5 great L.A. pizzas you haven’t been eating enough of
There is no shortage of excellent pizza in this city. With Nancy Silverton’s Pizzeria Mozza, Ori Menashe’s Bestia, Steve Samson’s Sotto and Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo’s Jon & Vinny’s — and these are just a handful of examples — it’s easier than ever to find a good pizza. Some are better known and more heavily lauded than others: A decade after it opened, it’s still hard to get a table at Pizzeria Mozza. But a slew of newcomers are elevating L.A.’s pizza game, saucing pies that are worthy of a burn on the roof of your mouth and a little sauce on your shirt collar. You may not have heard of the following five pies, but you should definitely be eating them.
Eight-point ricotta pizza at DeSano in East Hollywood
It is easy to experience a kind of instant swoon over the eight-point ricotta pizza at DeSano Pizza Bakery. It’s a frequent special at the East Hollywood pizzeria — just call ahead to make sure they’ve got it. The restaurant is making the ultimate stuffed-crust pizza (created by Attilio Bachetti), which arrives blazing hot, with ricotta cheese spilling out of eight puffy points of crust that surround the pie. And in the center: a straightforward tomato sauce, made with San Marzano tomatoes, mozzarella cheese, crumbled sausage and a chiffonade of basil.
When the pizza hits the table, you’ll need to figure out a strategy. Do you go crust first, ensuring a mouthful of ricotta? Or start in the middle, working your way to more cheese and a thicker crust? Either way, you win. 4959 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles, (323) 913-7000.
Polpette, ’nduja, leoncini pizza at Kettle Black in Silver Lake
There’s no dramatic stretch of cheese when you pull away a slice of the polpette pizza at chef Sydney Hunter III’s new Italian restaurant. In fact, there isn’t any cheese at all. Instead, a trifecta of meat in the form of meatballs, ’nduja and leoncini ham (shaved super thin like ribbons of prosciutto) serves as the only toppings, along with a layer of good crushed tomato sauce.
The crust is a little on the sweet side, spotted with black char and few chewy bubbles. It’s an ideal bed for all that meat, strategically placed to deliver a little smoke and a little heat in each bite. 3705 Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles, (323) 641-3705, kettleblackla.com.
La Vito pizza at Prova in West Hollywood
Those familiar with the pistachio, mortadella and stracciatella pizza at the pizzeria Michael’s in Long Beach will recognize the La Vito at Prova Pizzeria, which opened last year in West Hollywood. That’s because Prova Pizzeria chef Vito Iacopelli created that first pizza during his time as head chef at Michael’s. It’s the same signature pie, now called La Vito. Baked in one of Prova’s two wood-burning ovens — he uses orange wood — the pizza cooks in around 90 seconds.
The crust is paper thin — chewy in parts, crisp in others —with plenty of bubbles and a sheen of olive oil. Iacopelli uses wafers of mortadella and creamy strands of stracciatella cheese as toppings. Sometimes he makes the cheese in-house, other times he gets it from a fellow Puglia transplant, who makes the cheese especially for Prova. He finishes the pizza with crumbled pistachio and a sprinkle of oregeno. It’s a symphony of varying textures and temperatures with the hot dough, cool cheese and crunchy nuts. 8729 Santa Monica Blvd., West Hollywood, (310) 855-7285, pizzaprova.com.
Clams, whipped ricotta pizza at Spartina in Fairfax
Clams on a pie is nothing new — just think of all those chopped clam-topped New Haven pizzas. But Stephen Kalt’s version, at his Melrose Avenue restaurant Spartina, is a decidedly more refined pie. He lets his dough sit for 96 hours before he uses it, which gives the dough a slightly sweet and sour character that stands up to the toppings both in flavor and heft. Kalt cooks clams in the pizza oven with a little white wine, garlic and shallots. Then he pipes a mixture of whipped ricotta cheese and garlic confit onto each piece of pizza before he adds the clams, still in their shells. The clams look like little butterflies, their shells spilling sweet and briny clam juice and good olive oil all over the pizza.
Also of note is the Mission figs, taleggio, fontina and thyme pizza. The figs add natural pops of sweetness, balanced by the pungent, creamy cheeses. Imagine all the best components of a cheese board — on a pizza. 7505 Melrose Ave., Los Angeles, (323) 782-1023, www.spartina.la.
Pepperoni Detroit-style pizza at Unit 120 in Chinatown
Detroit-style pizza is structurally magical: a thick, focaccia-like dough in the shape of a rectangle, surrounded by a crisp layer of cheese on all edges that serves as the crust. It’s a style of pizza Alvin Cailan and Isa Fabro of Unit 120 in the Far East Plaza in Chinatown started serving earlier this year (it’s available almost every Monday night). This is an extra meaty take on traditional pepperoni pizza, completely covered in rounds of slightly spicy pepperoni and torn peppery Thai basil, picked from a small garden located just outside the restaurant. The ratio of bread to cheese to toppings is immensely satisfying. And there’s something vaguely nostalgic about the shape and thickness of the dough — a seriously elevated version of the pizza you may have been served in a school cafeteria. Cailan’s old-school red sauce, featuring slivers of garlic, will make you think of that scene in “Goodfellas.” And Fabro says she spent a week perfecting the dough, which is soft and chewy in the middle with a crisp, golden brown bottom you can peel off and eat on its own. She’s also making her own ranch dressing with hand-chopped herbs. Order a side, or maybe two. 727 N. Broadway #120, Los Angeles, (213) 537-0053, www.unit120.com.
Extra cheese please. Follow me on Twitter & Instagram @Jenn_Harris_
3:23 p.m.: This article was updated with the creator of the eight-point pizza.
This article was originally published Oct. 7.
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