Lil' Parlor Pizzeria, South Pasadena
I’ll be totally honest and say I’ve never been a fan of Steven Arroyo’s restaurants. I never “got” Cobras & Matadors after several trips there, and my two visits to his South Pasadena wine bar 750 ml never did it for me either. I haven’t heard a lot of positive things about his downtown place, Church and State, so I thought maybe it best for me to stay away from that one as well.
So why did I try Lil’ Parlor Pizzeria, the new pizzeria opened in the old 750 ml space by this very same restaurateur? There is no real thin-crust, wood-fired pizza in my neighborhood, and the 7 minute drive from my door to the South Pasadena restaurant made it easy to at least give the place a shot. Other than sushi, Italian is my favorite food on the planet; thin crust, lightly dressed pizzas are near the top of that list along with a pile of al dente parpadelle clinging to some sort of slowly braised ragu.
J, my friend Ikea (not his real name but it’s a nod to his Swedish heritage) and I strolled in at around 7:30 PM on Friday night. We were warmly greeted and I immediately noticed the giant leg of prosciutto that sat on the counter, ready for me to dive into. Ok, maybe it wasn’t waiting for me but it was a good sign that maybe, just maybe Steven and I have a future together (as restaurateur and customer, of course).
We sat down, placed our orders and the wine was quickly brought to the table. Although J’s glass was filled well to the middle with his white wine, my glass was filled less than a third. Ikea suggested I take a sip, look at the waiter and say “Mmm, good, I’ll take this one!” and then give the glass back as if I was simply given a taste and that I wanted more. Although the idea was appealing, I figured I’d just sit this one out and hope that my next glass was more half full than half empty.
Appetizers: J ordered the heirloom tomatoes w/ burrata, and although I thought it a bit late in the year for the tomatoes I didn’t say anything. I should have. Look, you can spread burrata on a rusty iron and it’d still be divine. But even the rich creamy heavenliness that is burrata couldn’t save the grainy, bland heirlooms. We left most of it untouched.
Ikea fared far better with his baked ricotta w/ peppernata, aged balsamic and olive oil. The slab of baked ricotta was extremely mild and could have used some salt, and although J dubbed it as “tofu,” Ikea seemed happy with his choice.
I ordered the charcuterie plate – a nice selection of salami and prosciutto plus some pepperoncinis, olives and cheese. Very good, nice portion and nice selection.
Now for the pizzas:
Ikea went for the “Old School,” a pizza topped with pepperoni, tomato sauce, mozzarella and oregano. He deemed it delicious and thoroughly enjoyed every bite.
J was the real winner here- his “The Woods” pizza looked so bare upon first glance that I was worried, but powerful flavors coming out of the fresh chanterelles, smoked onions, fontina and rosemary were unbelievable. We kept looking at it, then tasting it, just wondering how such minimal toppings could pack such a punch. Truly delicious. I’m craving one as I type this actually.
I, unfortunately, lost the pizza battle with my Margherita pie. The “roasted tomato sauce” was bland and as grainy (oddly!) as those heirlooms and there was barely a smidge of mozzarella. Yeah, I know, I said I liked minimal toppings but, in the words of Oliver Twist, “Please sir, may I have some more cheese?” (minus the cheese part). Luckily I had some of the prosciutto and these incredibly sweet peppers left from my charcuterie plate so I doctored it up and it was fine.
I have to say, even though it was a hit and miss, I’d definitely go back to Lil' Parlor Pizzeria. The crust is the key- it’s tasty, it’s perfectly thin, it’s beautifully crusty without being too hard and the yeasty flavor of good bread runs deep. As always, I’d take into consideration that the restaurant is still fine tuning since they’d been opened less than a week when we went. All things considered, the pies are good and that’s what I want- a good pizza place near my house. I hope the margherita gets a little better and they stop serving mealy tomatoes, but that mushroom pizza alone is worth making the seven minute drive for……….heck, it’s worth making an hour drive for. Oh, and my second glass of wine was indeed more of the "half-full" variety.
Lil' Parlor Pizzeria
966 Mission St,
South Pasadena, CA