on display. The NoMad is aware of this and keeps its guests safe and the police regularly patrol the block.
Rooms are modestly sized—the lowest level, Superieur, is 300 square feet—but well laid out to ensure that you won’t be tripping over yourself or your luggage. Plus, the furnishings, in gold and blue hues, are gorgeous—there’s a functional opulence to them. And Jacques Garcia knows opulence—one of his clients is the Sultan of Brunei.
The neighborhood can be noisy, particularly on weekends. If you’re sensitive to noise, ask for a room on a higher floor.
It’s quite possible that you will despise your own bathroom back home after washing up in here. All rooms starting at Atelier level (which is one step above Superieur) come with a clawfoot bathtub, and it’s definitely worth the splurge. Although, if you stick to Superieur level, you’ll still have a fantastic shower. Argan has produced an exclusive line of toiletries for the property.
Although the main entrance to the hotel is on Olive Street, the main lobby is really on 7th Street. The first thing you’ll notice is that it’s busy—it’s always busy. And though it has its fair share of cool kids, it can be an eclectic mix. Everyone is welcome here, and it shows. The next thing you’ll notice is the décor—rich green settees, with floral backings are central. They’re mildly bohemian, and wildly stylish. They could be the furnishings of flapper gypsies or the Duchess of Parma.
Beyond, you’ll see the bar and the dining areas, framed by Corinthian columns, and if you look up you’ll see the intricately-designed coffered ceiling, all from the original construction when it housed the Bank of Italy.
Located on the rooftop and surrounded by a bar and restaurant (which, if you’re not a guest, is reservation-only), the pool is a nice getaway in the heart of the city. It has one particularly notable feature: a scale reproduction of an open-mouthed creature that’s found in the Gardens of Bomarzo, just outside Rome. It’s just another light nod to Italianate whimsy.
Even if you don’t stay at the hotel, you should dine here. There are three options for casual dining—the Lobby, the Coffee Bar (for breakfast or lunch pastries), the Rooftop Bar (for lunch only)—and one for fine dining—the Mezzanine.
Regardless of where you choose to dine, you’ll be happy. The Rooftop has light, but pleasant fare—perfect for a Los Angeles summer. The Coffee Bar has the best croissants in the city, period—you’ll obsessively stuff your face with these, will feel mildly guilty at the indulgence, and then realize, screw it, this is what life is about, and toss another down the gullet.
The Lobby offers a pared-down version of the Mezzanine menu, both by Daniel Humm, and both superb. The Mezzanine is perhaps the best restaurant currently in Downtown, if not one of the best in the city. Humm is a master of transforming the ordinary into the divine. One of the main courses, for instance, is simply called Carrot. You will be served a carrot. It will be roasted, it will have cumin, wheatberries, and duck crumble, and it will be every bit as self-indulgent as the croissants at the Coffee Bar. It is, quite frankly, the best carrot you will have. Should you wish to truly treat yourself, the roast chicken is made with the two most incredible-tasting ingredients this decadent world offers: foie gras and black truffle. As promised earlier, you will be happy.
If you’re still hankering for carrots, the Lobby also serves its own delightful offering: Carrot Tartar. Though it sounds whimsically impossible, it’s quite a lovely dish.
You’ll swear you’re in Florence in the Giannini, the romantically-lit bar tucked away next to the Lobby restaurant. It’s small, intimate really, and creates a lovely world to escape to whether you’re with someone or all by your lonesome.
The spirits program was created by Leo Robitschek, who did the same for the NoMad’s New York hotel—and did such a fine job that he was awarded with the number three spot in the 2017 World’s 50 Best Bars list.
Downtown is the most walkable of all Los Angeles neighborhoods, but should you wish to escape, the Metro is only two blocks away at 7th and Flower, with access to the Blue, Red, Purple, and Expo lines. And, of course, Uber and Lyft drivers are always wandering around, so you’ll never need to wait for more than six minutes for a ride.
As said earlier, 7th Street is active and it happens to have some of the best dining options in DTLA. Little Sister (1-minute walk), which shares the same block as the NoMad, is exceptional Southeast Asian fare. Just across the street is Bottega Louie (1-minute walk), which serves up mighty fine Italian, is always busy and doesn’t take reservations, but is worth a 20-minute wait. If you feel like leaving the block, head over to the Freehand Hotel, which shares owners with the NoMad, and dine on Mediterranean at The Exchange (3-minute walk)—they have the best hummus in the city.
Just next door to the hotel on 7th Street is Seven Grand (15-second walk), which has too many whiskeys to count (although they state the number is north of 800). At the corner of 7th and Broadway is Clifton’s Cafeteria (2-minute walk), a giant building full of bars (five at the moment, though there are rumblings of expansion), including one killer tiki bar called Pacific Seas.
WHY WE LIKE IT
There are a lot of reasons to like this hotel—the design, the dining, the drinking—but the most important one, or the reason that we’re so enamored with it, is the service. Los Angeles is a city where the uber-trendy can be ubiquitous and insidious. It can turn something that is otherwise pleasant into something obscene and tribal—it can make you feel like you’re either in or out. And it’s not just clubs or restaurants that do this, but hotels, too. But not this one. The NoMad is definitely uber-trendy—and it knows it—but it refuses to let it go to its head. You will feel as welcome here as any celebrity or cool kid would. And, that ultimately, is what hospitality is meant to be.