What to Order at Pizzeria Mozza: The Chef’s Favorites
You got a table at Pizzeria Mozza, now what? Let Executive Chef Elizabeth Hong guide you through the menu.
Pizzeria Mozza opened as an annex to Osteria Mozza, but its fame has almost eclipsed the Osteria itself. Back in 2007, Nancy Silverton stumbled upon a wood-burning oven in the space right next to where the Osteria was going to be. Believe or not, Pizzeria Mozza came almost as an afterthought.
Of course, Nancy Silverton had already perfected her baking skills at La Brea Bakery, which she founded and managed for years. In fact, she is credited with introducing artisan bread to Los Angeles. But that’s a different story.
Going back to Pizzeria Mozza, it is now part of a highly-acclaimed restaurant complex at the corner of Melrose and Highland avenues, together with Osteria Mozza, Chi Spacca, and Mozza2go. The restaurants are co-owned by Nancy and her long-distance business partners, Mario Batali and Joe Bastianich.
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Getting into Pizzeria Mozza without a reservation can be challenging. During peak hours, forget about it (or be prepared to wait). If you are offered a seat at the counter facing the oven, by all means take it! You will probably feel like eating every single thing that gets out of its fiery mouth, but that’s fine. It will be like dinner with a show.
The next step after you get a seat? Nope, no need to look at the menu… Just order these three dishes and enjoy your meal!
What should you order at Pizzeria Mozza?
To learn about the restaurant favorites, we had a chat with Elizabeth Hong, the Executive Chef at Osteria Mozza. Between Pizzeria and Osteria Mozza, she has worked side-by-side with Nancy Silverton for years.
“These are three of Pizzeria Mozza‘s signature dishes,” says Elizabeth. “These are classic, non-seasonal dishes, always available whenever you come in. And they are also my personal favorites.”
1. Antipasti: Marinated Baby Peppers with Tuna ($12)
Don’t make the mistake of jumping right to the pizzas, or you are going to miss out on some unique appetizers. One of my personal favorites is the “Pane Bianco,” which is simply charred bread, drizzled with extra virgin olive oil. I know, it’s just bread, but it’s a masterpiece in itself.
The marinated baby peppers with tuna are also a great choice. For some reason, many Italian recipes combine peppers with seafood, whether it’s tuna or anchovies. In a similar way, these sweet little roasted peppers are stuffed with olive oil-poached tuna.
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“With simple recipes like this, ingredients are key,” says Elizabeth. “We are lucky to be in LA, where we can get fresh local ingredients and import the best from Italy.”
Want to make them at home? You can find the recipe here.
2. Pizza: Napolitana ($24)
As for pizza, Elizabeth is in love with the Napolitana. “Such a great, flavorful combination! The tomatoes are sourced from Chris Bianco, of the acclaimed Pizzeria Bianco in Phoenix, who grows them in Los Gatos, CA.” If you are interested in trying them out, by the way, I’ve recently found them on sale at Tavern in Brentwood.
“Other than that, the ingredients are simple, but of the highest quality: buffalo mozzarella, olives, anchovies, chiles and fried capers. Both at the Osteria and Pizzeria, we let the ingredients speak for themselves.”
The pizza at Pizzeria Mozza is consistently ranked among the best in the country, yet not everyone agrees. “A lot of Italians come to this restaurant and complain that it’s not Italian. It happens all the time! Well, it may be true. You will not see this type of pizza in Italy.”
Indeed, Mozza’s signature style of pizza is nothing like what my fellow Italians and I have grown up with. If anything, it reminds me of the modern, “gourmet” approach to pizza making that is making its way into Italy too. Such pizzas are often viewed as pretentious and overpriced, compared to their humble predecessors.
The very name Napolitana may contribute to the misunderstanding. Compared to Neapolitan pizza, the crusts at Pizzeria Mozza are denser and weightier, chewy in some spots, crisply charred in others. The pies also take longer to cook, nearly four minutes. “Nancy created this pizza dough as a bread dough, so she never meant it to be exactly the same,” explains Elizabeth.
3. Dolci: Butterscotch Budino ($10)
The butterscotch budino, which comes with rosemary pine nut cookies, is THE signature dessert of Pizzeria Mozza. Indeed, it has become so popular that you can now buy it to go at Mozza2go, right around the corner.
“A pudding to shame all other puddings,” in the words of New York Times food critic Frank Bruni, this is the perfect way to end your meal. A thin layer of caramel tops the budino, coupled with a sprinkling of sea salt. But if you cannot wait to go to Mozza, here’s how you can make it yourself.
“All these dishes are classic Mozza,” Elizabeth concludes. “This is our interpretation of Italian cuisine, using the best ingredients available. Nancy has put a Californian spin on Italian traditions.”
Photos by Agata Gravante Photography. All rights reserved
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