Avner Lavi may not be a household name, but he’s arguably one of LA’s carb cooking kings. A veteran of the local dining scene, he honed his skills at Italian hotspots like Sotto and Bestia before striking out on his own as chef and owner of Cento Pasta Bar, a critically acclaimed, roving pop-up that takes over local restaurants otherwise “dark” for lunch or dinner service.

At each residency, you can find the Los Angeles native whipping up dishes like his bright red beet pasta with goat cheese and poppy seeds (yum), his creamy, crunchy avocado toast, or a rotating selection of seasonal specialties.

Despite being a pop-up, dining at Cento is both delicious and intimate. It feels less like a restaurant, and more like the hospitality-minded Lavi’s thrown together a casual meal for his friends. And with maxed out crowds who primarily find out about his pop-ups through word of mouth and social media, clearly, he knows a thing or two about gathering people. So what are some his secrets to success? Here, he offers us his dos and don'ts of planning a dinner party... and one of his favorite recipes to whip up for a group.

What’s the most common mistake people make when planning a party?

Not doing any planning at all. If things get disorganized and chaotic in the kitchen, it can bleed out into the party and ruin a good time.

If you could give one piece of essential party planning advice, what would it be?

Drink! You should be having just as much as your guests.

Best item to bring to someone else’s party?

Anything. The gesture itself is enough.

Worst thing someone can bring to a party you’re throwing?

A bad attitude. Don't be the person bringing everyone else down.

What dish is your ultimate large group crowd pleaser?

Pasta, naturally.

Want to impress your guests with a simple but killer pasta dish? Try Lavi's recipe for Spaghetti with Spicy Sausage Ragu. (Trust us, you won't regret it.)

Spaghetti with Spicy Sausage Ragu
Serves 2. Multiply these numbers for a crowd!


  • 1 pound breakfast sausage
  • 1 tablespoon crushed, toasted fennel seed
  • 2 tablespoons smoked paprika
  • 1/4 cup roasted Fresno chillies
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1 16 ounce can whole San Marzano Tomatoes
  • 3 garlic cloves, microplaned
  • 1/4 cup EVOO
  • Salt (to taste)
  • ¼ cup spinach
  • 200 grams dry spaghetti


  1. To prepare the spicy sausage: cut tops off Fresno chilies, slice them in half lengthwise, and roast for 2 hours at 200 degrees F. Once roasted, puree or chop the chilies finely, then mix them together with the raw sausage, fennel seed, smoked paprika, and water. Let sit for 30 minutes before using.
  2. To prepare the tomato sauce: strain and puree tomatoes; mix in the garlic, olive oil, and salt.
  3. Sear 10 ounces sausage in a smoking pan; once seared, add 4 ounces tomato sauce to the sausage and reduce heat.
  4. At the same time, boil 200 grams spaghetti in salted water. Once al dente (aka firm), add the pasta directly to sauce, plus 2-3 ounces pasta water.
  5. Stir continually until pasta comes to desired texture. Add spinach and plate!

Photo By Cento Pasta Bar

Photo By Cento Pasta Bar