Elegance only takes you so far. Sometimes you need the rough, earthy flavors that emerge only from a wood-fired oven.
With its massive stuccoed fireplace, this place always has a jovial rustic air. Amalfi does a faultless version of the classic pizza Margherita -- tomato sauce, mozzarella and fresh basil, the crust roughly blistered at the edges -- but even better is pizza salsiccia, which adds Italian sausage and sauteed rapini.
* Pizza salsiccia, $12.50. 143 N. La Brea Ave., Los Angeles; (323) 938-2504.
At lunch, this homey place makes 10 pizzas and three kinds of piadina (essentially a pizza folded around a filling), one of them stuffed with roast baby pork. The grand bistecca alla fiorentina, an aged T-bone steak, is grilled and then finished in the pizza oven.
* Piadina porchetta, $9; grilled bistecca alla fiorentina, $34. 7313 Beverly Blvd., L.A. (323) 297-0070, angeliniosteria.com.
Spago, which started L.A.'s love affair with wood-oven pizzas back in the '80s, still serves its creation based on the lox and cream cheese idea, with a luxurious scattering of salmon caviar and the substitution of more fraiche for the cheese. There are also models with shrimp and pesto or Oregon morels, but pizza is available only at lunch.
* Pizza with smoked salmon and salmon caviar, $20. 176 N. Canon Drive, Beverly Hills, (310) 385-0880; fax (310) 385-9690.
"Zucca" is Italian for pumpkin, so along with mushroom and sausage models, this Staples Center-adjacent restaurant features one topped with roasted pumpkin, goat cheese, caramelized onion and ham. Also from the oven: crostino con carciofi e Parmigiano Reggiano, bread toasted with a topping of artichoke, garlic and Parmesan.
* Pizza con zucca rossa, $12.95; crostino con carciofi, $7. 801 S. Figueroa St., Los Angeles; (213) 614-7800, www.patinagroup.com.
Brentwood can never get enough Italian restaurants. One of the latest newcomers to the San Vicente strip is a glamorous place with Murano glass lights and a long bar of polished stone overlooking a wood-burning oven. That oven turns out a pizza Margherita with a light, thin crust and a bright tomato sauce.
* Pizza Margherita, $11. 11650 San Vicente Blvd., Brentwood; (310) 442-8446.
-- Charles Perry