Village Pizzeria Larchmont
Went to try Village Pizzeria in Larchmont Village last night, after many months of reading about it on here. I went with high expectations that this was among the best simulations of New York- or New Jersey-style pizza in our city.
I'll describe up front the yardstick I use: the pizza I ate growing up in central NJ, which is very similar to the classic NYC type. The edge should puff a little and be slightly charred. The crust underneath should be browned, and dusted with either fine cornmeal or semolina flour. The dough should be very toothsome, almost like a bagel, not bready or crackery. It should be thin enough to fold along the radius, and when I do this, red oil should drip out the pointed end. The sauce should be primarily uncooked tomato puree, slightly tangy and bright. There shouldn't be any pronounced flavor of garlic. The mozerella and sauce, when they cook, should muddle together. There shouldn't be anything added to the top of the pizza before it's baked except oregano. I shouldn't have to put parmesan or pepper on it to make it taste good. It should be edible cold and it should taste good when reheated. I "test" pizzerias based on their standard plain-cheese thin-crust pizza before I go back to try one with toppings.
I have been to places in California (though not in Los Angeles) that have gotten it just right, so I feel confident I'm not striving against an impossible ideal.
So how did Village Pizzeria do? Well, not so well. The underside (no cornmeal) was thin enough for folding, and the crust was tasty. I thought it was a little underdone, and that's probably fixable by asking them to leave it in a little longer next time. The edge didn't puff enough for my taste, but it wasn't inedible.
The topping was a little more problematic. There seemed to be either too much cheese, or not enough sauce, and there wasn't much mingling of sauce and cheese as a result, almost just a plain white layer with a few brown spots here and here. There was no oregano baked on, but there was a shaker of that on the table, which helped a tiny bit. I sort of felt like I was drowning in melted cheese, rather than eating a balanced ensemble of crust, sauce and cheese. What sauce was detectable tasted okay.
I'm eating the leftover slices now, reheated, and they taste more like grilled cheese sandwich than like "pizza." Not good.
I think it would be pretty good pizza if they backed off on the cheese a little and upped the sauce, put oregano on it before baking, maybe a little olive oil too, and left it in the oven another five minutes. The menu suggests that they're accommodating of special requests, but that's a whole bunch of little things, and it might be easier to go someplace else that does those by default.
The service was pretty good, although the restaurant was at capacity (we took the last free table when we walked in). The pizza came out reasonably fast, I thought.
All in all, it wasn't bad. The first two slices made me pretty happy. Might be worth trying to go back to see how wide the variance in pizza construction swings. But for now, Pizza Buona (Echo Park) stays at the top of my list for places that come closest to hitting the pizza ideal I described above.
Have you tried Albano's? This is definitely the closest I've had to NYC pizza in LA and I am PICKY, PICKY, PICKY!!!! I've only had delivery so I can't comment on the in-house dining experience.
Albano's Brooklyn Pizzeria
7261 Melrose Ave (Cross Street: N Alta Vista Boulevard)
Los Angeles, CA 90046
P.S. I've been wanting to try Village Pizzeria in Larchmont, but will probably skip based on your review...so thanks!
"I'll describe up front the yardstick I use: the pizza I ate growing up in central NJ, which is very similar to the classic NYC type. The edge should puff a little and be slightly charred. The crust underneath should be browned, and dusted with either fine cornmeal or semolina flour. The dough should be very toothsome, almost like a bagel, not bready or crackery. It should be thin enough to fold along the radius, and when I do this, red oil should drip out the pointed end. The sauce should be primarily uncooked tomato puree, slightly tangy and bright. There shouldn't be any pronounced flavor of garlic. The mozerella and sauce, when they cook, should muddle together. There shouldn't be anything added to the top of the pizza before it's baked except oregano. I shouldn't have to put parmesan or pepper on it to make it taste good. It should be edible cold and it should taste good when reheated. I "test" pizzerias based on their standard plain-cheese thin-crust pizza before I go back to try one with toppings."
That's a very specific pizza you described there :) It also sounds like something I definitely have to try (although it's interesting that you require oregano on it... most NYC pizza i've eaten hasn't had a noticeable amount of oregano... ditto with the cornmeal and olive oil. Maybe a Jersey thing?) Where in California have you found pizzerias like this (other than Pizza Buona)?
I can't say that i've ever felt like I was eating a grilled cheese sandwich when i've reheated Larchmont Pizzeria, but I usually get it with toppings. Maybe they went heavy with the cheese since you didn't get any toppings?
Also, out of curiosity, how would you rate the pizza in the picture to the right (above "Feature: Chowing America") in terms of crust and cheese desirability?
The cornicone (edge) in that photo looks a little thin and oily (I think it "should" be dry), but it's really impossible to tell how thick the dough is underneath without seeing it in cross-section. Also, sometimes a crab shows up instead of a pizza, but I reloaded the page and got the pizza.
Cornmeal: I distinctly remember that. You'd find it left on the paper in the box when you did takeout; for years I had no idea what it was. To this day I'm not sure whether it was usually fine cornmeal or coarse semolina, because the grittiness is similar. (White cornmeal seems the probably choice, just because it's easier to imagine Jersey pizzerias getting hold of that in the early 70s.) The olive oil I'm not so certain about, but the oregano? Hey, putting oregano on anything makes it taste like pizza, and that's because it's the pizza herb! Gotta have that.
There used to be a place in San Ramon, CA that did it right, and I've had excellent pizza in San Francisco. I think the places in Berkeley (Blondies, Fat Slice, etc.) are good, but maybe not the epitome of the style I described.
I concur with your assessment of VP , only OK.
I'm not sure LA will ever get NYC Pizza right?
But I do know that LA OWN's the BEST PASTRAMI SANDWICH Division, LANGER'S.
My NYC Pizza Yardstick is.............................
Ladelfa, hit the nail on the head. With this caveate, my family is half from Philly Half from NY. Boy did he bring memories back from my childhood. The best NY, NJ, PA pizza unfortunately are slightly better then anything I've found out here. But, my partner and I went to the E. coast to emulate (steal) pizza and sandwich recipes for our new restaurant. What I found. Many entrepreneurs with new found equity from their homes have bought out/started pizza joints. In Greenwich Village we couldn't find one decent NY pizza, but had the best wood fire pizza I ever had. (hopefully we've made a close copy)though in the burgs we found some good ones. I'm going to try the ones listed I haven't been to, so maybe I'll eat my words. But, e. coast isn't what it was. And, LA is getting closer
Nover understand why anyone get's excited over this pizza. Stopped by today given I had not been by in over 4 years. Normally I do not retun to a place if it underwhelms me. Well, after 4 years I was underwhelmed again. Bland toamto sauce, crust that flopped over and dropped the toppings right onto the plate in front of me. NY style -- NOT. Geez, Mulberry & Damiano's are much better than this. Will not be back anytime soon.
Well someone has to come to the defense of Village Pizzeria. Let me first address the "yardstick" mentality in the original post. That second paragraph of details seems like an impossible thing to live up to, especially since not everyone would agree with demands like "there shouldn't be any garlic", " there has to be cornmeal", etc.
New Yorkers always base their opinions on what they grew up with, but I and many others believe that the best pizza in the country is closer to LA than NY. Pizzeria Bianco in Phoenix. And that's coming from someone who has gone pizza crazy in NY and Chicago. If I was going to judge other pizzerias by Chris Bianco's standard, I would need them to make their own mozzarella fresh that day, etc. That's not reasonable, and I realize that other styles of pizza can be good in their own way.
So moving on, my favorites in LA are Village and Vito's. Enough people have extolled the virtues of Vito's, so let me focus on Village. If you're getting straight cheese, the pies are fine, but if you're getting toppings -- and the pep and sausage are rather good there -- you have to get slices. If you don't, the toppings mix a little weird with the cheese. Not sure what that comes from. The sauce is pretty basic, canned like everyone else out here (including Buena and Vito's), but the cheese has a nice tang. The crust is pretty inconsistent. Sometimes it's thicker and doughy, sometimes thin and crispy. You can ask them to get specific and they're accommodating. I think it's best a little on the dark side, it really changes the taste.
Village isn't as consistent as it should be, but if you like mom and pop, cheesy pizza with a lot of toppings, I believe it's better than this thread represents. The other thing no one is talking about is value. Slices are almost half the price of Vito's and are usually twice as large. And if you're feeding a family, that's no small feat.
Wow. I couldn't disagree more about Village. Flavors, atmosphere and price all come together for me.
I think the crust at Village is the best I've had (Miles better than my three Vito's tries), and the fact that I can order a pie extra thin and well done, means that you can order it without garlic and a little doughier.
Village is taking an unnecessary beating on this board lately, IMHO.