It’s amazing how excited people get about pizza in Los Angeles. I went to Pizzeria Mozza over the weekend and the 60-seat restaurant was heaving with people. We could barely get into the door! In fact, it takes a month to reserve a table for dinner.
Mozza is no ordinary pizzeria, however. It is the newest creation of New York’s Italian cuisine maestros, Mario Batali and Joe Bastianich of Babbo and Del Posto, among others, along with Nancy Silverton of La Brea Bakery. They plan to open a three-times as large, high-end Italian osteria in a few months right next door.
Joe is one of the smartest restaurateurs I know (he also makes excellent white wines in Friuli, at Bastianich winery) and he understands that great pizza leads a chef to Oscar-like status in La La. Look at Wolfgang Puck, who started at Spago with designer pizzas, and now everybody is walking the red carpet to his various restaurants (including his newest venture Cut, which I blogged about last week and is stupendous).
Anyway, the pizzas are delicious at Mozza. The style is slightly thicker and more chewy, or bready, than the pizza made near my house in Il Borro, in Tuscany, where the pizza has a thin and crunchy crust (or pasta, as they call it in Italy). Mozza is certainly more show business than my local pizzeria, with toppings of the highest quality, from fresh littleneck clams to Coach Farm goat cheese.
We had a sausage pizza and a mushroom pizza, both of which were flavorful and refined. I thought they need a little virgin olive oil on top to moisten and enhance the flavors. This is what my Italian friends do with pizza. They also sprinkle dried chili flakes on top. But the Mozza pizzas were satisfying and delicious, either way.
Interestingly, it was the antipasti, or starters, that really blew me away. A black pepper salami as well as a meatier one were flavorful and decadent. The toasted bread with a topping of chicken liver, parsley, capers and guanciale (cured pork cheeks and jowls) was creamy and flavor-packed—better than anything like that that I have had in Italy! Deep-fried vegetables with a garlic-y mayo sauce were crispy and yummy. And the lentils in a tomato-based meat sauce were hearty and succulent. They all went wonderfully with the fruity, juicy yet freshly crisp 2003 Colpetrone Montefalco Rosso, which is a blend of Sangiovese and Sagrantino.
I spoke to manager David Rosoff, after I ordered the bottle of Colpetrone, and he said most people order wines by the 250ml carafe, or quartino. If I had noticed, I would have done the same and tried two or three different wines. There are about 100 or so on the list. All are Italian, and are about $25 to $50 for a bottle, or $10 to $20 for a quartino.
“We have no Barolos, Barbarescos or Brunellos on this list,” said Rosoff, who said they were focusing on a tight list with wines selling for $50 or less. I told him I might have to leave then! But there are plenty of interesting and fun wines available, from a minerally and fruity 2003 Cantine Terlano Lagrein Greis for $48 a bottle to Bastianich’s own peachy and aromatic 2004 Bastianich Tocai Friulano for $14 per quartino.
Mozza is certainly worth the hassle to get into. It’s fun, buzzy and satisfying. But in a city that seems to celebrate designer pizza, it’s the rest of the food here that impresses and even suggests how the soon-to-open next-door restaurant could be the real Oscar winner in the Los Angeles restaurant cinema.
Mike Vessa — East Williston,NY — January 29, 2007 9:27pm ET
Chris Lavin — Long Beach, CA — January 30, 2007 1:33pm ET
Mark Francone — CA — January 30, 2007 2:49pm ET
John Osgood — New York, NY — May 23, 2007 11:33am ET
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