Lardo in the house
I went to grab a bite at Mozza yesterday late in the afternoon, my favorite time to go: It's never crowded then so you don't need a reservation, and there's kind of a languid feel to the place. Or at least as languid as you're going to get, given the signature rock music of a Batali establishment.
And you tend to run into interesting folks: The last time I went, salumi master Paul Bertolli was sitting at a nearby table. (Note to David Geffen: Stop trying to get a reservation and just swing by in the afternoon.) The menu included some lovely new apps, grilled asparagus wrapped in La Quercia speck, and corn al forno with lovage butter.
But what I really wanted was the lardo pizza, which had been absent the last time I was there, about a month ago. Mozza used to get its lardo from Mario's dad, Armandino, but chef Matt Molina decided to experiment with making his own. So they went into a kind of lardo limbo. This had been explained to me last month, as I was staring dejectedly at the lardo-pizza-shaped hole in the middle of my menu.
But lo, yesterday I unfolded the menu and there it was. And fifteen minutes later, it was on my plate, pale and recumbent upon the rosemary-strewn crust. It was amazing, creamy in texture and subtle in flavor. Molina says the key to lardo is, unsurprisingly, using great fat (he was mum on where he gets his), and that although some people make theirs with a little bit of meat still on it, he prefers a "cleaner" lardo, pure white and buttery, not too salty. Molina was quick to point out that not only is the lardo now house-made, but so is the baccalao (salt cod), guanciale (cured pork jowl), pancetta and fennel sausage. That's all good, of course, but the lardo is something else.
Pizzeria Mozza, 641 N. Highland Ave., Los Angeles; (323) 297-0101
-- Amy Scattergood
Photo by Amy Scattergood