I stand in the familiar entry way of Pizzeria Mozza like I have a half-dozen times before. My hair is impeccably coiffed in my “fancy do” (aka curled instead of straight), I am wearing my favorite (and only) red dress, and my lips are stained with color rather than with my usual clear Victoria Secret lip gloss. I glance at my watch, and smile up at the hostess, a primly attired woman with a pixie haircut that I could never pull off due to the flat slope of my head.
It’s a little after 6:45 pm on a Friday evening, and I am anxiously awaiting the arrival of my friend who has never been to Nancy Silverton’s famed pizzeria. The air is tinted with the distinct aroma of rising dough, and I am suddenly ravenously hungry and eager to sit down. Not at the pizza bar, like usual, but at the table I have reserved for us – a first for me, since I have always just shown up at the restaurant sans warning.
I glance anxiously over at the bar to my right and see Sean, the long-haired rock star bartender that has waited on me several times before. I feel slightly guilty for having a reservation tonight – like I am shunning him for a “better seat.”
My friend Anna arrives a few moments later, and the hostess leads us to a two-person table in the center of the recession-proof restaurant. She is flush with excitement to finally be there, and I can’t help but feel equally excited as I watch her take it all in. Through her eyes Mozza feels new to me as well.
Of course, in many ways, it always feels new to me. I am constantly discovering something new to love – a pizza I’ve never ordered before, a special starter, or maybe just a different seat in the house that offers me a fresh perspective. Dining at Mozza is like watching one of my favorite movies again and catching a line I’ve missed the first few times I’ve seen it. I don’t groan when someone suggests coming again, just like I don’t groan when My Best Friend’s Wedding is on TBS again. I am genuinely thrilled to be there – thrilled to have the opportunity to find yet another reason to love my favorite restaurant in Los Angeles.
Tonight, I will have several new reasons to add to my ever growing “let me count the ways” list.
The little gem lettuce salad with dates, red onion and gorgonzola ($15) is a simple dish that is refined by the quality and freshness of the ingredients. With two pizzas in the cue for the wood-burning oven, it is a lighter way for my friend and I to begin the evening than the more popular fried squash blossoms with ricotta ($12) and Nancy’s chopped salad ($15).
The Bianca pie with fontina, mozzarella, sottocenere & sage ($18) with the addition of the oft-praised fennel sausage is decidedly gluttonous with its oozing layers of cheese and meaty chunks of house made sausage, but is one of the finest pizzas I’ve tried at Mozza to date. Despite the number of napkins I go through to consume my half (it generates a considerable amount of grease), I know I will crave this on subsequent Friday afternoons around 5 pm. (When I’ve worked out that day.)
The house made hazelnut gelati (that I order with mint chip and stracciatella) is on par with Pazzo Gelato’s hazelnut scoop. After one bite of the luxurious gelati, I regret not filling the entire bowl with just the single distinctly nutty flavor. My friend is equally enamored with her caramel copetta with marshmallow sauce & Spanish salted peanuts. I’ve had the dessert once before, but it seems especially good tonight – as though the Mozza kitchen angels knew that they were preparing it for a newbie.
When I leave the restaurant for the 7th time that evening, I stop by the bar to say a quick hello/goodbye to Sean.
“A table tonight? Are you going to come dressed in a ball gown with an entourage the next time I see you?” He teases me.
I laugh. “Hah, not quite.”
I wave goodbye and head toward the door, already wondering what my next visit will be like. Maybe I will come in a ball gown. Maybe I will come with an entourage and dine A-list style in the private room. Or maybe I’ll eat at Sean’s bar again, with a new pizza, another friend who’s never been there before, and with, as always, a giant smile spread across my face.