An Italian Love Affair: A Romantic Review of Chef Viusal Nazarli’s Hearts & Flame 

Los Angeles may be a melting pot of traditional cuisines, but when it comes to date night in DTLA, there’s a clear frontrunner: Italian. 

It’s not just about the romance associated with candlelit trattorias and checkered tablecloths. Italian food, at its core, is about sharing, indulgence, and celebrating the simple pleasures of good company and exceptional ingredients. And really, every night is date night at Chef Viusal Nazarli’s Hearts & Flame.

Young chef Nazarli’s passion for Italian cuisine was ignited at the tender age of six and has matured gracefully into house-made dishes that dance on every palate.

Pouring his life-long passion into every dish, Nazarli’s love language comes in the form of fresh, seasonal ingredients sourced with care and the dedication to creating a memorable experience for each and every diner. 

For those of us who like to start their love affairs with a touch of drama, the Beef Tartare is an entanglement of succulence, with its delicious tenderloin adorned with capers, mustard, and a luxurious crown of black caviar. 

Calm things down with the Carpaccio Branzino, a beautiful interplay of textures and flavors featuring a chilled, delicate sea bass crudo drizzled with a vibrant pomegranate dressing. Or heat things up with a delectable plate of Polpo Tocco Toscano, a must-try for those intellectual conversations between seafood lovers. 

This perfectly charmed octopus mingles with sautéed black Tuscan kale, creating a series of new love notes inked with culinary expression.

For a taste of pure comfort, the Smoked Lamb Chop with Truffle Risotto is a winner. Out of the few dishes that are visually stunning and served with enthusiasm, the truth behind the flavors of stacked lamb chops is revealed only after the smoke clears, just like the beginning of a new relationship. 

The aromas of an open kitchen fill the restaurant, enticing diners with the sweet existence of Shrimp Tagliolini with Manila clams with a touch of chili, or the classic Bolognese bursting with rich, meaty flavor. 

Servers dominate the enormous dining hall, aiming to please with their plates sizzling steaks, nautical treasures, and aphrodisiacs, either cooked over an open flame or stirred into the mix by a mixologist at the cocktail bar. 

Another unique gift of Italian cuisine is that  all menu items pair well with a glass of wine, and Hearts & Flame’s ever-growing wine list, features both Italian and Californian vintages. 

For those attempting to get spirited away, the cocktail bar at Hearts & Flame is a spectacular alter of love made from glass, dim lights, and hard liquors. From the relaxing Pear Martini to the unihibiting Elderflower Spritz, the full bar ensures a potential love match for everyone.

The ambience Hearts & Flame is another key ingredient in their recipe, ripe for love. The modern industrial space is stylish yet warm, with exposed brick walls and soft lighting. The open kitchen adds a touch of energy and allows guests to witness the culinary artistry of the chef and his crew firsthand. 

Seating varies from cozy couches to a fireside courtyard with plenty of extra room for larger group gatherings and plenty of bar seating to celebrate new relationships.

So, why does DTLA choose Hearts & Flame for the most romantic date nights? Maybe, because love is sweet at Hearts & Flame, thanks to the Mieloso honey cake with its delightful “when east meets west” twist. 

Or maybe it’s the endless variety of flavors and textures that keep things exciting. Variety is the spice of life. 

At Hearts & Flame, life’s an Italian love affair waiting to be discovered.

Hearts & Flame is located at 225 S. Garey Street, Arts District, DTLA – Open Sunday to Thursday from 11am to 9:30pm and Friday-Saturday 11am to 10:30pm.

Author: Keri Freeman

Military mom and proud parent, artist, writer, musician and film maker. Cocktail connoisseur. Publisher of DTLA Weekly.