Vito’s Pizza

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A good New York slice is damn near impossible to find in Los Angeles, especially on the west side of town (don’t you dare bring up Lamonica’s, fellow Bruins). There have been many imitators who are quick to add “New York” to their names and pizzas, in a town that is suddenly bursting with self-proclaimed pizzanistas and pizza snobs. While I’ve recently found a decent variation of such near my apartment, it was the version I had at Vito’s Pizza in West Hollywood a couple of months ago that restored my faith in knowing that there’s indeed a New York pizza comparable to its founding place.

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I always wondered whether a pizza should be crispy or chewy (like how the pizzas at Pizzeria Mozza are more of the former, or how a legit Neapolitan pie is more of the latter – a characteristic which I haven’t been able to fully appreciate just yet), but judging by a slice from Vito’s, it appears that it can and should be both. The crust is thin and crispy, yet the giant slice doesn’t crack or crumble when folded; instead, it’s soft and has a nice chew. I ordered a whole pie, half Margherita and half white pesto. The former is simplicity at its best – just a right ratio of cheese and sauce that’s neither too sweet nor tart. I liked the latter as well, but thought that the dollops of ricotta were too sweet, and craved for more pesto flavor as a result.

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While the New York pizza is often identified as being greasy, cheap fast food, that isn’t the case at Vito’s. The pies aren’t cheap (in the $20’s), but the quality justifies it. Sure, you’re not getting Bufala mozzarella or San Marzano tomatoes, but ingredients are a grade above what you’d expect, and there’s plenty of care that goes into the dough (apparently they use a 500-year-old starter?!?). I’ve heard that the pies can be inconsistent, however, and maybe that’s the story with both halves of my pizza. Eugenia also tried it (since I brought the pizza home) and preferred Joe’s in Santa Monica, which I need to revisit and see for myself after this revelation. But the slices from Vito’s should be able to bring a smile out of the staunchest New York pizza snobs in L.A.

Chris Hei grade: B+

Vito’s Pizza

846 N La Cienega Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90069
(310) 652-6859

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SliceTruck

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I never tried SliceTruck while it was in its mobile form. They came by my work a couple of years ago (I think), but from what I was told by coworkers, the pizzas were somewhat lackluster, and it was questionable whether they were being made on-site (just random speculations from third-party observers though). I never really held these opinions against the truck, but I wasn’t exactly thrilled when I heard about their brick-and-mortar opening in the newly-anointed food mecca known as Little Osaka (Sawtelle) earlier this year. But I was craving pizza one day, and was too lazy to go out for it. So I neglected my guilty pleasure of ordering Papa John’s and tried a real pizza for once.

While I’m not exactly raving about the place, I do like SliceTruck enough to have ordered from them on multiple occasions. I believe they fashion themselves as a version of New York’s famed Di Fara, with a strong emphasis on the quality of their ingredients (not that I know much about pizza though). And while they proudly tout their dough and the use of DOP San Marzanos, the thin crust of their regular and hot garlic (with lots of garlic and chili flakes/oil) doesn’t exactly maintain a crisp texture. It gets a bit chewy/soggy, so best not to add any extra toppings, if any. But there is plenty of care going into these pizzas – I especially like the fresh basil and shredded Parmigiano-Reggiano that are used.

Between the regular and the hot garlic versions, I actually prefer the latter. The garlic is plenty and intense, but I love garlic, so that’s fine with me. From a personal perspective, what is keeping SliceTruck from getting over the proverbial hump is going the distance. By that, I mean that the flavors are good, but don’t exactly pop, and that the crust is good, but kind of in-between texture-wise. Keep in mind that I’m just a novice when it comes to pizzas, but that’s how I feel. Still, it’s a good pizza, one I’m more than glad to order from time to time (until Mozza or Vito’s is within neighborhood distance). Oh, I also tried the grandma pizza. Nice crust from the pan, but a bit too dense and doughy for me.

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Chris Hei grade: B

SliceTruck
2012 Sawtelle Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90025
(310) 444-9550

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Hollywood Pies

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I had never eaten an authentic Chicago deep-dish pizza before picking one up from Hollywood Pies, so color me surprised at how heavy it was, both in heft of each slice and by how quickly it filled me up. For some reason I was expecting the pizza to be more along the lines of a pan pizza that you’d find at Pizza Hut (but much better obviously). The crust reminded me of the pizza I had at Zelo, which was cornmeal-based. On top of this heavy dough, a liberal spread of tomato sauce was applied on top of a thick layer of mozzarella (and creamy ricotta as well for some of the pizzas). Man, do these pizzas fill you up.

Hollywood Pies is strictly a takeout and delivery place. They operate out of a random location on Robertson Blvd, where there is no signage. The entire space is dedicated to the kitchen; you have to wait outside the place when you go to pick up (feels like a drug deal going down – not that I know how those transactions are operated). The pizzas themselves aren’t exactly cheap, but they offer significant discounts for takeout, and for delivery they have a generous 5 miles radius. Be advised that there will be a wait – at least 45 minutes for takeout, and probably 1-2 hours for delivery.

There are more than a dozen varieties of pies, but just about all of them are the same, plus/minus one or two ingredients. So if you like mozzarella, pepperoni, sausage, bell peppers, onions, or ricotta, you can just close your eyes and point to one pizza on the menu and not be disappointed. Like I mentioned previously, I actually feel that the pizza is very similar to the one pizza I had at Zelo. Which means that I do feel that the crust is a bit heavy, and hard sans the crunch I usually prefer for pizza crusts. It was more of a crumbly cardboard texture. But biting past the crust, the copious amounts of melted cheese and sauce (which had a nice sweet and tart flavor) is oh-so-satisfying.

Nowadays, I’m more enamored with the new wave of Neapolitan pizzas and the even superior ones that are made at Pizzeria Mozza. But the way I feel about Hollywood Pies is similar to how I feel about 800 Degrees – it opens up new possibilities for pizzas. While 800 Degrees brought Neapolitan pies to the masses, Hollywood Pies kind of does the opposite in jazzing up what is perceived (by me at least) as fast food pizza. It’s not perfect, and not something I’d find myself eating on a regular basis, but I’m glad that it’s here and accessible.

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Classic Chicago

Mancini

Chris Hei grade: B

Hollywood Pies
1437 S Robertson Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90035
(323) 337-3212

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Pizzeria Mozza

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Pizzeria Mozza. Still the bougie pizza hotness in town. Came for a late lunch (because they’re still so popular that OpenTable’s earliest time available was 2pm – unless the restaurant’s holding back) as part of the Lawrence’s greatest hits weekend (along with Kiriko and 168 Garden). 4 people, 7 pizza, 1 appetizer, 1 dessert? No problem. While the beautiful people were sharing one pizza and eating salads, us four (relatively) manly men were literally the centerpiece of the dining room, shoving down one pizza after another in record time (except Daniel, who takes the entire shot clock to finish each bite).

The caprese, while small in portion and fairly standard, was quite lovely. Fresh burrata, vine-ripened tomatoes, pesto – still a potent combo. For the seven pizzas, we ordered: 2x fennel sausage, 2x funghi misti, rapini, egg and bacon, and goat cheese. Not going to go into detail, since it’s not my first rodeo at Mozza, and I’m sure over half of the town has been here, but let’s just say it’s as good as I remembered. Basically, still the best pizza in LA in my opinion. That dough has no equal.

Pizzeria Mozza. Still the best.

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Mozza caprese ($13)

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Funghi misti, fontina, taleggio & thyme ($17 x2)

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Rapini, cherry tomatoes, anchovies, olives & chiles ($16)

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Egg, bacon, Yukon gold potato & Bermuda onions ($17)

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Fennel sausage, panna, red onion & scallions ($17 x2)

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Coach farm goat cheese, leeks, scallions, garlic & bacon ($17)

Chris Hei grade: A-

Pizzeria Mozza
641 N Highland Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90036
(323) 297-0101

Pizzeria Mozza on Urbanspoon

Pitfire Pizza

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Pitfire’s pizzas, while nowhere near the likes of Pizzeria Mozza or Stella Rossa (or even 800 Degrees), are still pretty good usually. But they’re not really designed to be lunch-friendly portion-wise (they’re not that huge, but I’ve fallen asleep at work before after finishing one off). So when I join my coworkers (who love the place) on the occasions they go to Pitfire, I usually stick to the non-pizza items. On this visit, I ordered a special: pork belly panini. Those of you who know me, know that I’m a huge pork belly slut. But while the ciabatta bread used was fine and the mango chutney-esque topping was nice, the pork belly was…well done. That doneness really bothered me for a bit, but the pork belly actually did taste pretty good (one huge slab of it FYI), so I won’t be too harsh. Maybe time to go back to the pizzas though…

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Chris Hei grade: B-

Pitfire Pizza
2018 Westwood Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90035
(310) 481-9860

Pitfire Pizza Company on Urbanspoon

800 Degrees

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Lazy post time! Well, not really. But I didn’t actually go to 800 Degrees, so I don’t really have as much to say about the place than an usual post. Eugenia and Linh-Nam were nice enough to bring back some pizzas from the new casual Neapolitan pizzeria in Westwood, from the guy who’s infecting the rest of the U.S. with Umami Burger. She had it the week earlier, and liked it enough to make a return trip.

I have to say, a Neapolitan pizza for as little as $6 is freakin’ amazing. You have places like Mozza that charge around $20 for one, and 800 Degrees dares to do it for under $10? Realistically, you’re going to spend around $10 for a pie, because you’re going to want some toppings. And 800 does have a wide variety of them, in seemingly decent quality. All of this makes the pizzas here great values (if you can bear the lines – although I heard they move very quickly). Really, $10 for this type of pizza is pretty damn impressive.

But how’s the pizza? I mean, if the sauce and (more importantly) the crust is bad, what’s the point? I requested the tartufo pizza, one of the per-assembled combinations they have on the menu. The bianca pie (white pie, no sauce) was very aromatic, due to the truffle oil. I’m not too big of a truffle oil advocate, since it’s chemically created, but the moderate use here worked pretty well. The sauce on the margherita was solid – not too sweet or salty. The crust didn’t really have much of a char. The dough still looked relatively white upon consumption. Also, the consistency was in between chewy and crunchy. A bit of an identity issue, but wasn’t bad.

Overall, the pizzas at 800 Degrees were good, but nowhere near the best Neapolitan pizzas in L.A. My current hierarchy is probably like this: Pizzeria Mozza > Stella Rossa >> Milo & Olive > Sotto > 800 Degrees. But what 800 Degrees does that no one else can do is bring Neapolitan to the masses. And I do appreciate it. Not going to go out of my way for these pies, but if I’m in Westwood, there’s nowhere else (besides In-N-Out) I’d rather be.

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Tartufo ($11) – truffle cheese, roasted mushrooms, caramelized garlic, arugula

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Margherita + Prosciutto + Broccolini ($6 + 3 + 1)

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Margherita + Anchovies + Prosciutto ($6 + 1 + 3)

Chris Hei grade: B

800 Degrees Neapolitan Pizzeria
10889 Lindbrook Dr
Los Angeles, CA 90024
(424) 239-5010

800 Degrees Neapolitan Pizzeria on Urbanspoon

Milo and Olive

Photo credit: miloandolive.com

For my last meal “dining out” (we technically picked up the food for to-go), Milo & Olive was the choice. I was supposed to have dinner with Ben and Danno a couple of Fridays ago, but I was needed at the apartment. So the guys were nice enough to come over and eat in. I had actually already ate a light dinner beforehand, but couldn’t refuse the offer, so I thought of places we could order to-go/delivery from. Somehow, Milo & Olive came to my attention, and I decided to order from there (FYI: they have curbside service).

So Ben and Danno picked up the pizzas, three of them. One of the sausage. It seems like every one of these gourmet pizza places needs to have a signature sausage pie on the menu, and this one was supposed to be their specialty. It was a good pizza, though I wasn’t too impressed. Same thoughts go out to the mushroom one. But the butternut squash one was a pleasant surprise. What was supposed to the be the third option turned out to be my favorite of the night. The squash and onions worked well together, and an egg on top is icing on the cake.

I liked the pizzas from Milo & Olive. The crust, the heart and soul of a pizza, was very solid. Nothing that amazes, but has a nice crisp texture and is just thin enough. What does amaze me is that they were able to get such results using whole-wheat flour. You don’t have to order just pizzas however, as they have some other stuff like pasta and other rustic dishes that are similar to what you’d find at big brother Rustic Canyon, along with a bunch of baked goods that earned raves from LA Weekly. Overall though, the best pizza within walking/jogging distance to me.

House Made Pork Belly Sausage

House Made Pork Belly Sausage ($17) – ┬ábraised greens, tomato, fresh mozzarella

Mixed Mushroom

Mixed Mushroom ($20) – Fontina, Parmigiano Reggiano, thyme

Butternut Squash

Butternut Squash ($18) – fresh mozzarella, caramelized onion, sage, brown butter, farm egg

Chris Hei grade: B

Milo and Olive
2723 Wilshire Blvd
Santa Monica, CA 90403
(310) 453-6776

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