Monday, November 19, 2012

Getting Closer to the Perfect L.A. Pie

The hunt for good pizza in Los Angeles has been an interesting one where we will first hear about a place and then seek it out, typically ordering a basic margherita and then another more creative option, sometimes splitting the choices simply between a white and a red. Our adventures have turned up an assortment of experiences including:

800 Degrees in Westwood, our choice before a movie, which provided us with a floppy, non-flavorful crust with charcoal black pockmarked dough and inconsistencies in topping delivery across the area of the dough due to the careless assembly-line style of creating the pizza. Nothing I dislike better than seeing beautiful pieces of basil-strewn slices of pizza and then tasting nary a bit of its flavor on my own slice. It is also the place that made us realize we rarely ever agree with Johnathon Gold’s food reviews in the LA Times.

Pizza Antica, which actually serves up a good pie on a solid foundation on a mall rooftop in Santa Monica overlooking the sea – but because it’s located in a housewives of the West Side consumerist heaven, I tend to want to stay away.

Il Fico, which provided us the score find of our favorite bowls of pasta yet left much to be desired in the pie zone. The pizzas tasted fine but were really thin with crust that didn’t stand on its own and a very bland tomato sauce that constantly needed spruced up with the pot of chili oil brought to the table with a miniature spoon. Again, there were bad consistencies in delivery of toppings on the pizza.

Savory’s in Malibu surprisingly had the best sausage topping we had tasted in a long time. Although known for all kinds of food and not just pizza, we ordered a pie and were in awe of the meat done in a soft, dense and herbal-packed bite and halved meatball where the sausage stood out amongst the other ingredients as a star that still played well with others. Of course, like a lot of places we fall in love with, it was gone within a few months of our visit.

Masa in Echo Park for a deep dish that was a true delight for a one time meal with an almost dare I say sausage patty for a topping that was very delicious albeit a little strange.

Olio is probably the Cute Gardener’s favorite so far, with its marvelous margherita made extra flat with a unique tomato sauce and a true basil taste and mozzarella cheese spread throughout even though the look contradicts that fact. But it was still a little too ordinary for me with its ultra plain crust.

Then there was the time where we spent an hour stalking the downtown L.A. freeway tangle on foot looking for the illusive and mysterious Hollywood Pie that we later found out had aborted their physical space in lieu of becoming a delivery only service. And only to a select chunk of neighborhood. 

And finally, last Friday night we ventured into Stella Rossa, nicely situated only a half hour walk from my home to try out their highly-hyped and super-crowded space for some pie. Our proposed 45 minute wait ended up only being 20 and we scored a seat looking into the baking oven area while still being off to our own. You can’t escape the loudness of the joint because the dining room is centered around a massive square cocktail bar. You can sit at the cocktail bar if you want for food on a first come first serve basis as well.

True to form we had our margherita and a sausage. I loved both pies, and the sausage comes the closest for me a being my kind of preferred sausage. Richly seasoned old Italian style with fennel, it is delivered crumbled across the cheese with a lovely ground texture that I have yet to find in the area. The distribution could have been more even but I enjoyed the flavors that were also quote good in the crust itself- a salty, buttery bed. The only complaint of mine was that the crust to topping portion of the pizza was almost 50% meaning you get a lot of crust on the pies and less ingredients. Eating all of that crunchy, crust caused me to cut the upper roof of my mouth because it was quite hard as it cooled down. I loved the beet salad appetizer with ricotta and arugula and a hint of fresh lemon in the dressing. It was a refreshing beginning to the pizza that would come. Because it is in my neighborhood and the pies and wine are all priced right, I will no doubt come back again and consider this the pizza place in my neck of the woods. That is, until another one comes and wows me more. 

And then there are those dirty little secrets we all have, like the ones we order really late at night when we are hungry and too tired to drive or eat a proper pie at a proper place so we call in our favorite trashy, cheap and easy order for a delivery pie. Mine always tends to be the Bada Bing onion and peppers delight from Bravo on Main Street.

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