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A celebrity chef opens a pizzeria in a Reseda strip mall

The Nana pizza from Flame Pizzeria in Reseda is topped with slivered potato ribbons, caramelized onion, dill and a drizzle of truffle oil.
The Nana pizza from Flame Pizzeria in Reseda is topped with slivered potato ribbons, caramelized onion, dill and a drizzle of truffle oil.
(Jenn Harris / Los Angeles Times)

Richard Florczak left his career as a celebrity chef (Tom Cruise, Leonardo DiCaprio and Jennifer Garner are just a few of his former clients) to open a pizzeria in a mini-mall in the San Fernando Valley last year.

Why leave such a sweet Hollywood job for a shopping center in Reseda? Because he fell in love with making pizza after building a wood-fire oven in his backyard, and spent five years perfecting his pizza crust.

So he opened Flame Pizzeria, a small restaurant with year-round twinkling lights and a 700-degree pizza oven that serves as the only heat source in the restaurant.

Florczak uses the oven to make meatball sliders, a puffy table bread, grilled lemon garlic chicken breast, his thousand-layer potatoes (more on that later) and, of course, pizza.

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The Neapolitan-style pies are similar to what you’ll find at Pizzeria Mozza, Settebello and Olio — a paper-thin middle gives way to a thick outer crust with a nice char, chew and plenty of crisp bubbles.

And the topping list isn’t as long as you might expect, with a curated selection of caramelized red onions, oven-roasted mushrooms and red peppers, fennel sausage, fresh garlic, soppressata and olives.

Florczak does potatoes just as well as he does pizza crust. Potato on a pizza isn’t new — just ask anyone who’s tried the egg, bacon, potato and onion pizza from Pizzeria Mozza. But on the Nana pizza at Flame, Florczak treats the potato like pieces of really good prosciutto.

The potatoes are slivered into ribbons, with the skins still on, making them both crispy, and chewy. The pizza is covered in the potato slices, along with caramelized red onion, flecks of dill and a drizzle of truffle oil.

The thousand-layer potatoes from Flame Pizzeria in Reseda.
The thousand-layer potatoes from Flame Pizzeria in Reseda.
(Jenn Harris / Los Angeles Times )

Then there are the thousand-layer potatoes. Those same slivers of potato are stacked with cream, asiago cheese and garlic, then baked in that pizza oven to create a sort of potato gratin/lasagna on steroids.

All this in a shopping center next to a gun shop, a pet supply store and a See’s Candy.

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19309 Vanowen St., Reseda, (818) 578-3888, www.flamepizza.la.

If you like extra cheese, follow me on Twitter & Instagram @Jenn_Harris_.

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