For a recent review by the New York Times of Pizzeria Mozza, see http://www.nytimes.com/2007/05/09/dining/09mozz.html
. Those interested in seeing the photos may want to read the article promptly since it is likely to go into the NYT’s paid archived section within a week or two.
For those who miss the actual article, I have copied and pasted it below:
May 9, 2007
In Los Angeles, the Accidental Pizza Maker
By FRANK BRUNI
A FUNNY thing happened on Nancy Silverton’s way to opening a new Italian restaurant here. Actually, a doughy, cheesy, wonderful thing happened, and neither she nor Los Angeles may ever be quite the same.
Looking for the right spot for her restaurant, she homed in on one that happened to have a pizzeria attached to it. And it hit her: pizzas. She should do pizzas herself. She should do them in this annex, next to the rest of her operation, because the space was already set up that way, with the right kind of wood-burning oven right where an oven should be.
Her restaurant, Osteria Mozza, would be the star. Its scrappy sibling, Pizzeria Mozza, would lend amusing support. That was the idea.
This is the reality: Osteria Mozza, after extensive construction and repeated delays, still isn’t open. July, Ms. Silverton promises, but does it matter?
Pizzeria Mozza began serving lunch and dinner in November and became so madly popular and widely revered that food lovers in Los Angeles and elsewhere stopped asking when, oh when, Ms. Silverton’s proper restaurant would be ready.
Instead they asked how, oh how, they could land a table at her pizza joint.
It accepts reservations up to a month in advance and pretty much books up a month in advance. Some entertainment-industry bigwigs have their secretaries set up a reservation a week, while others sidestep the craziness and crowds by doing takeout. When I spoke to Ms. Silverton on the phone recently, she said that she had made a to-go order for Jeffrey Katzenberg early that day and one for Steven Spielberg later on. She sounded exhausted and, well, baffled.
“It’s a small, little, loud restaurant, right?” she said, adding that she “never, ever, ever, ever” expected this kind of reaction.
The instant and outsize swoon over Mozza owes something to the reputation she made for herself at La Brea Bakery and the restaurant Campanile. It’s fueled by the long-distance involvement of the New York chef Mario Batali and his frequent collaborator, Joseph Bastianich, who are partners in Mozza, their first West Coast venture.
And it reflects the spread of a certain kind of haute pizza culture across the country. In growing numbers, serious chefs and bakers are making — and the food cognoscenti are devouring — exemplary pies inspired at least loosely by the thin-crust pizza of Naples. Usually measuring 10 to 12 inches in diameter, they’re sculptured from dough that’s been lovingly tended by the pizzaioli themselves and cooked at blazingly high temperatures in wood-burning ovens of Italian design.
You can find them in Manhattan at Una Pizza Napoletana, in Chicago at Spacca Napoli and in Phoenix at Pizzeria Bianco, whose chef and owner, Chris Bianco, is the unofficial godfather of this movement. And you can find them in Los Angeles at Mozza, where they were greeted with so much excitement that The Los Angeles Times didn’t wait for the rest of the restaurant to weigh in with a review.
The newspaper awarded the pizzeria a head-turning three out of four stars under the headline: “Hot spot? Mozza is on fire.”
To get into Mozza on a recent night, I booked about three weeks ahead and had to accept a 5 p.m. dinner reservation: anything at a saner hour was long gone. Mozza is open daily from noon to midnight, and when I arrived it was two-thirds full. By 5:45, there wasn’t an empty seat. By 6:30, the area just inside the door was jammed with people waiting for one of 40 reserved spots at tables or one of 20 counter perches — half at a wine bar, half facing the pizza oven — that are distributed on a first-come-first-served basis.
As my friends and I worked our way through several rounds of antipasti, I noticed a woman with tiger-stripe pants and a beehive hairdo just a few tables away. Then I noticed her pizza, which managed to make an even more compelling visual statement, its crust a veritable topography of canyons and buttes. John Ford could have shot a miniature Western on one of Ms. Silverton’s pies.
The woman and I swapped smiles, a familiar wordless exchange between two food adventurers thrilled to be exploring a coveted frontier. She held my gaze as she lifted a slice of pizza and took a bite. Then, after a slow-motion, self-consciously dramatic chew or two, she nodded and flashed me an “O.K.” sign. The pizza passed muster.
I’ll say. Ms. Silverton, who started her career as a pastry chef and is an accomplished baker, makes crusts with extraordinary character: softly chewy in spots, crisply charred in others, ever so faintly sweet, even more faintly sour. There’s some rye flour in her dough and some malt, and she lets it sit for 36 hours before she uses it.
Although not conventionally thick, her crusts are denser and weightier than the Neapolitan ideal, reflecting her stated love of the pizza bianca sold by several bakeries around Campo de’ Fiori in Rome. Instead of an actual topping, pizza bianca has perhaps a gloss of oil and maybe a dusting of herbs, forcing you to focus on what has become of the dough. It’s spongy, like focaccia, but with less air inside and more crunch outside.
The obsessive attention that Ms. Silverton and her peers pay to dough and crusts is part of what separates their pies from the trailblazing pizza that came out of the wood-fired ovens at Spago more than two decades ago. Their pies are also being baked in smaller or more exactingly designed ovens that reach 900 degrees. Two minutes or less and they’re done.
Ms. Silverton’s pies take nearly four minutes, and her oven temperature is about 700 degrees, she said. She said she has determined that that’s what’s best for her dough, which she described as unusually strong, due to the way she hydrates and folds it during those 36 hours.
And the oven, in the end, isn’t the one she inherited from the pizzeria that preceded hers. She said that Mr. Batali had realized quickly that, from a commercial standpoint, she would need something bigger — something just like the terra-cotta Italian import in the backyard of his northern Michigan vacation home.
So they got one of those ovens, with a front of yellow tiles, for Mozza. The 10 diners at the counter that faces it, along with diners elsewhere who have a view of it, tend to stare at its fiery mouth as the pies go in and out. It’s as if they’re witnessing sacrifices to a tempestuous god, and their hushed, rapt focus is a tidy illustration of food fetishism today.
Although Ms. Silverton is fixated on dough, she doesn’t ignore the balance of the pizza. The toppings for each of roughly 15 kinds of pies have well-chosen, well-balanced ingredients: meaty fennel sausage, creamy buffalo milk mozzarella, expertly cured meats.
Most of the Mozza devotees I spoke to favor the pizza with fennel sausage and red onion. I was partial to one with mixed mushrooms, fontina, taleggio and thyme, and to another with salame, mozzarella, tomato and hot chilies. The latter tasted like an elegant, electric riff on a traditional pepperoni pie.
While Ms. Silverton’s pizza isn’t flawless, and while the crusts of a few of the pies had rims so monstrously broad they muscled the toppings out of the picture, I had terrific meals at Mozza. And that’s partly because of what Mozza serves, without much fanfare, in addition to pizza. Its salads and antipasti were fantastic.
A dish that placed shreds of slowly braised lamb shank, olives and capers over creamy polenta was salty, rustic bliss. Fried squash blossoms had a light, crisp shell that underscored the creaminess of the ricotta and mozzarella inside them.
But the most delightful wedding of crunchy and gooey came courtesy of Mozza’s arancine, deep-fried risotto balls without any of the greasiness to which these fritters often fall prey.
I was also wild about a bruschetta with a mash of chicken livers, capers and guanciale. But Mozza reached perhaps its loftiest peak toward the end of each meal, when its butterscotch budino, a pudding to shame all other puddings, arrived.
Mozza veterans had told me not to miss it. They should have told me to take only tiny bites of everything beforehand so that I would have room for a second budino and maybe a third. The budino’s simple master stroke? Over the pudding hovers a thin layer of caramel with an audaciously generous sprinkling of sea salt. You show me a compulsively eatable dessert, I’ll show you a salty one.
Pizzeria Mozza is, when you add all of its components together, a serious and impressive restaurant in its own right. Its all-Italian wine list has principles: without a single Chianti, Barolo or brunello on it, diners are prodded to try less familiar wines, and there’s not a bottle over $50.
With that adventurous wine list, red and gold colors and focus on pizza and small plates, Mozza struck me as a less sprawling, much sharper version of Otto in Greenwich Village, whose inferior pizzas are cooked on a griddle. Of course the similarities are no accident, given that Otto’s principal owners are Mr. Batali and Mr. Bastianich.
But the makers of Mozza weren’t focused on pizza at the start. Ms. Silverton envisioned a restaurant devoted to mozzarella (hence the name), and Mr. Batali and Mr. Bastianich wanted a part of it. Then they took a digression that turned into a destination. It’s a movie-style twist, befitting Mozza’s location on the edge of Hollywood. It’s also a very happy ending