Olio

8075 W 3rd St. Ste 100 Los Angeles, CA 90048(323) 930-9490 pizzeriaolio.com

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Food markets such as the Grand Central Food Market seem to be all the rage as of late, and I must admit I’ve taken the bait just as much as the next lemming. They’re sort of like a UN of cuisine. But giving myself a modicum of credit, I don’t love them simply because of the gimmick. They still have to live up to my high standards, regardless of the fact that they are housed in a cool, modern-day bazaar, with great energy. So no favoritism and no slack here. You either bring it or I pan it.

So as much as I would like to pan the pizza here, I found myself pleasantly surprised, especially in light of the fact that great LA pizza is about as rare as meeting a waiter who isn’t also an actor.

In descending order of greatness, at the top of the totem pole sits the spicy sausage and hot peppers. Obviously if you’re a vegetarian, vegan or just don’t like the thrill of fireworks in your mouth, then this pie should be a pass. But I have to say, it’s your loss, because it’s everything a pizza was meant to be and more.

But don’t lose hope just yet, because their roasted veggie pie (pictured) is also very good. Letting the quality of their ingredients shine, this pie is full of flavor and topped with a nice, peppery arugula. It’s a little more basic for sure, but it’s bangin’ basic. As is the mushroom and speck, which is a slight dial away from the usual mushroom and pepperoni. And a tasty dial it is.

The only pie that didn’t quite make the grade, however, was the old classic margherita. It was significantly lacking in flavor compared to the others, which perhaps points to a greater weakness in the sauce and the crust. After all, that’s the true measure of a pie and why LA pies never truly measures up to New York standards, because they always seem to have to cheat their way to the top via toppings. And to be fair, I honestly don’t mind it, because toppings have their place too (on top). But a strong foundation is everything and it’s also what’s holding LA back from ever being a real contender in the pizza game. That goes for you too Mozza.

3 teeth

Pizzology

608 Massachusetts Ave. Indianapolis, IN 46204(317) 685-2550 • pizzologyindy.com

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Having just been to Libertine and lovin’ it, we decided to double down on the sibling – sadly, like something out of the movie Twins, Pizzology is the Danny Devito to Libertine’s Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Not aesthetically speaking, however, the décor was spot on with an industrial, clean vibe that didn’t try too hard to be cool. It just was.

And service was actually far superior to Libertine, surprisingly enough, although you’ll have to read my Libertine review to understand why.

But as for the food, this is where Pizzology needs to spend a little more time in the lab, because there was really only one dish that managed to impress me, the roasted kale salad. Topped with fried chickpeas, grilled zucchini and goat cheese. Simple you say? Simply awesome!

Sadly, things were all downhill from here. The grilled octopus starter, while also good, was extremely garlicky, so if you think this review stinks, it’s probably that.

The other starter we shared was the warm spinach salad, which proved to be relatively pedestrian compared to others I’ve had. Same bacon. Same poached egg. Bacon was a touch over-cooked and salad under-yummy.

And then came the pies of which we did four. The best for me was the tallegio, fig and prosciutto. Now you know, I get weak in the knees at the mere mention of tallegio, so if you’re not a fan, buyer beware. I do recommend it with a healthy dose of red pepper flakes though, so as to play off of the sweetness of the figs, which in turn play off of the saltiness of the prosciutto. It’s a very playful pie.

Next up for me would be the Romano, topped with cremini mushrooms. It was nothing revolutionary, but sometimes you need a fastball down the middle.

Then there’s the brussell sprout pie, which sounds SO much more interesting than it actually tastes. Not sure what got lost in translation, but flavor was among them.

And bringing up the rear was the fennel sausage pie, assumingly influenced by Batali’s pizza joint, Mozza in LA. The difference is that Mozza makes it 10 times better. One of the best pies, if not THE best pie in the joint. Here, not so much.

2 teeth

 

Babbo

110 Waverly Pl. New York, NY 10011(212) 777-0303babbonyc.com

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I know I’m going to start losing people soon if I keep dropping deuces (double entendre intended) on icons like Eleven Madison Park, Union Square Cafe, Gramercy Tavern and now Babbo, but the fact remains, these places are so inflated by a reputation long gone by, coasting so hard they aren’t just resting on their laurels, they’ve fallen asleep there. And I’m not just saying this based on a myopic sampling of one-offs visits either.  I’ve been to Babbo three times. Once it was good and the other two times were just “eh” at best. In fact, I had one dish, a ravioli in balsamic sauce (pictured), that was so inedible it made me wince and cough my way through it. Not the normal reaction you’re going for in the fine dining category.

I am truly baffled on this one Mario. I fail to see, or taste, what is so great about this place. It is far from your best restaurant. I would put Tarry Lodge in Port Chester or Pizzeria Mozza in LA way above this place. Or any one of the seven restaurants in Eataly. Or Lupa. Okay, the horse is officially tenderized, so I’ll drop it. But just one last dig before I part, Babbo’s coat check also  lost my cashmere scarf. The only place to have done so in my entire life. Granted they reimbursed me for it, but only after a healthy dose of bitching and moaning.

2 teeth

Pizzeria Mozza

641 N Highland Ave. Los Angeles, CA 90036(323) 297-0101 • pizzeriamozza.com & 800 W Coast Hwy. Newport Beach, CA 92663(949) 945-1126
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Considering the chef, Nancy Silverton, was just honored with a James Beard award, which is especially rare for LA (1998 was the last time, given to Wolfgang Puck), I felt compelled to make this my next review.

Now, I have actually eaten in two locations. The one in Newport Beach and the one in L.A. and while both were very good, I think the edge has to go to the original in LA. Partly do to the energy of the place. The vibe is so lively and fun you almost can’t help but enjoy yourself. Whereas the Newport Beach location feels a bit more highfalutin, which is odd for a pizza joint. But I’m guessing if you live in Newport Beach, a Batali restaurant is a pretty big deal.

Now, in terms of pizza in general, sad to say it, but California is woefully behind the rest of the country. Sure they brought us the whole California-style pizza thing, but if you want something more than toppings. If you want a sound foundation of sauce and crust, you used to have to hop on a plane. Well, not anymore.

Sure, you still have you fancy California toppings like the squash blossom pizza, which is friggin’ yum, but you also have your staples like funghi and quattro fromaggi and margherita- done with a culinary twist of course. But perhaps the true belle of the ball is the blanca pie with fennel sausage. Plus, everything is served with a staggeringly good selection of wines by the glass (and bottle) as well as birre.

Also, I just want to give a shout out to service as well. In both locations they were friendly, down-to-earth, helpful and attentive. The highfalutin thing in Newport only came from the crowd and the bar.

So, congrats Nancy. Much deserved. I’ve been a fan dating back to when Campanile was still in business. RIP.

P.S. This review does not include Osteria Mozza next door, which pales in comparison. Skip it. Trust me.

4 teeth