Restaurant Critic

The other day, I had houseguests who’d just driven down from San Francisco in one straight shot, and I knew they weren’t going to be in the mood to drive anywhere too far for dinner.

This, I thought, would be the perfect opportunity to try out Mozza2Go, the takeout arm of Pizzeria Mozza. So I went online, checked out the menu and called in the order for pickup at 7:45 p.m.

At the designated time, I lucked into a parking space in front. Everything was neatly packed up in compact cardboard boxes. The ones holding the pizzas had a sticker that read, “Please don’t put my pizza in the microwave. Reheat in the oven at 350 degrees for about 12 min.”

But as it turns out, even after a half-hour drive home, the pizza was still warm and the crust crackling-crisp, so why bother?

You can get most of the pizzas on the pizzeria’s menu, including co-owner Nancy Silverton’s oddball Pizza alla Benno with speck, pineapple, jalapeños, mozzarella and tomato, and one of my favorites, the sumptuous funghi misti (mixed mushrooms) with fontina and taleggio cheeses.

Ah, but you can also get panini or sandwiches, including a terrific porchetta sandwich on a domed bun with some of the interior crumb taken out, the better to taste the thick slices of fennel and garlic-scented roast pork. It’s enough to be a light lunch for two, but somehow I can’t see my husband handing over more than a bite or two of that sandwich.

A friend had already clued me in about the Italian Cobb, which at $14 could feed two (she stretched it out to two dinners for herself). It comes deconstructed: Little Gem lettuce, tiny orange cherry tomatoes (each halved!), avocado slices, blue cheese, what looks like an entire grilled chicken breast cut in finger-width slices and crisp pancetta with the dressing on the side.

But then there’s also Silverton’s chopped salad and another salad called the tricolore with a pungent anchovy dressing.

We tried “Mario’s lasagne” too, at $21 the priciest item on the menu and made up of layers of supple fresh green pasta, cheese and a meat sauce. It’s rich, all right, but delicious, and you may be sorry if you gobble up the whole thing yourself. A better idea is to split it with somebody else.

Don’t shy away from desserts. You can get the dreamy butterscotch budino, or pudding, a luscious jam crostata, almond tart and assorted biscotti. As you’d expect from one of the country’s best pastry chefs, all of them -- every one -- is delicious. But if I had to pick a favorite, I’d go with either fragile rosemary cookies or the dainty almond tart that tastes of bitter almonds.

All in all, the fare at Mozza2Go is the best takeout from a restaurant I’ve ever had, which is no mean feat. And worth every penny.

Note: Mozza2Go now has delivery. Check with the restaurant for details.

My guests have a new plan: to swing by Mozza2Go and pick up some lunch before heading out to the 101 and the 5 north and home.

Mozza2Go Where: 6610 Melrose Ave., Los AngelesWhen: Open noon to 11 p.m. daily. Phones open at 11 a.m.Price: Antipasti, $8 to $12; salads, $8 to $14; salumi, $10 to $24; panini, $14 to $15; pizza, $10 to $18; desserts, $4 to $11Contact: (323) 297-1130;