Friday, November 10, 2006

Restaurant review: MOZZA

Last night I had the chance to preview MOZZA, the much-anticipated (talk about an understatement) and much-hyped pizzeria owned and operated by Mario Batali and Nancy Silverton. Foodies and pizza-lovers have been waiting for the opening, and much as already been written about the place, including a story on a recent salami theft there. Yes, people break into restaurants to steal $700 worth of it must be good, right?

Good can't even begin to describe it. I must warn you- if you get annoyed by raving restaurant reviews, stop reading now because it's all love from me, baby. And before you start accusing me of working for them or getting paid to do this, let me stop you. In the interest of full disclosure, I do know the Executive Chef and the Manager/Sommelier very well- we've been friends for a while. That said, I would never pretend to like something that a friend made if it wasn't good. Never. Well, maybe if my 96-year-old grandma ever made me cookies and asked if I liked them and I didn't, I may fib a little and say yes. Other than that, why would I insult my friends or family when they are well aware of my obsession with food?

Now that we've gotten the formalities out of the way, let's begin.

The space is medium sized, with high ceilings and a "pizza bar" where you can see the wood-burning oven surrounded by several chefs in full view. It's casual in a very refined way and not at all formal. There is a beautiful bar that takes up one wall but it has a nice, relaxed atmosphere and was certainly bustling last night. The service was friendly, informative and helpful. One thing- the place is LOUD. In fact, I must say it was one of the loudest restaurants I'd been to in recent memory. Hopefully something can be done to remedy that problem.

We started with 2 glasses of the Tuscan Morellino di Scansano Sangiovese ($10) which came in larger-than-I've-seen personal decanters. Since I had viewed the menu online awhile back, I knew the one starter that I had to have- a bruschette of Chicken Livers, Capers, Parsley and Guanciale ($8). I absolutely love chicken liver- my dad used to make it for supper and I've loved it ever since. I don't see it often on restaurant menus so I jumped at the chance to try their version. What can I say? It was the ultimate bruschette. The chicken livers were sautéed and slightly mashed but still very chunky. Spread on thin slices of grilled bread and topped with paper-thin crisps of guanciale, it was MADE for consumption with the sangiovese and just heavenly. I must warn you how decadently rich it truly is, but my god- food just doesn't really get much better than this. The guanciale is extremely salty but the chicken liver mixture is not, so balance is achieved.

Bruschette of Chicken Livers, Capers, Parsley

We chose the Eggplant Caponata ($6) which ended up being the perfect compliment to the salty bruschette in that it was tender, cool and sweet. The small bowl had large chunks of melt-in-your-mouth eggplant tossed with pine nuts and currants all coated in a sweet glaze. I must say, there were way too many pine nuts in the dish and I would have preferred to have a slight sprinkling of them on top, but overall the flavors were delicious. It really was a nice contrast to the richness of the chicken liver. J and I agreed that these two small plates would be the perfect after-work dinner, washed down with a bottle of wine, of course;).

Eggplant Caponata

Margherita with Mozzarella, Tomato & Basil

And now, what the place is famous and will eventually become legendary for, the pizza. Oh, the pizza my friends. Of course we had to start with the classic Margherita with Mozzarella, Tomato & Basil ($10). The minute our waiter sat the pie down on the table, we were hit with the aroma of fresh was intoxicating. The pizza was thin in the center and absolutely bulbous with air bubbles around the perimeter. We dug right in and yes- it was truly the best pizza I'd ever eaten in my life. The Mozza Margherita is perfect in its simplicity of fresh, crushed tomatoes, torn basil and a light sprinkling of mozzarella. The crust was thin but held everything together well and had the perfect chew and slightly yeasty flavor. This was special.............until.........

...the next pie came. The Burrata, Escarole, Bacon & Caramelized Shallots pizza ($13) arrived at our table, topped with obscene globs of creamy white burrata and small chunks of pork belly. I love how Mozza means "smoked pork belly" when they say "bacon." I took a bite and promptly went to confession. Ok, I didn't but how could anything this good not be a mortal sin??? The same glorious crust of the margherita was now holding the beautiful green escarole, the chunks of richly fatty pork and topped by the coolest, creamiest burrata. Each bite was a combination of the slightly chewy crust and all the flavors of the freshest toppings. Now THIS was something truly special.

Burrata, Escarole, Bacon & Caramelized Shallots pizza

2005 Moscato d'Asti (left)

We'd consumed quite a bit of some glorious food, but nothing could prepare me for what was yet to come. We were served two different dessert wines, and although the pale, sparkling Stella Rosa Il Conte d' Alba ($7.50) was smooth and flowery, the 2005 Moscato d'Asti ($8) was a revelation. It's red color defied it's crisp, moscato flavor and it was, quite truly, like eating the grape itself. Such a wonderful find!

Soffiata w/ Yogurt Gelato and Amarena Cherries

And what did we eat with these lovely glasses of wine? The Soffiata w/ Yogurt Gelato and Amarena Cherries ($7) was nice-almond puffs, tangy gelato and sweet cherries topped with a light sprinkling of pistachios. A classic flavor combination. However, it was completely overshadowed by what I will, on record, say is the best dessert I've had at any restaurant this year. The Butterscotch Budino with Rosemary-Pine Nut Biscotti ($7) was the richest custard I've ever eaten with a deep caramel/butterscotch flavor. One bite is rich enough to send you over the edge, yet somehow, you find your spoon going in for another scoop, and yet another. Then you see that now your spoon has taken a dollop of the budino and put it on top of one of the two crunchy cookies that come on the plate and before you know it- it's all in your mouth. Your senses pick up the slightly burnt caramel sweetness combined with what must be the best sea salt and it all comes together with a hint of rosemary from the biscotti. If you've been looking for the ultimate in butterscotch puddings, your search has just ended here.

Butterscotch Budino with Rosemary-Pine Nut Biscotti

As we rolled ourselves out of the restaurant, we made plans to hit the treadmill with extra vigor and, of course, to return to Mozza many times over. I implore you to take a trip to Mozza with an empty stomach and prepare to eat some of the finest pizza, if not THE finest pizza, Los Angeles has ever seen.

Mozza opens Tuesday, November 14th and is open 7 days a week from noon to midnight.

Pizzeria Mozza
641 N Highland Ave
Los Angeles
323 297 0101



H. C. said...

Yummy food and great pictures - can't wait till I go & have a chance to take some of my own. Of course, by take I don't mean stealing salumni.

Erin S. said...

ooohhh...lucky you!! I am very excited to try this place as dinner at Babbo was my favorite meal ever. Everything looks delish.

Anonymous said...

TAG, your posts rock. One tiny suggestion -- when you're not using a flash, reset your camera for incandescent (the little 'lightbulb' setting.) It'll make your great pics even better.

e d b m said...

Thanks for posting this. I'm gonna order everything you did, minus the desserts. You know how I feel about dessert. I am all over that chicken liver bruschetta w/ cheek bacon... mmm! I love sangiovese wine too. I just hope we can get a res very soon.

Daily Gluttony said...

oooooooh, you lucky girl you! everything looks so yummy...i can't wait to go!!

Anonymous said...

Who the heck is "J?"
I am jealous.

susan said...

omg you're post is driving me wild!!! god, i'm so hungry.

Chubbypanda said...

I can't wait to go myself! The food looks and sounds awesome. The best part is, it doesn't look like going there will break the bank.

- Chubbypanda

Anonymous said...

Imma gonna write to him. Maybe he'll open a place here in Temple City. They're developing the corner of Las Tunas and Rosemead into a pricy condo/food court sorta thing. Couldn't drink that much and expect to drive home safely. Gotta have one of his places here!!!

BrENDa said...

Thank you THANK YOU for an excellent post. I'm exhausted just thinking about how delicious your dinner was....

Anonymous said...

that bruschette looks to die for. next time i'm in LA, i'm heading right to that restaurant (and loteria grill)!

Food Marathon said...

Got a res for tomorrow night. Looking forward to trying it.

Anonymous said...

Oh MY. What an incredible meal! I am adding this to my list of LA spots for my next trip (when, oh WHEN will it be??).

Anonymous said...

sounds like you work for Nancy!!

Cinzia said...

I am Italian, I've just been to Mozza and this is not Italian,. Pizza sucks and everything there is not Italian. Onlu the names are Italian!

Anonymous said...

Mozza is not Italian food. This chef uses Italian ingredients but somehow manages to turn it all into crap, the combinations she uses are enough to turn any Italian's stomach. Bagna cauda, which she does not know how to make, with guanciale is a waste of guanciale, then an egg, che schifo! Why would anyone mix bagna cauda (oil, garlic, and anchovies) with pig cheeks??? Che schifo! The pizza margherita is by far the worst I've ever had in the U.S. or in Italy. You cannot taste the mozzarella because the sauce tastes like onion, the dough is flavorless and too full of air, che schifo! She puts too much oil in the pizza crust and in the bread sticks. My 7 year old niece can make fiori di zucca better then Mozza. The chef needs to go to cooking school in Italy. She knows nothing and gives Italian food a bad name and taste. This is California designer cuisine from a chef who has no experience or knowledge of authentic Italian cooking. It is fine to be creative once you have the basic knowledge but this chef is clueless. Why does she keep trying to make our food? Go pick on some other country. Her bread is a disaster too. She gives it all Italian names but it has nothing to do with Italian bread. Mozza is the emperor's new clothes. We're Italian from Italy and Mozza's placemats with the hand signs were offensive.

Digital Scott's Illustrationblog said...

Somebody needs a hug!