If there is one dish that evokes a sense of happiness upon its mention, it might very well be Pizza. The lovely comfort food of baked dough with various toppings, a just-made, piping-hot Pizza when you’re hungry is one of life’s great joys.
One would think that during the pandemic, this comfort food would be very popular, and that Pizza specialists around the city and country would be surviving and thriving. But sadly, 2020 took a huge toll on the Pizza scene around So Cal, losing two of our all-time greats (but one having just re-opened in 2021), and other former stalwarts suffering as well.
We figured it was time to take a Pizza Journey to see the state of Pizza during the pandemic.
Perhaps one of the biggest surprise trends in 2020 was the rise of the Square / Rectangular Pizza, mainly Detroit-Style Pizza, but some other alternate Square/Rectangular Pizzas as well.
Prince Street Pizza (West Hollywood)
One of the big openings for Pizza locally was the arrival of Prince Street Pizza from New York. Per their website, they are the “Home of the SoHo Square”, and their Pepperoni Pizza has attracted lots of views for the eye-catching “grease chalices” (Pepperoni Cups). I’ve never tried Prince Street Pizza in New York, so I can’t compare how it tastes to the original, but I was excited to see what the hype was all about.
When we arrived there was a line of about 15 people (socially distanced), and thankfully everyone was wearing masks. The line moved very slowly, however, and it took about ~45 minutes to get through the line and get our Pizza.
Mercer Margherita Pie (Marinara Sauce, Fresh Garlic, Fresh Mozzarella, Pecorino Romano, EVO, Topped with Fresh Basil):
Prince Street offers all of their Pies by the slice (and they’ll reheat them for you), or as whole orders as well. Their Mercer Margherita Pizza is a square slice, and this individual slice came out reheated nice and hot. There was a decent crunchiness to it, and the flavors are classic: Mozzarella, Marinara Sauce, Basil and Garlic. It was tasty, but the Prince Street Square Slice is a bit thick and the globs of Mozzarella does feel a bit overwhelming at times.
Green Machine Pizza (Homemade Pesto Sauce, Shredded Mozzarella, Ricotta and Black Olives):
While Prince Street’s most popular offerings are their square slices / square Pizzas, they do offer their take on Neapolitan Pizzas (round). Their Green Machine Pizza with a Homemade Pesto Sauce, Mozzarella, Ricotta and Olives sounded wonderful. The actual taste is fine. Their Pesto Sauce lacks the aroma and depth of great Pesto Sauces around town, and the crust and execution felt like it was a bit rushed. We liked Pizza Wagon of Brooklyn’s Pesto Pizza a lot more for its flavor.
(Formerly “Madhappy Slice” now known as) Spicy Vodka Pie (Spicy Vodka Sauce w/ Prosciutto, Fresh Mozzarella, Pecorino Romano):
During our visit, the new Prince Street Pizza West Hollywood store was doing a collaboration with the label Madhappy, and this was the result. The promotion has ended, but they’ve kept the same Pizza on the menu now known as the Spicy Vodka Pie. This was interesting:
Essentially a familiar “Spicy Vodka Sauce” (for Pasta) as a topping for Pizza. It was sweeter than what you might expect, with a delicate Tomato flavor but quite creamy, and then Mozzarella and Pecorino flavors coming through. The slice (reheated) was crisped and hot.
Spicy Spring Pie (Spicy Pepperoni, Fra Diavalo Sauce, Fresh Mozzarella, Pecorino Romano):
It needs to be noted that their ordering system still needs some work: The customer before us and 2 different customers after us got their full Pizzas before our Pepperoni Pizza finally arrived. Opening up the box:
Visually it is stunning! There’s a shock value in seeing this much Pepperoni on top of one Pizza.
However, taking a bite, and the disappointment set in: It was piping hot (we ate this within a couple minutes of getting it direct from their kitchen and made sure to crack open the box to prevent steaming), but the Pepperoni Slice was bready and soggy. The Pepperoni themselves (as seen in the pics above) were also very thick and soft. It lacked any crispness that some places around town have been known to achieve.
And while it may sound heretical, there’s a such thing as too much Pepperoni and Prince Street Pizza is a prime example of that: Picking up a slice (and seeing the cardboard underneath) it was dripping with grease and oil. In fact, only about 10 - 15 minutes in the car (for the leftover slices), and the sheer amount of Pepperoni grease had soaked through the entire thick cardboard Pizza box! It was actually pooling in the box(!).
It appears that ordering by the slice might be the best way to order at this new Prince Street Pizza branch, as the reheating of each individual slice allows the crust to firm up and become crisp and slightly crunchy (great!). The whole Pie (even just a couple minutes right out of the kitchen) resulted in a soft, doughy square Pizza with no crispness whatsoever.
Perhaps the original Prince Street Pizza in New York has better execution, but their lauded Pepperoni Pizza square was a bit of a disappointment (at least in whole Pie form). The Pepperoni were too thick and soft and very greasy. The Red Sauce and overly thick Pizza crust actually made me think of the overwhelming qualities of a too thick Chicago-Style Pizza in some ways.
Prince Street Pizza
9161 Sunset Blvd.
West Hollywood, CA 90069
Tel: (323) 446-2244
Of the Detroit-Style Pizza wave hitting L.A., Dough Daddy was perhaps the most intriguing from the L.A. Times writeup. Known only as “Dough Daddy” to the general public, this has an almost underground pop-up feel to it, with people interested in ordering needing to follow along on Instagram, follow a variety of exact rules to order and lock in a specific time slot during the following week, and then the pickup location will be given once payment is confirmed.
The Real Deal (Detroit-Style Pie made with 100% Wisconsin Brick Cheese (w/ Pepperoni):
This sounded amazing, and most of the Detroit-Style Pizzas locally aren’t made with Wisconsin Brick Cheese (which is supposedly a key ingredient in the original Detroit-Style Pies in Detroit). We arrived a couple minutes early and the Dough Daddy server brought out our order on time. We cracked open the box immediately to try and minimize any steaming that might happen and then proceeded to try a slice.
Perhaps it was bad luck, but our Dough Daddy Detroit-Style Pizza was mainly… soft and a bit soggy. There was zero crispiness or crunchiness. The Pepperoni Cups were OK, less thick than Prince Street, but still soft (no crispness) and a bit thick. The Wisconsin Brick Cheese had a distinct funk to it (in a good way), different from Mozzarella.
We were glad to have tried Dough Daddy, but not in a hurry to try again. At $38 (+ tax & tip) and with a thick, soggy Pizza crust base, with soft Pepperoni, perhaps this is what authentic Detroit-Style Pizza is like(?), but as is, there are other Pizza offerings we enjoy more around town.
Quarter Sheets Pizza Club
Another of the new wave of Detroit-Style Pizza hitting the region, Quarter Sheets Pizza Club is a pop-up by Chef-Owner Aaron Lindell, who doesn’t take himself too seriously. They bill themselves as “Glendale’s #1 least authentic Detroit-Style Pizza.”
Polish Yacht Club (Potatoes, Farmer’s Cheese, Bacon, Caramelized Onion, Mozzarella, Lemon Cream, Spring Onion, Black Pepper):
The first thing that stands out is the incredible flavor combination of Roasted Potatoes, Caramelized Onions, Bacon, cut by Lemon Cream, the funk of Farmer’s Cheese and smooth Mozzarella and fragrant Spring Onions. The combination itself seems like a lot, but it works and is delicious!
But then you get the crust: Crunchy, with an incredible tang from the Sourdough base! This is like a gorgeous, lighter, airy Focaccia. The flavors and the crunchy, toasty crust = joy!
Pepperoni Pizza (Four Cheese, Red Sauce, Basil):
Quarter Sheets’ version of a Pepperoni Detroit-Style is a delight as well, with a great Housemade Red Sauce, leaning slightly on the sweet side of savory (but not as sweet as Dough Daddy’s, nor the Vodka Sauce Pizza at Prince Street), balanced, and the incredible, mouth-watering deliciousness and crunchiness of their Housemade Sourdough Pizza Crust.
The one weakness is their Pepperoni doesn’t crisp up and is soft (like Prince Street and Dough Daddy), but has good flavor. A very good Pepperoni square slice if you were in the mood for this style.
Dark Chocolate Cream Pie (Brown Sugar Whipped Cream):
Quarter Sheets Pizza Club also offers Desserts by House of Gluten, which is helmed by Pastry Chef Hannah Ziskin. The first thing that hits the palate is the silky, light Salted Brown Sugar Whipped Cream, which gives way to an incredible Guittard 70% Chocolate Custard center, and then you get a taste of Pastry Chef Ziskin’s lovely, flaky All-Butter Tehachapi Sonora crust. The Dark Chocolate Curls just make it even better. A fantastic Dessert!
Pepperoni Pizza (Four Cheese, Red Sauce, Basil):
On this 2nd visit, Chef Lindell’s Pepperoni Pizza is as consistently delicious as the 1st visit: The soft, but zesty Pepperoni adds a good porky meatiness to a great balanced Red Sauce, fragrant fresh Basil, perfectly melted Mozzarella and that outstanding Sourdough Focaccia-style Pizza Crust!
Golden Fleece Pizza (Black Olives, Whipped Feta, Mozzarella, Red Sauce, Onion, Oregano (+ Spicy Lamb Sausage):
The new Golden Fleece Pizza is unique in its flavor combination, with the bold Olives and Whipped Feta Cheese being at the forefront. There’s some Feta funk, and a light bitterness and umami quality from the Olives used here. The Pickled Peppers add a touch of piquant, and then the excellent Red Sauce, Mozzarella and Lamb Sausage help to restore some balance to this wild Pizza. The Sourdough Crust is once again crunchy and piping hot toasty.
Of the square / rectangular Pizza specialists we’ve tried so far on this journey, Quarter Sheets Pizza Club has stood out with a fantastic crunchy Sourdough crust / base and some unique flavors (in addition to the traditional Pepperoni). Chef Lindell’s “least authentic Detroit-style Pizzas” really shine here, and quickly became one of our favorites so far. We can’t wait to see what he’s planning next.
Quarter Sheets Pizza Club
Check on Instagram for Order Details:
Steel Pan Pizza
Steel Pan Pizza was another small upstart that we almost lost during the pandemic: They were closed for almost half a year, but thankfully found a new home to move to inside the new Rodeo 39 Public Market.
Steel Pan Pizza specializes in Detroit-Style Pizza as well, but they were one of the earlier adopters locally. One nice touch is that Steel Pan focuses on individual-sized Detroit-Style Pizzas (~$10), which is more affordable (than committing to ~$40 - 50 for a large entire sheet at many other places).
The Veggie Pizza (Mushrooms, Grilled Broccolini, Bell Peppers & Onions):
This was our 3rd visit to Steel Pan Pizza’s new location (our 6th visit overall), and the first bite is as consistently lightly crunchy and airy as it was during our 1st visit 2 years ago. This was delicious, with Roasted Mushrooms, Grilled Broccolini, Roasted Onions and Bell Peppers adding a melange of vegetal aromas and delicate flavors with the piping hot lovely cheesy topping and crisp-crunchy square crust.
Steel Pan’s “The Vegan” is essentially the same as this version except it’s 100% Vegan, using their own Housemade Cashew Cheese, which leans more creamy than cheesy, but still delicious. An excellent Vegan Pizza.
Cuppy 'Roni Pizza (Pepperoni Pizza with Crispy Cupped Pepperonis):
And Steel Pan’s highlight: Their Detroit-Style Pepperoni Pizza is arguably the best Pepperoni square-style Pizza around town. Just look at how perfectly crisped (not burnt) and lovely those Pepperoni are! Taking a bite…
Lightly crispy Pepperoni, with a nice meaty taste, perfectly complementing the delicious melty Cheese and airy, crunchy Pizza crust! It is glorious and fantastic!
A surprising highlight is Steel Pan’s Fries, which arrive just out of the fryer and are perfectly crispy-crunchy. They are as delicious as our first few times trying it. They are a touch on the greasy side (just a touch), but still tasty nonetheless.
It is endearing to see a small operation like Steel Pan Pizza bounce back from shutting down during much of 2020, to find a new home and still churn out some of the best Detroit-Style Pizzas locally. It begins with their incredible airy, light, crisp-crunchy Pizza Crust, much lighter and more enjoyable than some of the breadier versions around town, and continues on to the delicious Veggie and Vegan Pizzas.
But the star on their menu is their incomparable Pepperoni Pizza (Detroit-Style), which was the lightest, crispest Pepperoni Pizza square we tried on this journey.
Steel Pan Pizza
(inside Rodeo 39 Public Market)
12885 Beach Blvd.
Stanton, CA 90680
One of the great losses during the pandemic was the fall of Superfine Pizza. The Takeout Only window from Chef-Owner Steve Samson (of Sotto and Rossoblu fame), Superfine specializes in a hybrid New York-Neapolitan-style Pizza baked in an electric oven.
During the early days, Superfine Pizza quickly launched to be one of L.A.'s top Pizza specialists, putting out some sublime Pies. However during the first visit during the pandemic, we noticed their entire staff had changed. The 2 familiar Pizzaiolos were gone, and it was a whole new staff.
The taste confirmed our fears unfortunately, with their Pizza being completely different from before: Poorly made, flabby, soggy Pizza, lacking any crispness that the OG Superfine had. Asking their staff, they confirmed that the OG Pizzaiolos had left, and one of the staff we spoke with even admitted that they were still learning.
We tried to give them another try with equally abysmal results. But holding out hope, we wanted to see if they improved a few months later, so here we were again, with a…
3rd Visit During Pandemic (~15th Visit overall):
The first 2 visits during the pandemic (after the Pizzaiolos left) were so bad that even the slices were flabby and soggy. This time, the Pepperoni Slice (reheated) came out slightly crisped(!). Which was a huge improvement from the previous 2 visits with the new staff.
However as can be seen in the pics (above), the Pepperoni were slightly charred (the OG Pizzaiolos never had this problem), and for taste? It was tasty, and slightly crisped on the crust, but the ratio of Cheese and Sauce felt off. Still this was decent and actually edible now.
Spinach On White Slice:
This used to be a very good Pizza at Superfine, but on this visit with the new staff, the Spinach On White is a disappointment: Clumpy cheese (look at how leaden the congealed Cheese looks), the Ricotta is drowned out and buried beneath the other 3 Cheeses, whereas before the Ricotta’s light creaminess was allowed to shine. The Spinach is also buried in grease and even as a slice (reheated) it wasn’t crisped like the Pepperoni slice was.
Still the fact that their Pepperoni slice was crisped up gave us hope that perhaps the new staff were improving, so a few weeks later we returned for a:
4th Visit During Pandemic (16th Visit overall):
As with the other visits, Superfine is being run by an all-new staff of youngsters.
Spinach On White Slice:
We saw the Spinach On White (through the window) and noticed it looked much better than the last visit, so we ordered a slice to see how this one would turn out. Sadly, the taste was still off: It just lacked the balance of the 4 Cheeses and delicate touch that the OG version at Superfine had. The Ricotta was able to be more prominent here (nice), but overall it still felt stodgy and underwhelming compared to the original version. The crust was slightly crisped though.
Veganissima Pizza (Tomato, Garlic, Rapini, Capers, Oregano, Chilies, Mint, Parsley, Basil, Extra Virgin Olive Oil):
Their Veganissima Pizza was a surprise highlight at Superfine back in the day: Despite it being Vegan, it had an incredible array of flavors that made it standout as a great Pizza even without meat. Today’s version by the new staff was solid: Not as light nor as well-executed as the original Pizzaiolos, but definitely enjoyable. This was a pleasant surprise.
Today’s Pepperoni Slice arrived with a slightly crisped crust again (2 out of 4 now), so that was a relief. The Pepperoni was tasty, but there was still too much Cheese and the ratio felt slightly off. However, as a Pepperoni Slice (reheated), this was getting back to respectability. Not bad.
Whole 18" Pizza - (Half) Queen Margherita + Sausage Pizza (Fresh Mozzarella, Tomato, Basil, Extra Virgin Olive Oil) + (Half) Pepperoni Pizza (Tomato, Cheese, Pepperoni):
The moment of truth: We ordered an entire 18" Pizza to see if the new staff had improved and could execute a whole Pie properly. Initially it looked delicious (above). But then taking a closer look, it was obvious that they had not improved at all:
Attempting to pick up a slice and our fears came true: The Pepperoni and Cheese just slid off the slice. The Pizza crust / slice was completely soggy and oil laden. Look closely at the pics and you can see the Pizza is swimming in a pool of oil, Sauce and Cheese.
And we showed up a good 10 minutes early and the Pizza was handed to us immediately after coming out of the oven (no sitting around to steam in a box).
(Half) Queen Margherita + Sausage Pizza (Fresh Mozzarella, Tomato, Basil, Extra Virgin Olive Oil):
The Queen Margherita with Sausage side was just as bad: Trying to pick up a slice yielded the same results, with the entire slice being floppy and soggy, the Pizza crust was too thin and not cooked enough either.
The entire Pizza was flat out a huge disappointment. It is clear that the new staff haven’t improved much at all, and that only by reheating a flabby slice (so ordering by the Slice) do they partially redeem themselves and are able to get some crispness that the OG Superfine staff executed perfectly on Whole Pizzas and by the Slice, every single time.
I feel for Superfine Pizza. We may never know why the original, brilliant Pizzailolos left Superfine during the start of the pandemic (hopefully they are safe), but Superfine Pizza has suffered greatly because of it. With the new staff, even nearly a year later, Superfine is a shadow of its former greatness. Their Pepperoni Slice and Veganissima Slice seem to be decent and have a bit of crispness, but avoid ordering a whole Pie from them, and for Pepperoni in general there are better options.
1101 San Pedro St., Unit F
Los Angeles, CA 90015
Tel: (323) 698-5677
Pizzeria Mozza / Mozza 2 Go
Pizzeria Mozza, the standout specialist from Chef-Owner Nancy Silverton, remained one of L.A.'s top Pizzerias since it’s debut for a reason. Some food critics have even called it one of the best Pizzerias in the country. With the pandemic hitting, Chef Silverton had to close down all 3 of her restaurants (Pizzeria Mozza, Osteria Mozza and Chi Spacca) for months, and only later on, did they pivot to open up a small outdoor parking lot section for outdoor dining.
But mainly the Mozza group has been surviving by helping out Restaurant Industry workers in need (she offered Free Meals to Restaurant Industry workers that needed it) and by doing a Takeout Menu via Mozza 2 Go.
During a previous Mozza 2 Go visit a few months ago, the vaunted, legendary Pizzeria Mozza Pizzas paled in comparison to their original form (dining in at Pizzeria Mozza, fresh from the wood-burning oven). But we were hoping they might’ve improved over time, so we stopped by during this Pizza Journey for another visit.
Brussels Sprouts Pizza (Brussels Sprouts, Guanciale, Red Onion & Mozzarella):
This new seasonal Pizza sounded like a wonderful combination. Chef Silverton and staff have used Guanciale (Cured Pork Jowl) to great effect in previous years.
We arrived a few minutes early to make sure to minimize any steaming that might happen in the To-Go Box. And this worked out well for the texture:
Lightly crunchy(!), this was almost like the crunchy texture when eating in at Pizzeria Mozza in the Before Times. But it was just a touch denser than before.
However, the unfortunate side effect was the stench from the Roasted Brussels Sprouts. Those who’ve cooked Brussels Sprouts at home might have experienced this, with the natural reaction from cooking the vegetables. Usually Chefs are able to mollify the funk with various other ingredients (e.g., Balsamic Vinegar, etc.). But on this new Seasonal Pizza, the Brussels Sprouts are presented naked, as is, and while it does celebrate the Vegetable and the season, it’s unfortunate that the natural odor is so prominent in each bite.
The Guanciale also lacks the deep porcine flavors of Pizzeria Mozza’s previous Guanciale from pre-COVID-19 times (perhaps a different supplier?).
Fennel Sausage Pizza (Fennel Sausage Made In-House, Panna (Cream Base), Red Onion, & Scallions):
One of Pizzeria Mozza’s signature Pizzas from their OG days, the Fennel Sausage Pizza was one of our all-time favorites. Today’s To-Go version is better than the previous visit: There is a slight crunchiness in the crust again (wonderful!), although not as airy and crackling as the dine-in version.
The Pizza is smaller than before, and the Housemade Fennel Sausage is fragrant from the Fennel, but tastes a bit more straightforward than before. Also, the Cheese and Panna combination feels more clumpy than the dine-in version.
Still, with the crust retaining some crunchy texture, this has made for a decent Pie To-Go, but it is nowhere near as good as Pizzeria Mozza dine-in from before COVID.
Pizzeria Mozza / Mozza 2 Go
6610 Melrose Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90038
Tel: (323) 297-1130
Another pleasant surprise during the pandemic was the opening of Little Coyote. A new Pizzeria helmed by co-owners Jonathan Strader and Jack Leahy, they both met while working at Hatchet Hall. Chef Leahy became Chef de Cuisine at Hatchet Hall and then moved on to be Executive Chef at L&E Oyster Bar.
Pepperoni Pizza (Pepperoni, Mozzarella, Crushed Tomato):
As with our previous visits (this was our 6th visit overall), Little Coyote makes a New York-style Pizza, and they cold ferment their dough. The Pepperoni Cups are beautiful looking. Taking a bite, the Pepperoni remains on the salty side (Little Coyote’s Pepperoni are some of the saltiest versions we’ve had recently), but the Tomato Sauce, and lightly toasted crust (that’s foldable in parts) balances things out. This is a tasty Pepperoni Slice.
Meatball Sandwich (50/50 Beef & Pork, Crushed Tomato, Mozzarella):
As with our previous visits, the first bite is a breakthrough of lightly crusty Bread from Little Brothers Bakery (Gardena), you get some creamy, luscious melted Mozzarella and their Crushed Tomato Sauce, but then you get a bite of their Housemade 50/50 Beef & Pork Meatballs.
Moist, tender, balanced, not overly salty, really meaty and the total combination is outstanding!
This remains one of the best Meatball Sandwiches in L.A. right now!
Whole Pizza - (Half) Veggie Supremo + (Half) Papa Joe:
Veggie Supremo Pizza (Roasted Peppers, Red Onion, Olive, Mushrooms, Mozzarella, Crushed Tomato):
Excellent! There is something wonderful about having Roasted Peppers, Red Onions, Olives, Mushrooms baked together with melty, luscious Mozzarella and a good Tomato Sauce on a New York-style Pizza crust. There’s a natural sweetness and wonderful aroma from the veggies, and it’s flat out delicious.
Papa Joe Pizza (Italian Sausage, Mushrooms, Mozzarella, Crushed Tomato):
The Papa Joe Pizza is just as delicious as our previous visits! Their Italian Sausage and Mushrooms are a classic combination, and the Italian Sausage is much less salty than the Pepperoni. The Mushrooms add a nice earthiness and that delicious savoriness that only Mushrooms can impart. These work better with the Tomato Sauce and Mozzarella.
Little Coyote continues to run a smooth and consistent operation during the pandemic, and their New York-style Pizzas continue to be a highlight for the neighborhood. While we prefer other Pepperoni offerings, Little Coyote’s version is still quite enjoyable. But their Veggie Supremo is a real standout Pizza, as is their Papa Joe. And don’t forget about their Meatball Sub, quite possibly one of the best Meatball Sandwiches in the city right now.
2118 E. 4th St.
Long Beach, CA 90814
Tel: (562) 434-2009
Another newcomer to the L.A. Pizza scene, Gra Pizza surprised us with their Organic Sourdough Pizzas right before the pandemic hit. Thankfully, they are still open (for Takeout Only), situated next door to Clark Street Bread in Echo Park, and we were hopeful their Pizzas were as consistent as before.
Fennel Sausage & Broccolini Pizza (Farmers Market Crumbled Pork Sausage, Cream, Garlic, Shallot Base, Parmesan):
One bite of Gra Pizza’s new seasonal offering and you realize the breadth and depth of the dish known as “Pizza.” On this journey, we started with huge, monster square slices. The thickness and heft of a Prince Street Pepperoni Square Pizza Slice makes the slice of Organic Sourdough Fennel Sausage Pizza from Gra seem like an Amuse-Bouche in comparison. It is that different.
Just like our visit to Gra in the early days (pre-COVID), the Organic Sourdough Pizza is by far the lightest and airiest Pizza on this journey. It almost feels “empty” at times (like you’re biting into the toppings with almost no Pizza crust)(!). But there’s a real light tang from the Sourdough base, and a real dainty, delicate quality.
And most importantly, it’s delicious.
The Fennel Sausage isn’t as herbal as we would’ve liked, tasting mainly like Pork Sausage, but it works well with the Garlic, Shallot, Parmesan and Cream base.
Pepperoni Pizza (Tomato Sauce, Mozzarella, Pepperoni):
Today’s Pepperoni was a bit rushed it seems. The Pepperoni were charred / burnt on the edges, and there were more burnt marks along the Pizza than our previous visit (which was perfect). Still, even as is, the Pepperoni and Organic Sourdough Crust yielded a wonderful flavor combination, with some of the Pepperoni having a crispy quality to the edges, and a balanced porky flavor (not overly salty, nor greasy). And the Organic Sourdough taste balanced each bite.
Gra Pizza feels like it’s on the cusp of being great: Their Organic Sourdough Pizzas are by far the thinnest / lightest Pizzas on this journey, and you don’t feel weighed down or heavy after a meal at Gra. If they can sort out their Pepperoni inconsistencies, Gra Pizza feels like a place that would be great for an Appetizer, Salad and Pizza, enjoying a glass of one of their Natural Wines and feel like you had a perfectly light meal in the process.
1524 Pizarro St.
Los Angeles, CA 90026
La Morra Pizzeria
While we recently wrote about La Morra Pizzeria, this larger Pizza Journey would not be complete without a mention and visit to one of L.A.'s shining stars. Helmed by Chef-Owner Zach Swemle and Co-Owner Marlee Blodgett (who runs the front of the house), La Morra was one of the great losses of 2020, having shutdown its pop-up operation and disappearing for months. They changed to doing Frozen Pizzas for delivery to survive, but have now found a new, permanent home to begin baking fresh, hot Sourdough Pizzas to enjoy again.
Some of their highlights are:
Napoli Pizza (Tomato, Anchovy, Caper, Garlic, Oregano, Chili, Basil, Olive Oil):
Stunning! Ignore the fact that this is a Cheese-less Pizza, as the explosion of flavors are so prominent and delicious that you don’t miss it: Fragrant Roasted Garlic, the wonderfully balanced Housemade Tomato Sauce, a beautiful brininess from the Anchovies, the hit of piquant from the Capers to balance things, and then the aroma of Oregano and Basil, all on the incredible Sourdough Crust!
There’s a reason the Napoli Pizza has remained as one of La Morra’s permanent Pizzas on their menu since their pop-up days. It is wonderful!
Bianco Pizza (Ricotta, Pickled Guindilla Peppers, Oregano, Garlic, Shallot, Panna):
I still dream about their Bianco Pizza: One of our all-time favorites from their early pop-up days, Chef Swemle’s Bianco is better than ever! The first bite is a beautiful creaminess from the Ricotta and Panna, then a nice slow-burning, tart heat from the Guindilla Peppers, rounded out by Roasted Garlic and Shallots, and that incredible Sourdough Pizza Crust!
One of La Morra’s highlights and one of the best Pizzas in the city!
For this follow-up 3rd Visit to the new location:
Cavolo Rosso Pizza (Tomato, Kale, Garlic, Shallot, Oregano, Chili, Basil, Olive Oil) (Vegan):
Don’t let the fact that this Pizza is Vegan dissuade you. Taking a bite, and you get this incredible burst of flavors: First, the slightly crisped, Roasted Kale (yes, some of it is burnt, but it’s still quite vegetal, and the burnt parts somehow add a smoky bitterness (slight)), then you get this excellent balanced Tomato Sauce, the Garlic, Shallots, Basil and Oregano, some slight heat and tartness from the Pickled Chilies, and quality Olive Oil.
And then you tear into the outstanding Sourdough Neo-Neapolitan crust, with a great light chew, good flavor, and it is magic!
(Complimentary) Garlic Sauce:
La Morra is now serving their Pizzas with a free side of their Housemade Garlic Dipping Sauce and Pickled Peppers. The Garlic Sauce is ridiculous! Pure Roasted Garlic flavor, concentrated and entrancing.
(Special) Burrata and Black Truffle Pizza:
Chef Swemle has always talked about a possible Truffle Pizza when the timing and ingredients were right. And while 2020 threw a wrench in La Morra’s original plans, it looks like Chef Swemle was able to finally feature a Black Truffle Pizza, just in time for Valentine’s Day.
Opening up the To-Go box, and the unmistakable aroma of quality Italian Black Truffles hits your senses. It is wonderfully fragrant and the first bite just adds to the enjoyment:
There’s a good intense scent from the Italian Black Truffles, and it pairs beautifully with the Fresh Burrata Cheese cracked open on the Pizza. The creaminess of the Burrata and the delicate Black Truffles are a great match, and you have the light tang from La Morra’s Housemade Sourdough Pizza Crust.
La Morra Pizzeria has barely settled in to its new home (with a large wood burning oven), but Chef Zach Swemle and Marlee Blodgett are delivering some of the best Neo-Neapolitan Pizzas in the city already. For La Morra to be able to offer many of their OG Pizza menu, and for it to be executed at the same level as the Before Times is a win. The fact that they’re delivering specials now and Chef Zach is able to create new flavors like the sublime Burrata & Black Truffle Pizza is even more encouraging. Hopefully there are even greater, new flavor combinations to come!
La Morra Pizzeria
8022 West 3rd Street
Los Angeles, California 90048
And so our Pizza Journey has come to an end. It was fun to be able to see what Chefs and Restaurants are doing with one of America’s favorite comfort foods. The Detroit-Style / Square Pizza trend hitting So Cal is interesting. While Chicago-Style Pizza was found to be too overwhelming by many, Detroit-Style, which is also quite hefty, seems to be welcomed with open arms.
Of the square slices, our favorite remains Steel Pan Pizza, which is the lightest and crispest of the various offerings, with Quarter Sheets being the runner-up. Of course, we still mourn the loss of the OG square love that was Il Romanista (Roman-style rectangular slice), or else that would’ve been our top pick.
And for round Pizza, our favorite would be La Morra Pizzeria, finally returned from a long 2020 shutdown in a new home. Their Sourdough Neo-Neapolitan Pies are worth celebrating, and a beacon of hope for other restaurants that might have had to shutter in 2020: That they might be able to return to business as well.
Update 1: Roca Pizza (Revisit without Chef Luigi), U Street Pizza, La Bella Pinseria, Quarter Sheets (Revisit), Steel Pan (Revisit), Pizzeria Sei and more!
Update 2: Japanese Neapolitan-Style at Pizzeria Sei (revisit), DeSano’s tasty Carnevale Pizza, La Morra Pizzeria Pop-up!