Tuesday, November 28, 2006
After months of anticipation, Nancy Silverton and Mario Batali's Pizzeria Mozza has finally opened! I had lunch there today, with a 2:30 reservation being the earliest slot I could get. It was bustling when we arrived, but we were seated right away (one half hour early). It is a small, cozy space, painted in a warm bright orange, with two bars (one being at the pizza kitchen), and, like all popular restaurants, it was loud. I will say only one bad thing about Mozza: they were all out of lardo! I had read that they put the cured pork fat over pizza, where it just melts into the crust, and I was just fantasizing about it all day! Oh well, maybe next time (I got my lardo fix the very next day at Vinum in Culver City. Check back soon for the review). Our waiter promptly gave us three skinny breadsticks to nibble on (we were starving - none of us had eaten since early that morning.)
The choices of antipasti included oven roasted olives ($6), Eggplant caponata ($6), Arancine alla Bolognese ($8), and Shell beans al forno ($8), we opted for the delicate, little fried zucchini blossoms, stuffed with ricotta ($7). They were fried nicely, with a thin light crust, and a sprinkling of Maldon sea salt.
We immediately craved another plate of them before we finished this one! Instead, we tried two of their bruschette: chicken livers with guanciale ($8), and baccala with garbanzo beans and tomato ($9). Anyone afraid of liver and salt cod, need not be. The liver was smooth and mild, topped with a crispy slice of guanciale (cured pork jowl).
The baccala was not prepared like brandade, as I expected. It was was just rehydrated, coated in a tomato sauce with the beans. Nice and refreshing, not fishy tasting at all.
They also offered 3 salads ($12-14), and salumi ($10-24). For our main dishes, all 3 of us ordered pizza. All of the pizzas were cooked just like the one I had in Rome: with plenty of black spots. The dough was incredible. Charred, chewy, thin in the middle, thicker on the edges, hand stretched/tossed, slightly yeasty tasting, and (Nancy herself) just scored the pizza into four pieces, not cutting all the way through. I noticed she was using a bright orange pizza cutter, not a regular metal blade. In Rome, our piazzas were served uncut. Is this some kind of compromise? I think it would be really cool for Mozza to serve them unsliced. I had the mushroom pizza, with fontina and taleggio. It was fantastic - I think the mushrooms were roasted or sauteed ahead of time with thyme. It was very scant on the cheeses, though - unfortunately I hardly tasted them at all. But it was still fabulous, even the small slice I took home and ate cold at 10:00 PM that night after 3 hours of Italian class.
Vera ordered the Coach Farmhouse goat cheese, bacon and caramelized garlic pizza ($13). A winner. The garlic was a beautiful golden clove, with no trace of bitterness.
Beth ordered the Egg, guanciale, radicchio and bagna cauda pizza ($12). The egg was fried and placed in the center, in the middle of a bagna cauda pool. I actually tasted the anchovy on my tongue from the fume, just before I bit into it.
Each day they offer a rotating hot plate of the day. For example, Tuesday is duck confit with lentils ($17), and Saturday is lamb stracotto ($20). The wine list is short and sweet. All Italian, and the wine by the glass is actually offered at a quarrtino (250ml), a perfect amount. You get a carafe, with enough wine for one glass plus a little extra to top off with. Priced between $8-14, they are a deal. Since this a Nancy Silverton establishment, one cannot pass up dessert. Among the offerings were Affogato (drowned), two scoops vanilla ice cream with two shots of espresso poured over.
I had the Giandui Filone ($8), a velvety chocolate terrine with candied hazelnuts.
And for my egg-allergic friend, they accommodated her with a very lovely lemon/lime panna cotta, which was a component of another dessert, topped off with Amerena cherries.
Everything was spectacular, and I cannot wait to return. Earlier today, I checked out Mario Batali's website, and he has a very similar restaurant in New York called Otto. Similar menu, and even the same orange paint on the walls. I suppose Mozza is the west coast version. And, according to general manager David Rosoff (formally the sommelier of Opaline), Otto is managed by another Crocetti, Chris Crocetti. He asked if we were related, and I said no. I should have said, "yes, and cousin Chris said lunch was on him."
641 North Highland