Dinner at a great restaurant is like jazz music. The Duke Ellingtons, Count Basies and Billie Holidays of the culinary world perform their signature genius through improvisation.
Such is the case with Nancy Silverton of La Brea Bakery fame, Chef Mario Batali, and winemaker/restaurateur Joseph Bastianich, who together own Pizzeria Mozza, an uptempo hotspot in Los Angeles.
The trio really knows how to riff when it comes to putting a new stamp on old standards.
When you’re seated, you’ll find your silverware and napkin inside an enclosed paper bag, corrugated at the seams, and not much larger than the napkin itself. A paper napkin inside a paper bag. There’s something a little Dave Brubeck about that. Ironic and whimsical.
Of the assorted paper placemats, one offers a comic strip with bubble captions in Italian. Another demonstrates through simple phrases and photos how to “Speak Italian in Seven Easy Steps”. Each step is illustrated through the use of hand gestures, which even without the accompanying English translations would be enough to capture the essence of what’s being said. Like scatting. Like the very best of Ella Fitzgerald.
Our dinner began with a couple of salad solos – the very popular Nancy’s chopped salad followed by the Tricolore with Parmigiano Reggiano and anchovy dressing. Both were excellent. And the move from one insalata to the next blended into a seamless rhythm that required not even an eighth rest.
The mood lighting cast a glow on our entrées as we shared two different pizzas. The funghi misti was adorned with a variety of mushrooms over a delectable harmony of fontina and Taleggio – the quartered presentation sprinkled with thyme. The second half of the duet featured the fennel sausage pizza with red onions, scallions and panna, which added the creamy texture to the blend of wonderful flavors that melt in your mouth.
For the encore, we requested the banana gelato pie with warm chocolate sauce and candied hazelnuts. It deserved a standing ovation.
Pizzeria Mozza’s highly creative variations on a theme play to a full house nightly. It takes about a month to get a reservation, but it’s well worth the wait, and I’m going back.
And even though the wait is long, I can hear the jazz already.
641 North Highland Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90036