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Pizzeria Mozza: An Anniversary Lunch

[Larger images with captions, inline with text, at http://theoffalo.com/2013/10/pizzeria...]

I'll keep the pre(r)amble to a minimum, since Pizzeria Mozza's bona fides' already well established. My wife and I went for lunch on a Sunday in early September for two main reasons: First, we were celebrating our anniversary. Second, perhaps more importantly, we wanted to see if the famed Butterscotch Budino that I had heard so much about could live up to the hype that surrounded it. We were, ironically, not in the mood for pizza (though the clam pizette called strongly to the New Englander in me), so we ordered a simple selection of Antipasti, Insalata, and Bruschette, starting with...

[Numbers correspond to images uploaded below.]

1. Fried Squash Blossoms with Ricotta, $12: The exterior was crisp and savory while the interior was creamy, tangy, and a touch sweet. These blossoms reminded me of jalapeño poppers, but in the best possible way, and without the capsaicin kick, of course.

2. Bruschette of Chicken Livers, Capers, Parsley, Guanciale, $9: More chopped than pâté, the natural muddiness of liver paired well with the brightness of the capers and parsley, while the crisp guanciale and crusty bread provided textural contrast. Portion-wise, it was quite large for the price: three generous pieces cut in half for easier sharing.

3. Mozza Caprese, $13: The tomatoes were slightly roasted so the skin just started to blister. The mozzarella was elastic yet creamy, grassy and sweet. We made short work of this plate with the help of some Pane Bianco with Olio Nuovo (not pictured), $4, which was quite delicious in and of itself.

(Rapidly getting full on bread, we asked the waitstaff to cancel any items that the kitchen had not started yet. They were able to cancel the Burrata Crostone with Swiss Chard, Spring Onion, and Balsamico, $9, but we had two more dishes to go...)

4. Insalata di Testa, $10: A brief respite from all the bread, this light salad of crisp celery, radish, and carrots was quite refreshing. The coppa di testa was quite delicate, while still providing some savoriness and umami to the dish.

5. Bone Marrow al Forno, $12: The last dish before dessert, the plate was laden with three large halves of bone, yet more bread, some sea salt, parsley, and garlic. With the unctuousness of the marrow and the pungency of the garlic, this was a strong finish to the meal, to say the least.

6. Butterscotch Budino, Sea Salt, Rosemary Pine Nut Cookies, $10: The moment we had been waiting for, the dessert came out with a lit candle and a greeting of "Happy Birthday". (We had offhandedly mentioned that it was our anniversary to our waitress earlier, but apparently something was lost in translation by the time the runner brought out the dessert.) We thought it was a cute touch. But did the dessert deserve its hype?

We dug into it, and it definitely lived up to expectations. My wife has more of a sweet tooth than I do, and she especially loves caramel and butterscotch, so I surrendered most of the dish to her (I had most of the marrow anyway). She did indeed agree that it was one of the best, if not the best, butterscotch puddings she's had. I was pretty impressed myself. It was not too sweet, as I generally find butterscotch, and the sea salt really accentuated the buttery creaminess. I was actually more enamored with the rosemary pine nut cookies, which had a savory note that really appealed to me. I almost asked if I could just get a box of those cookies to go!

We were very happy with our first meal at Pizzeria Mozza, and it was a great way to celebrate our anniversary. Somehow, despite not having breakfast that day, we got full very fast during the meal. Perhaps we underestimated the portions, or maybe we didn't pace ourselves, but at least we made sure to leave room for dessert! We definitely want to come back to try the pizzas and have the budino again, of course.


Pizzeria Mozza
641 N. Highland Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90036
(323) 297-0101

All photographs © 2013 The Offalo

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    1. re: ipsedixit

      Thanks ipse. Nearly two decades together, over a dozen years married. Scary. ;-)

      1. Timely post! I was at the Newport branch on Tuesday for the first time in over a year. My pizza preferences definitely lean Neapolitan these days.

        They had a seasonal forno baked dish of chanterelle mushrooms, fontina, and egg. Egg yolk was of course runny and a beautiful really dark orange that reminded me of the egg yolks you'd see in Rome. Everything was mixed together and put on bruschetta. Delicious.

        The pistachio gelato was as good as ever.

        Oh yes, and Happy Anniversary and Birthday!

        4 Replies
        1. re: Porthos

          Okay are you guys just doing the "birthday" thing on purpose? ;-) It was just an anniversary lunch. No birthday.

          Despite being mostly carnivorous, I love mushrooms so that baked dish sounds awesome, especially with the egg the way you described.

          1. re: PeterCC

            Can't go wrong with Pizzeria Mozza, so if they say Happy Birthday on your budino, then Happy Birthday it is!

            1. re: J.L.

              So you're saying the budino is infallible? I guess I can't disagree with that too much.

        2. Actually, you can get those cookies to go at Mozza2Go next store, as well as the budino or a wonderful panna cotta. Also, of course, the pizzas.

          I so wish I was in their delivery area, but I stop by to pick up from time to time.

          11 Replies
          1. re: omotosando

            Thanks omotosando. That is some very dangerous information. Have a feeling I'll be making a run sometime... :-)

            1. re: PeterCC

              They also have a lovely olive oil-braised tuna, egg, capers & anchovies panini at Mozza2Go. They used to offer the chicken liver at Mozza2Go, but it looks like they took that off the menu. Plus, you can get wine. I usually pick up a bottle of Lambrusco, but they have a rather broad array.

              As I said, I so wish I was in their delivery area. Apparently, you can park for free in the Mozza lot when you are picking up from the takeout. During the day, you can also usually find a meter on Melrose.

              P.S. They have the Caprese salad on the menu at Mozza2Go. I usually pick up a Nancy chopped salad.

              1. re: PeterCC

                I'm pretty sure they also have those cookies at Eataly (in NYC at least).

              2. re: omotosando

                +1 Mozza2Go. You can also get their wonderful focaccia there (a traditional one - not the di recco that's so hot at Chi Spacca right now). Just wished they would bring the porchetta sandwich back...

                Oh, and happy anniversary!

                1. re: chrishei

                  Thanks! My wife just looked at me wide-eyed when I mentioned all the stuff I could get to-go from there...

                  1. re: PeterCC

                    You may live to regret divulging that information. ;>)

                    Happy Anniversary to you and your better half!

                    1. re: PeterCC

                      And here's a heads up to make it even better - every now and then Blackboard Eats posts a 30% off coupon for Mozza2Go.

                      You could buy 30% more stuff!

                    2. re: chrishei

                      I have to add that the wine prices at Mozza2Go appear fair. I have fallen in love with the $15 "Pronto Secco" Lambrusco -- in fact, I would say it is the best bang for your buck wine I have tasted in a very long time. Just looked online -- the Wine House on the Westside is selling it for a dollar more than Mozza2Go (and they don't have all that great take out food).

                      I so wish I was in their delivery area -- they will drop wine at your door with food!

                      1. re: omotosando

                        "they will drop wine at your door with food!"

                        Okay, now you are just taunting folks.


                        Maybe get a pizza and that wine to go?!

                        1. re: happybaker

                          The Pronto Secco Lambrusco is an unbelievable pairing with pizza, although not everyone appreciates Lambrusco.

                          I always assume that what I will like other people will like, but I gave a bottle of Lambrusco to a neighbor (not the Pronto Secco, but another one), and she really didn't like it.

                          I think I adore Lambrusco so much because I like bitter things and a good Lambrusco has a bitter bite. In my mind, Lambrusco is the the most perfect pairing for a Mozza pizza to go, which may be why they have it front and center on the take-out counter.

                    3. re: omotosando

                      I was just going to say that you can buy the cookies to go. I like those little suckers almost as much as the budino. Almost.

                      1. re: Sgee

                        Yes! :-). But if you know any close contenders in town let me know.

                          1. re: New Trial

                            I've had the butterscotch budino at Pizzeria Mozza and liked it. A lot. But my favorite is the butterscotch pot de creme at Gjelina, also served with sea salt and a dollop of whipped cream (or creme fraiche?). Hard to say or recall what I liked better about Gjelina's, and I know it is an imitation of the budino, but in my experience (multiple tastings) it is a slight but clear winner.

                          2. re: PeterCC

                            Scarpetta makes an incredible vanilla caramel budino with sable cookies. Definitely worth a try.

                        1. Happy Anniversary. Will you try some pizza next time?

                          6 Replies
                          1. re: wienermobile

                            The buffalo mozzarella and Dinapoli tomatoes margherita is probably my favorite out of the lineup right now.

                            Was not a fan of the clam pizzette. The clams were really tough.

                            1. re: Porthos

                              My favorite is the Chris Bianco Mozzarella di bufala , tomato, Genovese basil & extra virgin olive oilI pizza. I also love their Bacon, salami, fennel sausage, guanciale, tomato & mozzarella pizza... and don't forget the meatball app.

                              1. re: wienermobile

                                We're talking about the same pizza :-)
                                Made with certified organic tomatoes grown in Los Gatos, CA by Robert DiNapoli & Chris Bianco

                                Mozzarella di bufala , tomato, Genovese basil & extra virgin olive oil

                                1. re: Porthos

                                  Those tomatoes are incredible.
                                  One the the best pizza's I've every had.

                                  1. re: wienermobile

                                    Completely agree. Sweet, juicy, and mineraly. Delicious.

                            2. re: wienermobile

                              Yes definitely. That margherita pizza that you and Porthos are talking about sounds amazing.

                            3. Aside from the bone marrow dish (which looks amazing and I will insist on next time, no matter what my somewhat less-adventurous wife says), I've tasted most of the items you ordered.

                              You have chosen well and wisely :-)

                              Happy Anniversary !

                              1 Reply
                              1. I love their antipasti, so much so that I pick the pizzeria over the osteria almost every time. I will say though, I am absolutely NOT a seafood eater in any capacity...usually...until I go to Mozza. For some reason the tuna peppers are one of two seafood dishes my palete doesn't object to. (The other is the braised octopus at the osteria next door). Go figure.

                                1. This inspired me to finally check out Pizzeria Mozza Newport last night as a new-ish Orange County transplant. Most importantly from my experience, the butterscotch pudding was really great but it only came a pretty close second to my absolute favorite at a well known Scottsdale restaurant - FnB. I absolutely get the hype though.

                                  Arancine delivered along with chanterells with fontina and egg. Both very rich - I wasn't expecting how the chanterelles were going to be mainly fontina but wasn't complaining! The pizza I had was a little odd with the goat cheese, leek, scallions, and bacon. It just wasn't what I expected with the heavy use of leeks but would like to go back for a more traditional pie to really determine how I feel. I wasn't wowed by the crust but am giving it all a pass just since the pizza was not what I was envisioning.

                                  Overall great new spot and glad I got over there. Heading to Pizzeria Ortica soon to compare.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: PHXeater

                                    The spinach pasta with bolognese and pasta with lamb ragu are both very good at Ortica. If you go for lunch, the mortadella sandwich is excellent. I like the Margherita with buffalo mozzarella pizza. Sometimes I add salame picante to it depending on mood. Chicken and pork meatballs are very good. Light and healthy feeling. Arancine (during happy hour) is the more traditional arancine as compared to the little round Mozza ones.

                                  2. Happy Anniversary!

                                    BTW, I had the caramel copetta recently in the OC branch. HEAVEN! Caramel ice cream on top a thin wafer waffle, spanish salted roasty peanuts on the top. Waiter was right, more interesting dessert as far as textures and temperatures. Anyone else had, your thoughts?

                                    1. i had a lovely meal there recently with my mother, who lives in san diego. it made her very excited for the new branch opening there soon.

                                      we had the oven roasted calamari served over white beans and tomatoes with fresh herbs. delicious. the special pizza was wild spinach and salame, also delicious.

                                      and for dessert the caramel copetta, which i had shared with my husband on a previous occasion. when i had it with him as he took his first bite i was asking him, "so what do you suppose a copetta is? is it the gelato or..." and then he cut me off by saying "shut up." i was a little taken aback until i tasted it, and then i realized he had wanted me to stop talking so he could enjoy the heavenly interplay of cool, creamy caramel gelato, bitter caramel sauce, sweet gooey marshmallow, and deeply roasted, salty nuts interlaced with crunchy cookie. this dessert is absolutely perfect.

                                      1. We went here for the first time on Dec 13, Friday the 13th.
                                        We were not NEARLY as pleased as our fellow Chowhounds.
                                        For the three of us, we ordered the carrot side, carmelized brussel sprouts (delicious), nancys chopped salad, the mixed carrot side, brussel sprouts and two pizzas, the margherita pizza and the funghi with fontina.
                                        The sides were good, especially the carrot laced with a SMALL, but accessible amount of cumin. It was the best of all. The pizzas were a total disappointment. The margherita pizza came with NO mozzarella, NOT A DROP. We would have returned it to the kitchen, but we thought that was how it was offered. For me that was BIG b/c in my imagination, the margherita was laden with the best mozzarella available, better possibly than I can get on my own. I was shocked to think that ii came that way. But we got home and checked the online menu which boasted mozzarella on the Margherita. The funghi was fun, but not special. The chopped salad was good, but dull compared to the carrot mixture. I really wanted to order the Wild caught King salmon, which was identified on the online menu as a Friday night dinner special, but it was not available at 6PM on Friday night.
                                        Big fails all around. Our bill with a bottle of wine was $177. Waaaay too much for that meal and no salmon!

                                        The table next to us ordered "the Meat Eaters pizza! A house special. Even though they inquired 4 or 5 times, it never came. The house special got short shrift! They finally left without getting it, but with anxious apologies from the wait person.

                                        Without boasting, I can confidently say that my pizza is a damn site better. It took me
                                        6 years and much research and much effort, plus cranking up my oven for an hour at convection bake to get my pizza stone to 580 degrees, which has everything to do with my great pizzas.
                                        I cultivated my pizziola profile b/c the local pizzas did not consistently satisfy, but I really did expect more from Mozza.

                                        7 Replies
                                        1. re: VenusCafe

                                          My only comment would be, when I get a dish that I'm looking at and wondering (in this case) where's the mozzarella, I politely ask to see a menu and then point out to my wait person that the menu says "mozzarella" and then let them tell me what is going on.. That way the problem can at least be addressed while I'm still there.

                                          1. re: Servorg

                                            We didn't go there to wrangle about all their discrepancies.
                                            We had already been in a discussion regarding the Friday night special that wasn't, and the next table was in a prolonged hassle for THEIR pizza. Its a pizza place for crissakes, and they couldn't get anything right.
                                            THEY are the incompetents, not us!
                                            It would not have been greatly improved with mozzarella as it was dry and totally unappealing. We simply left it and THEM! How much time and energy should the customer put in to get their food as indicated?
                                            We went out to dinner to be served their menu, not parse out each different selection.

                                            1. re: jessejames

                                              I JUST went to Olio the other night for the first time, what a great place!!! The BF and I split a marguerita with burrata, steak bites, and I got a side salad and a glass of pinot. The salad was huge, with fruit and nuts and tons of stuff in it, I was scraping my plate clean, the steak bites were exactly what you would think--four or five good sized bites of steak that were perfectly cooked, on a bed of arugala and shaved parm. And the pizza…was SO GOOD!!!! The buratta was so melty, and the pizza was dense, slightly chewy with a perfectly charred crust. I can't wait to go back. Oh, and the bill was under $50.

                                              1. re: schrutefarms

                                                They also have this chili oil dispenser you can ask for. It kicks ass with the pizza crusts.

                                                1. re: jessejames

                                                  Budino is good and back in the day I'd get it to go from the takeout operation.

                                                  But the pizza there never truly wowed me. But then again I think I'm in Thr seriously small number of people maybe only me who dislikes Nancy Silverton restaurants.

                                            2. re: VenusCafe

                                              I've noticed their pizzas suck on Fridays all around. The crust, the execution, it's like they have their 2nd string pizza guys on Friday (which makes no sense but it's an est'd pattern,)

                                            3. Went to the Newport Beach one for dinner last night. I'm no longer a fan of this style of pizza. Got the DiNapoli marghetia. The tomato sauce was delicious but the mozzarella was just an entire ball quartered and placed on the pizza after it comes out so it's not melted. And even served like this, it was surprisingly lacking in flavor.

                                              On the plus side, the lasagna al forno and chicken wings diavolo were excellent.

                                              3 Replies
                                              1. re: Porthos

                                                At least now we know what happened to Venus Cafe's mozzarella...Glad that mystery was solved. Next up the 18 and 1/2 minute gap in the Watergate tapes...

                                                1. re: Servorg

                                                  Don't drag me into that argument buddy! That's strictly between you and V-cafe! ;)

                                                  The waiter probably mixed up the order and gave them the tomato, oregano, olive oil pizza instead of the margherita.

                                                  1. re: Porthos

                                                    Wasn't it a Erle Stanley Gardner Perry Mason Mystery..."The Case of the Missing Mozzarella"?