Friday, November 11, 2011

California Pizza Dreaming

Pizza at Co. New York City

It has been seven months since I moved out of California back to the East Coast.  Friends ask me all the time if I miss it.  Sure I miss things- family, endless sunny days, beach out my front door.   But what I miss most, which comes as a surprise for other New Yorkers, is the pizza.

Sure I know, walk out my door, down 8th Ave and hang a left on Bleecker St., I find myself at one of the classic New York pizza joints, John’s Pizza.  And if I head east, just north of Washington Square Park, there’s the thin crust Italian style pizzas of Mario Batali’s Otto.  Up 9th Ave into Chelsea is a more (but not quite) California style pizza of Co., charred to a nice crisp around the edges and topped with interesting combinations of Italian meats and cheese.

But I can’t help it.  I love pizza in LA.  I miss it.

Fennel Sausage and green onion pizza, Pizzeria Mozza, Los Angeles
Mozza is the hands down favorite.  Oddly, it is also a Mario Batali restaurant but the pizza is the baby of his bread genius partner Nancy Silverton.  3000 miles away I can still taste the sweet pork sausage, squished down onto the crust at the suggestion of the bartender, juices oozing out over the chewy thin crust with billowy, hollow edge.  Some of my most memorable meals in Los Angeles during my time there happened at the bar at Pizzeria Mozza, watching the pies- goat cheese and leek, squash blossoms and burrata- go in and out of the oven.  (Note: For traveling pizza lovers, I have it on good authority from KF Seetoh, Singaporean food guru, that the Mozza in Singapore is excellent as well.)

Bollini’s Pizzeria in Monterey Park, south east of downtown Los Angeles, was a journey off the beaten track I never once regretted.  The wood fired oven burns at 1200 degrees, a feat achieved by few restaurants anywhere.  The pizzas are paper thin, with that just barely burnt around the edges look- the sign of a pizza oven master.  The toppings at Bollini are solid if not wildly inventive.  The Fungi Y Tartufi, wild mushrooms with fontina and truffle oil, never disappointed.  But is of that crust I dream.

For everyday eating near the beach where I lived, Gjelina in Venice was the go-to.  Reservations were impossible, waits were always long, but for the determined, like I was, the pizza was always worth the wait.  The menu there changed seasonally so toppings might range from heirloom tomatoes in August to beet greens in the fall.  It is the sort of place I could go often enough, not far away, not too much of a special occasion destination, that I could try out the new toppings on a regular basis- if I didn’t like what I ordered, there was always next time.

Pizza in New York sure is good.  But these days when I think of pizza, I’m California dreamin’.

Amy Powell is a food and travel writer based in New York City. She is a graduate of Cornell University's School of Hotel Administration and the French Culinary Institute. Follow her on Twitter @amymariepowell

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