In my never ending quest for the perfect pizza in the land of the Angels, Pizzeria Mozza was obviously high on my list of places to try and it seemed pretty incredible I hadn’t ventured in yet. Tales of long waiting times and huge crowds always kept me away while I did enjoy a spectacular meal at the adjacent Osteria Mozza, the grown up and dressed up version cousin of the Pizzeria.
When Pizzeria Mozza opened to great acclaim, the papers were full of tales of Nancy Silverton’s travels to Italy to master the perfect pizza crust and, although not a big fan of La Brea Bakery’s bread that Ms Silverton founded (I always thought the bread was too heavy and relied too much on sourdough), I am a long admirer of her pastry creations and used to drive to the little bakery next to Campanile for a sweet treat when Ms Silverton still operated it.
On a Monday lunchtime, with no reservation, my friend and I quickly secured two spots at the bar counter. There is also a counter by the pizza oven while the medium size room, in its tones of burnt sienna and furnished like an upscale trattoria, is very welcoming, although the noise can become deafening.Our server behind the counter was friendly, knowledgeable, swift and overall extremely pleasant and attentive – all qualities that should be cloned in servers around town. The butcher paper place mats with Tuscan railway timetables are cutesy, as are the silverware tucked inside a paper bag and the folded paper menu. The gigantic and soft slices of bread our neighbours were enjoying looked amazing as did the Caprese salad – morsels of milky mozzarella topped by slightly charred grape tomatoes. My salad of arugula and mushrooms (I asked for the Piave cheese to be omitted) is a generous portion for a side dish and the lemony vinaigrette just perfect with the peppery greens.
And then there are the pizzas. The toppings of the 20 or so pizzas on the menu are interesting and, with the choice ingredients both restaurants use, no doubt very tasty. But I like my pizza plain, just as some Neapolitan god intended it so we order a Margherita. I could tell just by looking at it that this was not an Italian pizza at all but maybe reproducing an Italian pizza was never the intention. I think I mentioned before that most Americans who travel to Italy are not impressed with the local pizza as it does not resemble what they have come to expect back home. And Mozza’s pizza didn’t impress me.
The dough is neither paper-thin (Roman style ) nor chewy (Neapolitan style) but an unsatisfying in-between with charred edges that are too crunchy instead of melt in your mouth. A sweetener is also added to the dough (honey or molasses?) which, while not unpleasant, it is not my preference. Remembering La Brea Bakery’s perfect tarts and pastries I eagerly asked for the dessert menu – offering rustic desserts would seem more in keeping with the rest of the menu but here we could only pick from a caramel coppetta, a coconut ice cream pie and other similar concoctions that all sport marshmallow sauce or salty nuts as accompaniments.
The ice-creams are indeed spectacular and clearly home-made. The ice cream coconut pie with a Oreo crust, a dense chocolate sauce, salted peanuts and marshmallow sauce is of gargantuan proportion but tasty – the men around us stared incredulous while we dug in our gelati, probably trying to remember the last time they saw two women eating desserts so willingly and with such abandon.
At the end of the day, I was terribly underwhelmed – for years I nurtured the expectation of Ms. Silverton finally making a pizza worth its price. So far, it looks like I need to make a trek to Gardena if I want the pizza of my memory. As to LA, I am still looking…