I always recommend Ask the Dust for someone looking to get into Fante. It feels like he had really perfected his short, punctual style by that point... Wait Until Spring, Bandini is also good, as is Full of Life (his "cash-in" novel), but to really get a feel for Fante's writing and characterization, Ask the Dust is his greatest... In fact, it may be time for me to re-read it...
As a postscript... the two short story collections are also well worth the read. The Wine of Youth (collecting his first collection Dago Red, along with some others written after Dago Red was published in 1940) is particularly good, but most of The Big Hunger is good too. But read Ask the Dust first. Please. For America.
I actually started with "the road to Los Angeles" and loved every minute of it. I believe the road to los angeles is part I in the stories of Arturo Bandini? Maybe LTS can tell us? Or maybe I went out of order completely.
The letters, I have one book of letters, not sure if there are more, and even though it was an interesting read, I didn't like it as much as I thought I would. Anyway, can't go wrong with Fante!
nervas, Road to LA was first written, but I wouldn't consider them an series in the traditional sense. Road to LA was published last as it was discovered by Joyce Fante after her husband's death (sidenote: Bukowski wrote a letter complaining about John Martin publishing too much Fante that wasn't up to par with his other books, Road to LA chief among them).
Brotherhood of the Grape and Dreams From Bunker Hill are both worthwhile reads that have the same spark and emotion as Ask the Dust. I'm also a huge fan of My Dog Stupid (part of West of Rome) but I know other Fante fans who aren't, so...
I was hooked by my first read, which was Wait Until Spring, Bandini, the first of the saga (in terms of publication date and fictional chronology, if that makes any sense). A brilliant work that makes you feel the stone and brick without ever touching it. Bandini, Ask the Dust and Dreams from Bunker Hill are among the best novels I've read. The Road to Los Angeles may be of use if, in the future, the government outlaws toilet paper.
You may as well start with 'Wait Until...' and read the rest of the Bandini Quartet while you're at it as they're all great. 'The Road to LA' doesn't quite fit in with the others but it's worth a look as it hilarious in places.
And I know I haven't been on here for a while so I apologise for going missing and wish you all a Merry Christmas and a drunken New Year.