- Tom Armitage May 12, 2000 07:45 PM
A formidable list of Chowhounds--including Jonathan Gold, Jenji, and Bruce--as well as a number of Los Angeles restaurant reviews, have touted Casa Bianca in Eagle Rock as serving pizza that is among the best, if not the best, in the Los Angeles area. Despite my respect for the opinions of these Chowhounds, I must file a dissent. The pizza I had at Casa Bianca last Wednesday night was awful. I had the "deluxe" pizza with sausage, mushrooms, peppers, and extra garlic. The second person in my party of three had the sausage pizza. The third person (my wife) had eggplant parmagiana but shared my pizza. All of us had the same reaction to the pizza. Tough, cardboard crust. Tomato sauce with no discernable flavor. Toppings that were, at best, average. I left half my pizza uneaten--something totally out of character for me. The pizza at Casa Bianca didn't come close in quality to the pizza that I regularly eat at Farfalla's (the one on Hillhurst), with a thin, tasty, crispy yet tender crust, great tasting tomato sauce, and first-rate toppings like spicy salami and gorgonzola cheese. As a note to Jenji, the pizzas we had at Casa Bianca were sliced traditionally, not in a star shape.
Jonathan, Jenji, Bruce, and others, help me out here. Have you eaten at Casa Bianca recently? If so, do you really think the pizza is still all that wonderful? I am having a hard time reconciling my experience with yours. I suppose I could give Casa Bianca a second chance, but I'd have to do so without my wife, who is still blaming me for ruining her evening. (I tried to make it up to her by taking her to Campanile on Thursday night for toasted cheese sandwiches, washed down with a bottle of 1995 Villa Pattono Ratti. Now that was a good meal!!!)
the quality of the pizza has definitely changed. I noticed this about a year ago. The same family still owns and runs the place. I guess they are using cheaper ingredients.
I am also in agreement about Farfalla Hillhurst pizza as being excellent. Believe it or not, that's how Casa Bianca was for many, many years...and it was half the price.
I haven't been to Casa Bianca about six months, but it seemed to be just as good as ever. I always get the same thing, though: medium pie (it's the large pie that gets sliced funny) with homemade sausage and fried eggplant. The mushrooms are indeed canned, and I have heard that the vegetable-laden pizzas can be watery, (and need to cook longer, thus the toughened crust) but that has never concerned me much. Simplicity, as in all things, may be the key. Have you ever had the grilled cheese at Campanile with fresh burrata and grilled radicchio? Now that's livin'.
At Casa Bianca, I violated one of my personal rules for first-time pizza experiences. My general practice is to order a plain cheese pie so that I can concentrate on the quality of the crust, the tomato sauce, and chesse, without distraction from other ingredients. Tough, cardboardy crusts do bother me, so in this respect we may have to agree to disagree. My general rule notwithstanding, however, I honestly don't think the elimination of the sausage, canned mushrooms and peppers would have made much difference. The only thing I could think of as an excuse was that I just happened to get the aberrant bad pizza that had been left in the oven way too long by mistake. But even that didn't seem to account for some of the other flaws.
On a more upbeat note, I think I have had most of the Thursday night sandwiches at Campanile, defintely including the one with fresh burrata. Last Thursday night my wife and I shared the sandwich with grilled escarole, pureed fava beans, bacon, and pecarino toscano and the sandwich with gorgonzola, roasted radicchio, walnuts and honey. We also shared the Spanish charcuterie with as assortment of tasty sausages, meats, cheese, and roasted red pepper. Yum! That's livin' for sure!
Wow, sorry to hear about your bad experience. Truthfully, I haven't eaten at Casa Bianca in over a year, and from what you're describing, I don't think I'll be rushing over there any time soon. I'm glad to hear they're not cutting the pizzas in a wonky way anymore, but frankly I'd take delicious pizza in any shape or size over mediocre slices.
Personally, I really like the pizza at Pizza Buona on Sunset and Alvarado. Especially with marinated tomatoes on top. They thinly slice tomato, marinate it in olive oil and tons of garlic and vinegar, and toss pieces on the pizza before baking for a totally sweet garlic experience. It can make the pizzas a little wet, but the crust is pretty crisp and resiliant. It's a family place and the jukebox has been playing "Raindrops keep falling on my head" since my husband used to go there with his mom over twenty years ago. Very good pie!
Speaking of inedible pizza: further out on the west side, there is Frankie & Johnnies New York Pizza, 9533 Santa Monica Blvd, Beverly Hills. With a moniker like that, you figure the pies gotta be good, right? Fergeddaboudit! The sauce tastes like it has been bubbling on the stovetop for at least a year - the only resemblance to tomato sauce was the color. Long stewing also concentrated the salt way beyond what is palatable. The cheese was rubbery and tasteless. The crust must have been made down the street at the bagel place and then rejected for bagels. No olive oil on top at all. Two small tables on the sidewalk, and, like Abbots in Venice (who also proudly claim they serve New York pie), they have a few stools next to a narrow shelf along the walls, not conducive to pizza munching. Their other location is in Brentwood (it figures) at 11753 San Vicente Blvd. A rating of 3 out of 10 is being quite generous.