With four locations in Los Angeles (North Hollywood, Culver City, West LA and Downtown), it’s strange I never ventured into Pitfire Pizza before. Even Pulitzer Prize winning food critic Jonathan Gold wrote that Pitfire Pizza is a neighbourhood gem, with good, affordable food if not THE best pizza in the world.
The founders of Pitfire Pizza had in mind a sort of fast food place with high quality ingredients, wood burning ovens for great pizza and a neighbourhood atmosphere. Last night I ventured into the Culver City location which, incidentally, won an architectural award in the recent past. Between Marina del Rey and Culver City on Washington Boulevard, the warehouse-like space is built in the industrial style so popular these days: cement floors, exposed ceiling, spare tables and booths. Orders are placed at the register, with the food swiftly delivered by welcoming and competent serving staff.
I was there for pizza (you know, my never-ending quest) so I left alone the portion of the menu filled with salads, Panini and pastas. But a word about the ingredients first. Pitfire Pizza put their money where their mouth is: cheese is from an artisanal maker in Wisconsin, the mozzarella is made locally, meats and sausages are from Zoe’s in SF and a small producer from the Fairfax Farmer’s Market respectively and vegetables are seasonal and local. The pizza toppings are bit too involved for my tastes – I can’t go past 3 ingredients on my pie, and the combinations of cheeses, nuts, vegetables and meats the chef(s) came up with seemed a touch too heavy. But you can build your own pizza, simply on a base of mozzarella and tomato sauce.
My friend and I ordered a basic Margherita and a pizza with burrata, caramelized onions, arugula, hazelnuts and a drizzle of pesto (see what I mean? and that is the lightest of the bunch). The verdict? A far cry from my idea of perfect pizza is, the crust is a bit too doughy but nicely charred at the edges. The tomato sauce is average but the mozzarella and the burrata are excellent. Because a Margherita shines only if the three main components are outstanding (crust, sauce and mozzarella), this one fell a bit flat. The other pie was much better: the onions nicely caramelized, the arugula fresh and peppery and the hazelnuts a surprisingly good addition.
Despite being a very informal place, more than one server came by our table to ask if everything was fine and if we liked the food, and they offered to get us more drinks. Finally, a word on the beers – aside from all the usual bottled offerings, Pitfire offers lovely micro-brews on tap.
Soon the line of people waiting to order was reaching outside the door, with no letting up as time went by. The goal of becoming a neighbourhood place that serves high quality fast food has clearly been achieved. It might not be the very best pizza in town but it’s certainly many steps above the majority of pizza joints in LA.