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thin-crust pizza by the slice, with good char in the crust -- does this exist in or anywhere near the central city?

I want that blasted-in-a-really-hot-oven texture and taste. I want the crust to crack slightly when i fold it and for small pockets of steam to escape from the inner core. I want the sauce to burn the roof of my mouth. I want the cheese to be a little bit pockmarked (some of you will know what I mean by this). I'm tired of lukewarm slices with doughy, half-cooked crusts.

I live and attend school near downtown (USC), and would love to find someplace I could get to easily without a car when the urge strikes.

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  1. Sounds like NY style pizza to me and only place that comes to mind and meets your criteria is:

    Albano's Brooklyn Pizzeria
    7261 Melrose Ave
    Los Angeles, CA 90046 (Mid-Wilshire area)

    Sorry--not exactly your neck of the woods, but worth a road trip if you find someone with a car. Nothing worse than campus pizza...been there year's ago.

    2 Replies
    1. re: monku

      Gotta chime in... stopped in for a slice at Albanos today and I hate to tell you, there ain't no char in that crust. Not even if you pretend really hard. In fact the only part of the crust that was crispy was the very edge of the crust. The bottom was floppy and undercooked, pasty yellow with some light brown spotting and not the slightest hint of charring. I just came back from a weeklong trip to New Jersey where I ate copious amounts of pizza and the flavor of the pizza back east is just different. Albano's sauce and cheese taste really flat. I mean it's not *awful*, per se (it's certainly better than what most people in the country eat for pizza), but it's no winner.

      Has anyone tried the pizza joint further west on Melrose, near Fairfax? Across from the high school... it's a tiny place called "Tomato Pie". I poked my head in (after my disappointing slice at Albano's) and although the slices were smaller, (the sicilian slices looked MUCH better than the doughy ones we saw at Albano's) I must say, the place smelled like a real NY pizzeria. We were full and so we didn't try a slice there... anyone else have?

      Mr Taster

      1. re: Mr Taster

        I couldn't agree with you more on TOMATO PIE. It's rare enough to have Jersey-style Tomato Pies outside of the Garden State, let alone this far west and these guys do a job good enough to deserve the name. For my money, the best pie on Melrose by a country mile.

        http://www.chowhound.com/topics/show/...

    2. I didn't want to say "New York pizza" because it tends to stir up emotions in discussions like these (and Angelenos get snotty and say "New York pizza suxxx! Yankee go home!"). There's plenty of quote-unquote "New York pizza" out here but I haven't found anything that gets the heat component of the best NY-style places right. But this is a dying art in New York as well.

      I was actually at Albano's a few weeks ago, but I didn't have pizza -- I had a meatball sub. Not bad (the meat was well-seasoned), but again, the temperature was slightly off. And the sauce was watery, I thought.

      1. OK...the original poster didn't say NY pizza, but I grew up in NY on pizza like she described and that's what came to mind.

        But you have to admit, if you looked at the pizza at Albanos, it resembles what she's asking for NY pizza or not.

        When you say "the temperature was slightly off" were you saying the sandwich was on the cold side? Because their rule about pizza slices there is that once they make a pizza and its out of the oven they only keep it 30 minutes then get rid of it.

        1. the original poster is a she. :-)

          no, the sandwich wasn't cold at all! but it did make me wonder what temperature they keep their pizza oven set to.

          1 Reply
          1. re: atomichorseradish

            Sorry "Ms." how was I to know, sorry for me to assume.

            I want to say most gas pizza ovens are at 500 degrees. Wood fired ovens are like 750 degrees.

          2. You are not going to find it because of the heat source, but it takes more than the right heat source to make a really good pie. You also have to use high quality ingredients, the pizziolo has to have a lot of experience because no 2 pies come out exactly the same, and above all, the owner must be dedicated to his craft. All the slice places use non hi tech gas ovens, and monku got it right-500 degrees just won't do the job. There are new hi tech gas ovens out there that do throw off 700 degrees on the floor, but I have not heard of any LA pizza places using them. Can't wait for Mozza to open-then maybe maybe maybe LA will finally have a world class pizzeria.

            15 Replies
            1. re: pizzafreak

              Sorry. I grew up in NJ eating exactly the kind of pizza the OP is describing, and I can assure you that none of the pizzerias we went to ever burned wood. I can't testify to what temperature the ovens were set at, but they were big steel monsters (not brick) and most definitely ran on natural gas.

              So it IS possible.

              1. re: ladelfa

                There is a psychological phrase call the cognitive recognition factor, which means that the first time you eat anything, that sets the standard in all repects for all future ingestions, and that is what the problem is. When I started eating pizza in the 40's in Brooklyn, I had to go to a pizzeria in a nearby Italian neighborhood because that was the only place where pizza was made, they used a coal fired oven, and the pieman had been doing this all his life, so my retained memories come from a different place than yours. Slice places didn't exist then. To me, pizza is not a fast food or junk food or whim food. It's just as serious to me as ethnic food is to das ubergeek. I had certain places that I would go to when I lived in NYC. None of them sold slices and the heat source was either coal or wood. Sorry to disagree with you, but you just can't get charring from a Baker's Pride gas oven no matter how long the pie is left in the oven, and by the way, in a wood fired or coal fired brick oven, which is what I am talking about, it will take no more than 3-1/2 minutes from the time the pie is put in until it is ready. There is a lot of crap being served here, and people just don't know it because thay have not had anything better. I suggest you read Ed Levine's book A Slice of Heaven if you are into pizza. Ed Levine is a food writer for the NY Times and a recognized authority on pizza in the food industry. In the meantime, I'm waiting for Nancy to open Mozza. The Sept issue of Los Angeles had an article about her pre-opening tastings. If you haven't read it yet, try to get a copy and read it. It's most enlightening.

                1. re: pizzafreak

                  Mozza is in my neighborhood. I CAN"T WAIT! Anyone know when it's due to open and if they will deliver? Pizza is the perfect food....period.

                  1. re: Sugar Jones

                    I hope they don't deliver because when a steaming hot pie is put into a box and the lid closed, the steam given off by the pie will seriously affect the finished product, and you will probably say that the pie isn't good.

                    1. re: pizzafreak

                      pizzafreak, you couldn't be more right, however, an amazing pie that has been "steamed" is still superior to a mediocre one. so, while i might not take advantage of deliver all the time, occasionally, i need it delivered.

                      1. re: Sugar Jones

                        Steamed pies? That's what the frying pan is for!

                  2. re: pizzafreak

                    Di Fara in Brooklyn, widely acknowledged as the best pizza in New York city, uses a 50 year old gas oven which chars and blackens the crust (and cheese) beautifully.

                    Mr Taster

                    1. re: Mr Taster

                      If you look down 2 posts you will see my response on Oct 13 to a and w, who told me this, and my response to him. Here is a link about DiFara's that NY hounds answered in response to my q about Difara's, and he's like the NY Casa Bianca, you either love him or hate him.

                      http://www.chowhound.com/topics/show/...

                  3. re: ladelfa

                    Agreed, ladelfa -- it is possible. The very best pizzas in NYC (if not the US) are the perectly charred pies at DiFara in Brooklyn. I'm pretty sure Dom uses regular gas ovens.

                    1. re: a_and_w

                      You are right about DiFara, but this guy is unique in the pizza world. How many other slice places, yes he sell slices, use buffalo mozzerella? And, he does meet all the other qualifications that goes into the making of a really good pie that I mentioned in my post. I've never been there, but on my next NY trip I'm going to make the pilgrimage. I think it a little far fetched to compare one of the argueably six best pizzerias in the US in the same breath as slice places in LA, and say yes, you can get that pie here just because they both use gas ovens. The proof of that is the crap that we have, and I am not the only one who feels this way. Jonathan reviews 252 restaurants in his book Counter Intelligence: Where to Eat in the Real Los Angeles . There are only 2 reviews about pizzerias. Compare this to 41 Mexican and 31 Chinese restaurants that are reviewed. S. Irene, in an interview with Ed Levine, food critic for the NY TImes, reluctantly agreed to tell him where to find the best pizza in LA after first qualifying her answer by saying there wasn’t much of good pizza in LA. One of her two choices, Alto Palato, is now closed, and her other choice was Angelini Osteria, and they make a really thin crust pie, not a Neopolitan pie.
                      For further reading about this wonderful food, I refer you all to http://www.sliceny.com/archives/pizza...

                      1. re: pizzafreak

                        Pizzafreak, I don't deny that the pizza in LA stinks. My point is simply that you can't blame the gas ovens. As you note, Dom uses buffalo mozzerella. He also grows his own herbs, and keeps freshly grated grana padano cheese on the counter. These things, all of which could be replicated, contribute to the quality of pizza he produces. The one thing that can't is his obvious skill and attention he devotes to his craft.

                        Incidentally, I think you'll be very surprised by your visit. DiFara is about as humble and dumpy a pizza joint as you could imagine.

                        PS: I did have one halfway decent slice the last time I was in LA. Strangely, it was at a place (the name escapes me) that uses bagel dough for the crust. Stretching the definition of pizza perhaps, but still quite tasty.

                        1. re: a_and_w

                          You might be referring to Abbott's Pizza on Abbott Kinney, in Venice. I would never put that pizza on par with the best pizzas in NYC or Chicago, but for a neighborhood pizza place, it's not that bad.

                          1. re: a_and_w

                            I was puzzled by how he does it, so I posted a msg on the NY board, and had 2 responses. Here they are http://www.chowhound.com/topics/show/...

                            I am looking forward to Mozza's opening. Do you all know if it's still the 16th as previously posted?

                          2. re: pizzafreak

                            I believe your original assertion was that "you just can't get charring from a Baker's Pride gas oven no matter how long the pie is left in the oven." Neither A_and_W nor are are suggesting that a gas oven alone makes it the same pie as DiFara's, merely that the gas oven is not in itself an impediment to "perfectly charred pies."

                            And if memory serves, the Gold book focuses specifically on "ethnic" cuisine in Los Angeles, to the general exclusion of restaurants serving mainstream American food (e.g. NY-style pizza) and haute cuisine. Counting resaturants in the index of _Counter Intellegence_ and using it as evidence of the quality of cuisines it never puports to cover is, I think, somewhat akin to saying that nobody in Los Angeles likes Rembrandts because you didn't see any when you went to MOCA.

                            On the subject of books, though, Peter Reinhart's _American Pie: My Search for the Perfect Pizza_ discusses one place in the SFV that I've been meaning to try. I believe it's Caioti Pizza Cafe (on Tujunga in Studio City), but I don't have the book here with me at the moment. Maybe somebody else who has it can confirm this. Has anybody been to Caioti?

                            1. re: ladelfa

                              I havena't been there yet but I'm going to give it a try. FYI, he is the guy that invented the bbq chicken topping and others that put Wolfgang Puck on the pizza map.

                    2. Actually it sounds like New Haven-style pizza to me. With a char crust and served piping hot out of a wood-fired brick oven.

                      Most wood-fired places out here serve their pizzas 'medium.'

                      I wonder if you could get them to burn it a little. They vary cooking times for hamburger, why not for pizza?

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: ozzygee

                        Dear god, if I could get a Pepe's style white clam pizza I would never leave. Hell, I'd settle for a Sally's style.

                        1. re: gideon

                          Frustrating, huh?

                          Someone needs to transplant one of those room-size, coal-burning, monster ovens out here. Maybe then we could get some real pie.

                      2. Try LA NY Pizza at 518 W. 6th St. They will leave it in longer if you request.

                        1. pitfire downtown is pretty good, too.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: FED

                            Yeah. Apparently Pitfire has some custom-designed oven that they use to get the heat real high. There's one in North Hollywood as well.

                          2. Pizza Next Door
                            806 West 8th Street,
                            Los Angeles (downtown)
                            (213) 622-6595

                            *really close to USC

                            My previous write-up of the place can be found here:
                            http://www.chowhound.com/topics/show/...

                            1. Hey, People! You're looking for thin crust, crunchy, killer pizza. Look no further than
                              Pizza Paul on Melrose near Virgil. It's one of the best pies in L.A. bar none. Sure, there are more than enough threads on this site extolling the virtues of this joint or that:

                              http://www.chowhound.com/topics/show/....
                              http://www.chowhound.com/topics/show/....

                              But, for my money and when I really have a need, Pizza Paul is the place I go and I am never disappointed.

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: mssreatalot

                                Pizza Paul doesn't let their dough ferment long enough and it comes out a little puffier than true NYC style. It's not floppy and foldable, which I think is what the OP is looking for.

                                Pizza Buona (Sunset at Alverado) gets closer, and most times I've been there (not all), the edge has that char you're seking.

                                1. re: ladelfa

                                  You're right about the dough. It's just so close, and everything else is so good, that I forgive the slightly puffy vs. the crisp crunchy. I will say that the last time I was at Pizza Buona, the crust was definitely thin but too floppy/gooey to be true NYC style (for me, anyway)

                              2. Try Lamonica's downtown, just cause it's pretty good and it's close.

                                But for my money, the best is either Mulberry St., with two locations in Beverly Hills, or Johnny's NY Pizza. There's an upscale "cafe" at 5757 Wilshire but they don't do slices last time I checked. Their stores in Sherman Oaks, Venice and on Santa Monica about 1/2 mile or so south of Wilshire in Century City, do.

                                2 Replies
                                1. re: globalgourmet

                                  Johnny's is in my neighborhood and I've had delivery from them a few times. The first time, right after they opened, was pretty good. Every time since then has been a huge disappointment. Soggy crust, cold pizza, hardly any seasoning. Maybe it's better if you go in to eat instead of delivery.

                                  1. re: globalgourmet

                                    Lamonica NY Pizza was sold and is now LA-NY Pizza. I’ve had pizza from both and, imo, neither were anything to write home about.

                                  2. Antica Pizzeria in Marina del Rey has some pretty good pizza in the classic neapolitan style. I'm not sure if it would be considered NYC-style (I grew up in Chicago, so what do I know about good pizza?), but it sure tastes damn good.

                                    1. Just a suggestion, but you might try contacting: http://www.earthstoneovens.com. They make wood fired commercial ovens. BTW, at home I make pizza on a BBQ with a pizza stone and I find that in addition to everything else mentioned, the right amount of salt in the dough makes all the difference. You can taste it at places like John's in NY or all over Italy, but I never taste a properly seasoned dough in LA.

                                      1. Try Big Mama's and Papa's on Lankershim and Magnolia in NoHo (you can take the subway from downtown) or their location on Ventura in Studio City. Surprisingly good pizza. You can get a huge slice for lunch all the way up to a 36" pie. Nicely charred on the bottom, and their regular slice is really thin and foldable (the NY way!). And you can get any pizza "extra thin". Good salads too.

                                        Huge slice + drink + 1 topping = $4.99 for lunch

                                        1. Hate to sound like a broken record, but Mama's pizza on Fair Oaks just below Bristol Farms (right off the Fair Oaks exit of the 110) in South Pasadena (about ten to fifteen minutes from USC on a weekend day) has become a weekly dinner at my house. We order it well done, "almost a little burnt."

                                          And they do it. And they're very friendly. And the owner is from Flatbush.

                                          1. Three Excellent suggestions for thin crust pizza, although not by the slice.
                                            Try the prosciutto pizza at Eurochow in westwood. Mascarpone base (white creamy cheese) with fresh arugula tossed on top. Awesome!!!

                                            Toscana in Brentwood, very authentic, always fresh tomatoes , no marinara base.

                                            CPK- try the Sicilian Pizza, very creative twist of classic italian flavors. Excellent! specially for a chain.