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Critic's Choice: Neighborhood pizza pros

January 19, 2013|By S. Irene Virbila | Los Angeles Times
  • The Margherita pizza at Mother Dough in Los Feliz is made with bufala mozzarella, San Marzano tomato sauce and basil.
The Margherita pizza at Mother Dough in Los Feliz is made with bufala mozzarella,… (Mel Melcon / Los Angeles…)

Some 30 years after Wolfgang Puck introduced a wood-burning oven and his sophisticated pizza at the original Spago, we're enjoying a pizza renaissance. And many of the newer pizzerie and restaurants are turning out pies better than typical neighborhood joints in Italy — and by a long shot. Though Pizzeria Mozza gets the lion's share of attention and remains one of the toughest reservations in town, there are plenty of other chefs making great pies at places that are easier to get into at the spur of the moment — Steve Samson and Zach Pollack at Sotto, Jeff Mahin at Stella Rossa Pizza Bar in Santa Monica, Travis Lett at Gjelina and Gjelina Take Away and Nicola Mastronardi at Pizzeria il Fico. But there are other simpler places to find exceptional pizza too. Here are a few that fly under the radar, but maybe not for long.

Mother Dough

The purists' choice. Bez Compani is so devoted to his dough that he doesn't let anybody else touch it — or the sourdough mother he saves back to feed the next day's dough. Compani, an Iranian who was raised in London and trained in pizza in Naples, turns out classic Neapolitan pizza from a massive wood-burning oven at the back of this bare-bones Los Feliz space. The oven works at such a high temperature that pizzas — just a half dozen are on offer — cook in about a minute. Margherita is perfection with pools of molten bufala mozzarella (the only type he uses), San Marzano tomato sauce and a few heroic leaves of basil. Another made with oven-roasted vine tomatoes is fabulous with the bufala. His zucchini pie is a good bet too. Just don't expect much in the way of antipasti or sides. At Mother Dough, it's pizza all the way.

4648 Hollywood Blvd. (near Vermont Avenue), Los Feliz, (323) 644-2885, Pizzas, $15 to $19. Closed Mondays.


Giuseppe Musso sold his stake in Amarone on Sunset Strip and opened this Koreatown Italian (not to be confused with the now-shuttered al'Angelo) a year or so ago. Like Angelini Osteria's Gino Angelini, Musso comes from Rimini in Romagna on the Adriatic coast. And his pies, which can be ordered in three sizes, really taste like Italy. All the ingredients are imported, and though his background is high-end restaurants, at this modest strip mall place, he's keeping his prices neighborhood-friendly. Try the thin-crusted capricciosa with artichoke hearts, supple ham, olives and mushrooms. He makes most of the classics but also with the pizza bianca (no tomato) category, the "Emiliana" topped with mozzarella, prosciutto, Parmigiano, arugula and a drizzle of aceto balsamico. There's calzone too, stuffed with mozzarella and fontina cheese, ham, mushroom and spinach. And he makes a mean rigatoni all' Amatriciana too. If this is your neighborhood, you're in luck.

4050 W. 3rd St. (at South Ardmore Avenue), Koreatown, (213) 368-7888, Pizzas, $7 to $16.


Here's one pizzeria that has appealing antipasti: fire-roasted shishito peppers, a mix of olives marinated in garlic and fresh herbs, and a fine baby spinach salad with feta and roasted grapes. Owner and chef Brad Kent ferments his dough slowly for maximum flavor and bakes it in an oven fired with olive and almond wood. His pies are thin-crusted and crisp. I love the "Margherita plus," made with creamy fresh burrata embroidered with basil-infused olive oil. I'm also partial to the eggplant Parmesan pizza. If you like truffled cheese, get the wild mushroom and crispy prosciutto pizza. The mushrooms are meaty pieces of porcini. The more unconventional "Hawaiian" pie makes its mark with fresh roasted pineapple and smoked ham from Italy's Alto Adige. And for dessert, you can't beat the warm apple crisp from the wood-burning oven. The fact that you can enjoy your pizza outside at a handful of sidewalk tables is another plus.

8075 W. 3rd St. (at Crescent Heights Boulevard), Los Angeles, (323) 930-9490, Pizzas, $11 to $16.

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