The first whiff of a new pizzeria that might pique my interest came compliments of the Automobile Club magazine. It usually goes from the mailbox to the recycling bin without skipping a beat but, last April, I happened to leaf through it and a “Cheap Eats” section caught my attention. A small item about a new pizzeria with a wood-fired oven kept me reading and I actually tore up the page and shoved it in my “things to possibly do one day if I have time” file.
Strangely enough, I did not have a single decent pizza while I was in Italy. I didn’t try very hard, I only had one, in Murano, out of extreme hunger and it was a disastrous, undercooked pie I actually sent back for a few more minutes in the oven. I filled myself to the brim with seafood but I came back to the States with no good pizza stories. Which is why, as part of my birthday celebrations which tend to last a week, I took myself to Olio on Third Street for a slice of good pizza. Or so my friend L and countless other diners on Yelp said.
The recurring theme in many of the Yelp reviews was that the space was cold and uninviting and the service mediocre. After a while, I stopped reading when it became clear that, as well-intentioned as the reviewers are, too many ramble on and don’t know what they are talking about.
Olio (oil In Italian) is located on the corner of Third Street and Crescent Heights in Hollywood and it’s easy to miss. The manager explained to me that they abided by city codes in making a sign no larger that 10” (it’s on the olive green awning and doesn’t exactly catch your eye) when, clearly, nobody else does. Besides improving signage, they are already planning to repaint and remodel the not so cozy outside. As much as I thought the place was actually nice in a modern and detached style, the olive green walls, the faux granite tables and the white lights all combine to create a certain coldness.
Most of the small space is taken up by a semi-circular counter around the wood-fired oven where it is possible to see your pizza being made really close-up. Along the glass wall there are a handful of small tables and a few more on the pavement outside.
But let’s get to the pizzas which are the centerpiece of the menu (salads and oven cooked vegetables are available as well). First of all the crust: it’s charred and pillowy and a bit chewy, while the center is paper-thin. The Margherita Plus with burrata is close to perfect (I asked them to omit the parmesan), with just enough tomato sauce, pools of melt in your mouth cheese and whole basil leaves. We also ordered a pizza with Swiss chard, smoked prosciutto and brie that was good but a bit on the heavy side, possibly too wintry even for a cool summer night.
Olio only offers two desserts, cannoli and affogato, and I went for the cannoli. The shells are not made in-house but the filling is and I can’t say I loved it – it was rather bland and uninteresting. They don’t have a liquor license just yet but the house made sodas make up for it: try the watermelon-basil one that goes perfectly with pizza and it’s refreshing without being marred by too much sugar.
On a Sunday afternoon, the patrons were few and far between and the service was friendly, attentive and swift.
As American pizzas go, this is one of the best around, putting nearby Mozza’s to shame. It seems like my quest for perfect pizza is looking ever more promising.