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Now Open- Bollini's - The Best Pizza in L.A.

  • j

There's an old 1930's song called "I Found A Million Dollar Baby (In A Five and Ten Cent Store.)" That's exactly how my wife and I feel about Bollini's Pizzeria on Garfield Avenue, two blocks North of the 60 FWY, in the Southern part of Monterey Park. Christiano Bollini, the owner/chef was born and raised in that area. He grew up with his Grandmother's recipes and a profound calling to be a chef. He attended Cordon Bleu, apprenticed with Celestino Drago and Piero Selveggio (Valentino's) and spent a couple of years in Italy soaking up the secrets of regional cuisine from Venice to Napoli. But for Chris, home was where the heart was, and unlikely as it seems, he's opened up a spectacular! pizzeria in a non-descript storefront just blocks from where he lives. Opened a mere ten days ago, Bollini's is a cause for wonder – serving the finest Neapolitan style pizza in Los Angeles and a select group of pasta entrees and salads as good or better than anything available at Valentino's, Locanda Veneto, Il Moro, Giorgio Baldi's or anywhere else in this city. The difference is, of course, the minimal decor, the correspondingly low prices and the assiduous personal care Chris brings to his cooking. It's not a restaurant, not a date spot, it would even be an insult to formica. In the hallowed tradition of the East Coast, it's a pizzeria. To me it's a cathedral.

Bollini's uses a wood-fired oven (it burns hotter than gas) to turn out a chewy, smokey and splendidly crispy crust. I've long been a fan of Antica Pizzeria in Marina Del Rey, owned by Pepe Miele, who is, I believe the only certified Neapolitan pizza master in the U.S. Bollini's crust is even better, thin yet firm, a perfect platform for a luscious selection of toppings. Their specialty pizzas are listed on their website (see below) and they will make any combination you can dream up. I'm a traditionalist - if it doesn't have red sauce and mozzarella, it's abstract art to me. My wife is more the gourmet - she created a pizza of fontina cheese, roasted garlic, fennel sausage, fresh tomato and a homemade horseradish sauce. The latter initially made me cringe, but it's the centerpiece of their steak pizza.

Our deal was that if she drove with me from Santa Monica, she could order what she wanted. For once in our twenty-five year marriage, I was glad to have her along. The resulting pie was simply beautiful - perfectly charred, colorful with a sprinkle of basil, and as pleasing to the nose as a fine perfume. We sat there for a moment, stunned by the beauty, inhaling the scent, and falling in love before the first bite.

The pie was sheer perfection - especially the fennel sausage which Chris has made to order in Vernon (the sausage capital of LA?) The fontina was a better choice than mozzarella and the horseradish sauce (which is mixed with parmesan cheese) added a surprising but mellifluous undertone - sharp, but not jarring. For the first time in years of carb-counting, we agreed about the crust - she actually ate all of hers, avoiding her repugnant habit of topping scraping. And that's when things went from right to wrong to right again.

We each inhaled a slice and lapsed into orgasmic moans. Bollini, who was heading out on an errand, stopped by our table to give us a sample of his wild mushroom fettucini with chicken, laced with truffle oil and garlic. It may be the best ten dollar entree in the city - perfect fettucini wearing a silk smoking jacket of truffle oil and garlic. We tasted it and in the midst of congratulating him and shaking hands, the table shook, and the pizza slid onto the floor. We wept and wept for what seemed like half a second before Chris graciously offered us a replacement.

Having had a clam and mushroom slice to start (good but not really to our taste), plus one of their exquisite house salads (imagine golden teardrop tomatoes and a citrus vinaigrette at a pizzeria) we were already almost full. But we couldn't resist - it was on the house. So we ordered again, their Porco ($15) a traditional red-sauce (my turn) pie with mozzarella, fennel sausage, 3 pepper sausage, bacon, tomatoes, onions, basil and parmesan, to which we added roasted garlic. In the twenty minute drive back to Santa Monica we had the best smelling car in the world (new product idea - pizza air fresheners.) It was still warm when we got home, and our teenage son, who just got back from Italy added his approval. Eureka - we found it!

I'm from New York and chronically unhappy about L.A. pizza. I've been looking for years - not for New York pizza (it seemingly can't be duplicated here) but for some place that truly knocked my socks off. It isn't Vito's, Abbot's, Caioti, Casa Bianca, the diffident Mozza, or even Antica. I had a pizza specially made for me at Il Moro the other night - it was great. But even that, as part of an evening that always costs at least $150 per couple, can't compare. Bollini's is the true, classic essence of pizza.

It seats maybe sixteen people, there's a huge stack of wood by the door and a picture of the Last Supper hanging on the back wall. Chris Bollini is a master chef doing what he loves, for the people he loves (half the customers seemed like his lifelong friends.) If pizza is a slice of heaven, when you die, I hope you go to Monterey Park. If my last supper were to be in Los Angeles, I think it would be at Bollinis.

Jeryy

Bollini's Pizzeria Napolitana
2315 S. Garfield Avenue
Monterey Park, CA 91754

www.Bollinispizzeria.com

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  1. Can't wait to try it. Thanks for the great write up.

    3 Replies
    1. re: gaylenwaydelich

      You're welcome. Go tomorrow (they're closed Sundays.) Or call them - 323 722-7600 . They're having special tasting nights for the next few weeks to add a few specials to the menu.

      1. re: Jeryy

        Dude, you are my hero.. I will be going out that way for a pizza before my next Dodger Game.. or maybe sooner. I am a Fan of all of you above posts but never tried Mozza or Bianca. But I will report back. Thanks for the post!

        1. re: Foodandwine

          Cool. Just be sure to leave enough time to have your own pizza made fresh. The slices (six varieties) are reheated, and, like everywhere else, they suffer from that. But you can get a basic 12" pie for 8 bucks. And extra toppings are only 50 cents each! That's not a typo - this place is unreal.

    2. thanks for the info - i am a huge sausage pizza fan - it will be interesting to compare this place to my personal fav - chris bianco's pizzeria in downtown phoenix ( the fennel sausage is top notch...i also enjoy the sausage at casa bianca, mozza and petrillo's )

      btw - there is another "certified" neopolitan pizzeria...not too far away... in henderson, nv ( about 10-15 miles from the vegas strip ) if you ever make it out to vegas you should give it a try

      1. what a nice piece...we're coming into LA from NYC and staying in beverly hills...how would we get there and what else would you recommend, both high end for my teenage daughter's celeb radar and simple for my wallet

        11 Replies
        1. re: JKFinally

          Beverly Hills to Monterey Park is a bit of a trek. I don't want to discourage you from making the journey, but if budget is a consideration, keep the gas money in mind.

          1. re: JKFinally

            Thanks. If you're just visiting from NYC, it's a long, unneccessary trek from Beverly Hills. You might as well go to John's on Bleecker Street or Patsy's in East Harlem. But if you need to try Bollini's, look up the address on Mapquest.

            As for celeb watching, have lunch outside one day at any of the cafe's at Sunset Plaza. For fine dining, or medium/fine or budget dining in and around Beverly Hills, first decide if you want cuisines that are available in NYC? Please tell me what your favorite kinds of meals are and I'd be happy to make some suggestions.

            1. re: Jeryy

              Love Johns on Bleeker.. grew up on that coal..

              1. re: Jeryy

                Tx...we certainly don't want to go to the same restaurants that we have in nyc, such as craft/nobu...we have 4 nights and my daughter definitely wants a night at Koi, so probably one more higher end and 2 more fiscally responsible choices, plus a few lunches... we like most foods...italian, non haute french, sushi, steak/burgers etc...and while I have you would you know the best method of getting from beverly hills to usc for a campus visit?..thanks

                1. re: JKFinally

                  Hi-

                  Please do keep discussing the chow, but driving directions are out of scope for Chowhound.

                  Thanks.

                  1. re: The Chowhound Team

                    Sorry...my first posts...did my post go thru or do i need to revise it?

              2. re: JKFinally

                For celeb radar - Koi on La Cienga. If you've been to Tao, it's the same thing with more celebs. The Ivy on Robertson for lunch or dinner. Try Urth Cafe, Toast, "little Italy" in Brentwood. Usually have random celeb sightings at The Grove. Lunch at Fred Segal WeHo and Santa Monica. Funny thing is my daughter attends NYU and lives in GV. She has more celeb sightings in GV than when she is home in LA.

                1. re: gaylenwaydelich

                  Spotting celebs at The Grove and Farmer's Market is a lot easier during the day / work hours. Pretty easy at ArcLight also, and what teenage daughter wouldn't want to see a movie?

                  1. re: gaylenwaydelich

                    The dfference is, as New Yorkers, we can't get excited about seeing celebs in the city...but on vacation, it's somehow different

                    1. re: JKFinally

                      well i have no idea how the food is, and considering how sublime the italian food is in ny/nj you may wind up disappointed in the meal...but you're likely to net a celeb sighting [or two, or three] at 'il sole' on sunset blvd in west hollywood...it's one of the most notable celeb faves in town. either there, or 'dan tana's' on santa monica blvd.

                      enjoy your trip!

                  2. re: JKFinally

                    Try sitting outside at Il Fornaio and inside at The Grill (very $$$$) both in Beverly Hills for celebs. Also Cafe Montana in Santa Monica on Montana Ave. Also The Ivy on Robertson - very celeb, very $$$$. But you can get the same view from The Newsroom across the street.

                  3. I have to totally disagree with this favorable post. I ordered a plain cheese pizza to go. (I only live 3 blocks away). I have to admit that I am spoiled on good pizza, such as Petrillo's in San Gabriel and Damiano's New York style pizza on Fairfax across from Canters. These are two different types of pizzas, but both are delicious in their own way. The pizza I had at Bollini's was possibly the WORST pizza I ever tasted. The crust is burned and is the cracker-type crust. Give me a hand tossed real pizza crust, not cheap cracker dough, Even Shakeys destroys this pizza. The tomato sauce and cheese at Bollini's barely covered the crust and stopped about 3 inces from the end. Why skimp so much on the ingredients? The cheese & tomato pizza I had was tasteless. I was extremely disappointed in this pizza and will never go back again, even though I can walk there in 5 minutes from my house.

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: wojpol

                      So you were extremely disappointed in this pizza and will never go back again? Go back. Next time do not anticipate having “Pizza.” This is, “Pizza Napoletana.” That term does not imply pizza in general but rather the very specific.. Anticipate having a thin open-face quesadilla – Italian style. You should then be satisfied. On-the-other-hand, with that thought in mind, $8 for a small quesadilla and $12 for a large? Well....

                      1. re: wojpol

                        Odd, your description of the "bad" pizza sounds very much like authentic neopolitan and italian pizza. sparse on toppings, very thin crust with char spots.

                        1. re: wojpol

                          Chacun a son gout. I live five minutes from Antica Pizzeria in MDR and don't like their Neapolitan style of pizza, while Jeryy prefers it to anyone's except Bollini's. FWIW, statistically, the majority of posters are jonesing "Pizza Abbondanza", not "Pizza Napoletana".

                        2. Neapolitan is a distinct style that's obviously not to your taste. My suggestion is that you go to Shakey's and order the Wild Mushroom Fettucini.

                          3 Replies
                          1. re: Jeryy

                            excellent point - neapolitan style is not your "one pound of cheese" style pizza - yes, the toppings generally are on the skimpier side - keep in mind in italy, pizza is not the "meal-in-one" , it's usually one course of several...same is true of pasta...it is generally one of several courses in a meal. when it comes to the sauce...well, some argue there shouldn't even be a "sauce" on pizza....i enjoy most styles of pizza though personally, i find the chicago "pies" to be a little too much.....Enjoy !!

                            1. re: kjs

                              i live in monterey park and went to bollini few days after they open. yes..their pizza is really good but not sure if i would drive across town for it?
                              not much of place to eat as well...only table there are for party of two and it is very tiny place. more of take out place imo.

                              1. re: rickym13

                                They could possibly combine a couple of tables to seat four. But six wouldn't be practical.