Sunday, February 24, 2008

Mozza, Hold the Pizza

I'm not one to flock to the latest big restaurant on opening night. I avoid crowds and celebrity chefs. Sure, in the first month or two when Tom Colicchio is babysitting Craft or Wolfgang Puck is running the grill at Cut, the food will be great. But after they get their three stars from Miss Irene at the Times and the hubbub dies down, then what happens. Do they keep producing quality food or do the rest on their laurels? The true test of a great restaurant is whether it can produce high quality food over time.

This is why I had so far avoided Pizzeria Mozza and its cousin Osteria Mozza, the product of a collaboration between Iron Chef Mario Batali and local bread-winner Nancy Silverton. The restaurant opened to rave reviews from Virbila, Jonathan Gold and the like, some calling it the best pizza in LA, but that was last year, and now Mario has gone back to New York and it's just another restaurant, one that I decided it was time to visit.

Of course, it's still impossible to get a reservation, unless you like booking dinner at 3:30 (am or pm), but when I walked into the Pizzeria at 6:00 on a Wednesday evening, there were a few spaces at the bar and a pretty good turnover.

We had an appetizer, two pizzas and dessert. The funny thing is than while the appetizer and dessert blew us away, the pizzas, while good, did not seem all that special.

Our appetizer was bone marrow al forno, consisting of ovenbaked beef bone marrow, served with toast, roasted garlic, sea salt and a microscopic micro-greens salad. The marrow, served in three sections of a cow femur, was luscious...fatty, tender, beefy, garlicky, rich and served so hot that I burnt a finger grabbing the piece of bone. The salad, which really should have been larger, had a nicely acidic lemon dressing which cut perfectly through the grease and richness of the marrow. The roasted garlic was superfluous.

The two pizzas were the Gorgonzola dolce, fingerling potatoes, radicchio & rosemary and the "meat lovers pizza" with sausage, salami, bacon & guanciale. These were both good pizzas. The crusts are big, fluffy...nice and chewy, and the toppings are well done, but they just didn't live up to the hype. Frankly, I'd just as soon eat a good ole' Casa Bianca sausage and green olive pie.

Much has been written about the butterscotch budino dessert, and it did live up to the hype. A rich, creamy butterscotch pudding, topped with salt and whipped cream, the budino joins my custard hall of fame. I briefly considered ordering a second, but decided better of it. The accompanying rosemary cookies were not to my liking, but I was a bit over-rosemaried from the pizza.

I may go back to Mozza, if I hear the siren song of marrow or butterscotch pudding, but it won't be for the pizza.

Pizzeria Mozza
641 N. Highland Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90036
(323) 297-0101

1 comment:

Raven said...

This was my experience, too. Appetizers (we ordered four of them for the table, as I recall): delicious. Butterscotch budino: awesome. Pizza, eh. I wasn't a fan of the crust. If I want bread, I order bread. When I order pizza, I expect it to be mostly pizza, not half pizza and half crust. And the non-crust part wasn't exceptional, especially considering the price. However, the other three people I went with raved about the pizza.