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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 salami......so it must be good, right?
Good can't even begin to describe. 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. 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 started 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.
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;).
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 basil....it 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 could 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.
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, almost like eating the grape itself. Such a wonderful find!
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.
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.
641 N Highland Ave
323 297 0101
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