Overall Experience - 7.2
Summary : Mario Batali and Nancy Silverton teamed up to open this LA hot spot. The pizza is tasty, but not phenomenal.
It had been four years since I’d been out to Los Angeles prior to a recent trip. The last time I was there I’d made it to Osteria Mozza, a Mario Batali restaurant which he co-owns with Nancy Silverton. It is attached to Pizzeria Mozza (641 N Highland Ave) which started out a side venture and is now, arguably, the main attraction on the block. So I figured it was time to go big and try some of their pizza.
The only other pizza I’ve had at a Batali establishment is here in New York City at Otto. The restaurant makes super thin pies and although people I know tend to enjoy them, I’ve never been particularly impressed. While at Otto, the pizzas share the spotlight with pastas… at Pizzeria Mozza they are the main attraction. And while I enjoyed dinner, a meal at Pizzeria Mozza is proof that Los Angeles still falls far behind many other cities when it comes to pizza.
There are two dining rooms at Mozza. When you walk in, you find yourself in the main dining room. It’s noisy, there are high ceilings, and lots of hustle & bustle. There are large windows that look out onto Highland Avenue, but there is a curtain which rises a few off the ground and blocks the street view from diners (and perhaps, more importantly the gawkers/paparazzi from any celebrities that might be dining inside).
Bear to the right when you enter however, and you’ll find yourself in a quieter, more intimate dining room that feels more Rome than L.A. It is here, that my friends and I were seated among a few dozen other patrons.
When I think back about my experience a Mozza a few weeks after the fact, the one detail I continually recall was how expensive it was. We ordered four pies ($80), a bottle of wine ($40), a salad ($15) and two desserts ($20). Throw in tax ($12) and tip ($35) and we were looking at a bill over $200 for a party of four. I know we didn’t stick solely to the pizza, but the items seemed to add up unusually quickly. The pizza ranged from $17-$23 which is certainly reasonable, but there is something about Mozza that lends itself to being a “special occasion” type restaurant. You’d feel almost awkward sitting down and only ordering pizza. I can’t exactly pinpoint why that is — maybe it’s because I was in from out of town — but if you can manage a meal at Mozza without any drinks, appetizers, or dessert… well then I give you a pat on the back!
Everything we ate was good, but not outstanding. That being said, after spending $200, our party left feeling a little disappointed. Really, everything at Mozza is fine. I’d even go so far as to say it was tasty. But it wasn’t anything special. One of the more interesting sounding pies on the menu — featuring squash blossoms, tomatoes, and burrata — fell short. It was pretty to look at, but the burrata was applied after the pizza was cooked, which gave the pie a strange mix between cold and hot ingredients. I usually don’t like cold cheese on my pizza.
Next up was a Hawaiian style pie with pineapple, speck, jalapeno, mozzarella, and tomato. Although I don’t advocate putting pineapple on pizza, I recently did so myself. For a pizza with pineapple, I thought this tasted pretty good. And I’ve come to enjoy the combination of pineapples and jalapeno. The fact that these were thin slices of pineapple, as opposed to small chunks, was also notable.
Next up we got a pie with “long cooked” broccoli, caciocavello, and chiles. I’m not a big brocooli fan and don’t think I’ve ever had it on pizza. It was prepared in a way that I was not compelled to jump out of my seat and scream, “ewwww broccoli.” But nevertheless, this pie didn’t do it for me.
Finally, we got a mushroom pie with fontina, taleggio and thyme. Unlike broccoli, I love mushrooms on pizza. This pie was probably my favorite of the evening, but in the scheme of mushroom pies I’ve had in my life, it still fell flat.
It is hard to pinpoint what style of pizza Mozza serves. Each pie is personal, but the crust is much thicker and crunchier that what you’d find at a Neapolitan place. The pies were certainly filling. But after a few bites, I felt like I was left with a lot of crust to finish. The quality of the ingredients was good, but I feel like there were more misses than hits at Mozza. If I could have taken those mushrooms off of my pizza and mixed them together with some fresh pasta from Osteria Mozza — I would do it in an instant.
Needless to say, Pizzeria Mozza was packed when we went. It is a hot spot that is crowded every night of the week. People seem to love it, if not for the food then for the vibe and convenience (one plus is that it’s open until midnight every night which is unusual for the Los Angeles area). The food isn’t bad enough that you should avoid Mozza. But it’s also not good enough that I’d rush to go back.