Gastronomy 101, a blog about food and Los Angeles restaurants

THING 52: Mozza Pizza

Many cities have their own "signature" version of pizza, and proponents of each type of pizza are willing to argue all night that theirs is the best - whether it be from the source in Naples; or a large, thin New York slice; or perhaps a hearty deep dish from Chicago.

Here in Los Angeles, we don't really have a "signature" pizza, except perhaps the use of untraditional toppings, made famous by Wolfgang Puck. But even so, you can get a "California-style" pizza at five different places and have five completely different pizzas even in the most definitive aspects, like crust thickness and cheese-to-sauce ratio.

It would be a fine thing if we decided to make Nancy Silverton's style of pizza the definitive Los Angeles pizza. In my book, it can compete with any pizza anywhere. It's not just the variety of really good, really fresh ingredients in both unusual and familiar combinations. It is mostly the crust. A crust that was carefully created through many tests to be chewy enough to give it some substance, but airy enough that one can eat the pizza without feeling heavy and full afterward.

I can think of nothing better than to go sit at the bar at Mozza, eat pizza, drink wine and watch pizza being made, or the bartender do his thing. Every pizza is made to order in a real wood oven. When the restaurant first opened, Nancy Silverton stood over each pizza, approving it before it was served. Now the cooks have it down to a science. Each pizza comes out of the oven light, airy, crispy and with toppings perfectly cooked.

The options will satisfy anyone, from the pickiest kid to the most adventurous gourmet. If you like variety, there are always some seasonal toppings on the menu, like flash fried sage in the winter, or artichoke and lemon in the spring. One of my favorites has a spicy salame with Fresno chiles. It's hot, but satisfying - a step up from the pepperoni pizza of my childhood. Other favorites include the squash blossom and burrata, fennel sausage, and the aforementioned pizza bianca with sage.

It's hard to write about one particular pizza-eating experience, as Mozza is a place we go to for a special treat fairly regularly. But one thing about this night was that we vastly miscalculated what the wait would be. It was cold and a bit rainy, and we thought we could just show up and not have to wait too long for a spot at the bar.

We were wrong. I think we waited about 90 minutes to finally sit down, as the tiny square where people can wait just continued to fill with people at a steady stream, but only empty out at an extremely slow trickle. By the time we sat down, the pizza had gone from "damn good pizza" to "we've been waiting so long, this is now the best pizza ever created." It was worth the wait, though, which is a high honor coming from me, since I hate waiting. It was also worth it to get to sit at the pizza bar for the first time. 99% of the time we end up sitting at the wine bar, to the point where we started wondering if the people at the other bar were paid extras who sat there all night. But this time we learned that no, it's possible to sit there and it's fun to watch your pizza get made, and try to guess what they are making now.

The wine selection is small but carefully chosen. You can't really go wrong, but the bartender will help you if Italian wines and their many alien grapes get you confused. In addition to pizza, the chopped salad is always a good option, and for dessert the butterscotch budino would probably be in my personal "things to try before you die" list.

But the real reason to come is always the pizza. From now on, this will always be "Los Angeles-style pizza" to me.

Pizzeria Mozza
641 N. Highland Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90036

Hours of Operation:
Daily: Noon - Midnight


I've wanted to try this place forEVER.

said by Jeremy at 7:30 PM Delete

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