Friday, July 11, 2008

Mozza Memories

The moment I heard about Pizzeria Mozza, the lovechild of the fabulous Nancy Silverton and Mario Batali, I knew something special was afoot. I'm a bit psychic like that. When I was a senior in high school, I totally knew that I was going to win the fierce black Kate Spade bag at our Grad Night. It so wasn't even a surprise when they called my name out to claim my prize!

As par the course with occasional psychics like moi, it also wasn't a surprise when Pizzeria Mozza exploded onto the LA dining scene in Fall 2006. I'd been to Babbo and knew to expect a feeding frenzy to secure reservations, or the patience of a Teach for America Kindergarten teacher to receive a coveted seat at the Pizza Bar.

Even with my expectations for the subsequent Mozza madness that descended upon Los Angeles that winter, the hype and drama surrounding the restaurant still scared me. I thought that the Mozza was too cool for me. The glowing reviews from authoritative critics, the long list of celebrities who regularly pissed off their trainers to dine on the thin-crust pies, the bizarre toppings like Lardo and runny egg -- it was all extremely intimidating for a young unconnected foodie like me. While I'm not exactly a schlub from the back country, I don't have a resume that would convince any host that I am worthy of a seat at the hottest table/bar stool in town.

As the months passed, I erroneously maintained the belief that Mozza's pizzas were unattainable for a gal like me. I like to think of that period of time as my "ignorant fool phase." What soon came to pass was something that my clearly struggling psychic mind could never have predicted: Pizzeria Mozza opened up its heavy wooden door for me with wide welcoming arms. I lept right in and never looked back.

Until now.

Since my first bite of the Coach farm goat cheese, leeks, scallions, and bacon pizza a year-and-a-half ago, Pizzeria Mozza has reigned at the top of my list of favorite Los Angeles restaurants. Over the course of my four visits to the chic eatery that oozes New York City sophistication, I have discovered many reasons to adore the Mozza -- many of them completely unrelated to the truly spectacular food.

I love ordering a quartino of fine Italian wine -- one glass is never enough, and for a slight girl like myself, two will often send me on a trip to very fuzzy brain land (not to mention the offense to my credit card). At Mozza I can get a quarter bottle of Barbera for $15. It's the perfect amount to keep my mouth wet and my brain slightly numb for the entire meal.

Clams, garlic, oregano, parmigiano, and pecorino pizza

I love deciding at 5:15 pm on a Friday night that I want the clams, garlic, oregano, parmigiano, and pecorino pizza, and be cramming it down my pizza pie hole that very evening. Most of the finer restaurants in town aren't as gracious to reservationless diners, but at Pizzeria Mozza, I have always been treated with the same respect proffered to the parties who had the foresight to secure their tables four weeks in advance. On two occasions, I have even been offered one of those precious tables (with the agreement that my companion and I be done with our meal before the next party arrived for their reservation). For a restaurant that exudes exclusivity, this is practically revolutionary.

Nancy's Chopped Salad

I love the warm club-like atmosphere that sparks with foodie intensity. There is something special going on in that room and everyone there knows it. And I ain't just talking about the salami making love to the provolone, chickpeas, grape tomatoes, radicchio, and finely shredded lettuce in Nancy's chopped salad. (It's actually the oregano vinegar-based dressing that's doing that nasty trick.) But alas, the salad is not the only thing that gets my butt cheeks into Mozza's wooden chairs and stools time and time again. It's the "I'm alive and loving it" feeling I get every time I walk through the big Mozza door.

Squash blossoms, tomato & burrata

I love the finely managed marriage of fabulous food and fabulous scene. It's a party there every night of the week -- a statement that my stomach will boldly reinforce. It's not typical to find a restaurant where the scene and food are equal partners. I can't say that I have flipped for everything that I've eaten within those burgundy walls, but I can say that I have always left with a smile on my face. It's enough to make me forgive them for the overwhelming amounts of sausage (and lack of cheese) on their Fennel sausage, panna, red onion, and scallion pizza that doesn't quite meet my tastes. I'm even willing to give a Randy Jackson, "It's aight, dog," with regards to the Squash blossoms, tomato and burrata pie that is high on quality ingredients, but a bit understated on the palate. Fortunately, the fried ricotta-stuffed blossoms save face for Sir Squash and provide plenty of pop when the creamy cheese center oozes its way onto the tongue.

Giandiua and Pistachio Gelati

Finally, I love that dessert is not to be missed. The now infamous Buttorscotch Budino is a nutritionist's worst nightmare and is guilty of heavy stomach-punching, but there is something seriously buzz-worthy going on in that glass cup. I am also fond of the Caramel Copetta with Spanish peanuts that is somewhat reminiscent of an ice cream sundae -- complete with marshmallow cream. At the moment however, my heart belongs to the Giandiua (chocolate hazelnut) and pistachio gelati. Any restaurant that can churn out gelato this good has my blessing 100x over. Paired together, it's a symphony in a bowl.

As I sit here reflecting on my many memories of Mozza, I feel almost guilty mentioning this final note. But the beauty of Mozza extends far beyond the pizzas that make my mouth water with desire on many a Friday afternoon. The beauty of Mozza is that it is accessible to the everyday foodie with prices that allow for a memorable evening without being particularly memorable on the back account. For a gal who is currently foregoing her pedicures to pay for her gas bills, that's something that's truly remarkable. And I didn't even need to pretend to be psychic to figure that one out.

1 comment:

Jennifer said...

Awww. What a beautiful love letter to a beloved L.A. institution. Viva la Mozza!