Daily Dish

The inside scoop on food in Los Angeles

Category: Pizza

The apéritif hour: pissaladière

I’ve always loved pissaladièrePiss ONE (1 of 1), the Provençal onion tart topped with slow-cooked onions, anchovies and olives, so I decided to make one to go with drinks for a dinner party last weekend.

I was a little under the weather that day, so I got started late. I had all the ingredients — or so I thought. I rummaged around in the cupboard for the 00 pizza flour I’d bought at Surfas months ago, but never used. I still had some salt-cured anchovies lurking somewhere in the fridge, and turned up some Kalamata olives. Not the traditional Niçoise, but they’d be fine.

I started my dough based on a recipe for pizza that Amy Scattergood (now food editor at L.A. Weekly) developed for The Times' Food section a couple of years ago. Except I forgot she leaves the dough overnight in the fridge to develop. I didn’t have a night or even a few hours, but proceeded anyway.

I add 1 package of yeast to 1 cup warm water and 1 tablespoon sugar. After a few minutes, no bubbles, which means my yeast is dead. Sure enough, the packet expiration date reads 2009. Fortunately, I find another packet dated 2011 and start over. Once the yeast mixture begins to fizz, I stir in 2 tablespoons olive oil and then mix in 2-1/2 cups flour and 1-1/2 teaspoons kosher salt with a wooden spoon. 

After kneading the dough until it’s soft and elastic, I put it in an oiled bowl covered with a kitchen towel to rise. Since I have just an hour and a half before people start arriving, I cross my fingers that the dough would rise fast enough. My alternative? Making a short pastry crust. I bet on the pizza dough.

Meanwhile, I put my husband to work finely slicing three large onions, instructing him to cook them in a large, heavy skillet with a splash of olive oil. They should be tender, but not browned, which could take a half hour or more.

Back to the sink to clean and filet eight or 10 anchovies (the most time-consuming part of the operation). 

I check the dough. In less than an hour, it had doubled in size. Perfect. I just might make it. I punch down the dough, divide it in half, returning the other half to the fridge for the next day. I’m in such a hurry, I don’t even bother to roll out the dough, just stretch and pull it into a thin round to fit my cast- iron pizza pan.

A spritz of olive oil, and leave it to rest for a half-hour, covered. I cut those large Kalamata olives into strips until I have half a cup, and turn the oven to 450 degrees. 

When the half-hour is up, working fast, I spread the onions over the dough, add the anchovy filets in a lattice pattern and place the olives in the center of each square. Guests are on the way. The pie goes into the oven for about 15 minutes, til the crust is browned and cooked through. Almost ready just as the doorbell rings.

My thrown-together pissaladière was a bit of an ugly duckling, but that crust — the best I’ve ever made. Light and crunchy, wonderful with those sweet onions, salty anchovies and olives, and a perfect match for Tablas Creek Vineyard’s rosé.

My question: How did Elizabeth David manage to compress her recipes into one or two prose paragraphs? She's more of a genius than I ever imagined.


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Photo: pissaladière. Credit: S. Irene Virbila / Los Angeles Times


Pizzeria Mozza + Bianco DiNapoli tomatoes

Bianco DiNapoli tomatoes

It's hard to find Bianco DiNapoli tomatoes. The California canned organic tomatoes, a collaboration between famed pizzaiolo Chris Bianco in Phoenix and tomato processor Robert DiNapoli in Los Gatos, Calif., aren't widely available. There just aren't enough of them to go around, says DiNapoli, who began canning them in 2010 exclusively for Bianco. Last year the two started selling them to the food industry (but not retail), and this year they hope to double production.  

Meanwhile, Nancy Silverton has been putting them on a handful of her pizzas at Pizzeria Mozza. "They’re super-delicious and so sweet that we don’t cook the tomatoes, we just hand-crush those," Silverton says. "They're different from other tomatoes. We’re really excited about it." She says she uses the tomatoes in dishes that really highlight them, such as the pizza Margherita pictured below with mozzarella di bufala and Genovese basil. A small section of the menu is devoted to pizzas made with the Bianco DiNapoli tomatoes.


The tomatoes are a variety of plum tomatoes from seed adapted from the San Marzano variety for the soil and weather conditions of California. They're grown organically by farmer Cliff Fong of Yolo County and canned by DiNapoli, whose grandfather started the family tomato-canning business in 1939. Bianco's father and brother designed the label. 

DiNapoli says the tomatoes are organically farmed, hand-picked, washed and sorted. "Any tomato in the can was inspected before being placed in the can," he says. There are no chemicals, firming agents such as calcium chloride, or citric acid (usually used as a preservative). It's just tomatoes, sea salt and basil -- three basil leaves per can -- yes, exactly three.  

Pizzeria Mozza, 641 N. Highland Ave., Los Angeles, (323) 297-0101, www.mozza-la.com.


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Top photo: Bianco DiNapoli tomatoes. Credit: biancodinapoli.com. Bottom photo: Pizza at Pizzeria Mozza with Bianco DiNapoli tomatoes. Credit: Betty Hallock.

800 Degrees Neapolitan Pizzeria set to open in January


The latest in a wave of pizzerias (including Milo & Olive and Stella Rossa in Santa Monica and Pizzeria Il Fico on Robertson), 800 Degrees Neapolitan Pizzeria is opening early next month in Westwood, from chef Anthony Carron, formerly of Michael Mina, along with Adam Fleischman (Umami Restaurant Group) and Allen Ravert (Mexicali Cocina Cantina). 

Expect Carron's interpretations of Naples-style pizza, thin-crusted, individually sized and traditionally topped with crushed tomatoes and fresh mozzarella with a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil. 800 Degrees "will serve customized personal pizzas prepared to each guest's liking, right before their eyes," according to a release. "During the time it takes to pay for it, the pizza will be baked to perfection in a proprietary wood-burning oven." 

Pizzas in said oven cook in about a minute and have a soft, chewy crust. Tomatoes are California-grown, and the fresh mozzarella is made exclusively for 800 Degrees by DiStefano Cheese. Also choose from charcuterie and local vegetables for toppings. There will be a small selection of wines, draft and bottled craft beers and gelato by L.A. Creamery

10889 Lindbrook Ave., Westwood.


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Photo: 800 Degrees

Coveted: Laguiole pizza server from Matali Crasset

Pizza server1 (1 of 1)Now that all you home cooks are busily trying to replicate Pizzeria Mozza’s pies from just-published “The Mozza Cookbook,” you’re wishing you had a pizza server, am I right?

For those who just don’t want to pick up a slice of pizza and heave it onto a plate, enter this sleek pizza server made in Laguiole, the town of knives in the Aveyron region in southern France, which also is home to Michelin three-star Michel Bras’ phenomenal restaurant Bras. He does not serve pizza, or at least didn’t last time I was there.  

But if he did, I’m sure he would use something like this. After all, it’s made in his hometown and looks sturdy enough to hold a slice no matter how crazy you get with the toppings. It was originally designed by the French firm Matali Crasset for Paris pastry chef Pierre Hermé as a cake server. I admit I was a little shocked when I took in the price, but if you amortize it over, say, several hundred pizzas and cakes, you might be able to make the case for the purchase.

Matali Crasset Pie/Pizza Server, $340 from Unicahome.com. Available in orange, green, pink or black.


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Photo: Matali Crasset Pie/Pizza Server. Credit: Unicahome

Domino's pizza struggles with the troublesome 'A-word'

Dominos It's hard to say which is sadder: Domino's rolling out a new line of "artisan" pizzas, or the way they are simultaneously running from the real meaning of the word.

Probably the latter. Let's face it, the term "artisan" now has about as much value as "natural." It once referred to products that are made with some care in small quantities by skilled craftsmen, but today it is attached to par-baked supermarket breads.

And, gasp, Domino's pizza -- it's "artisan," the company says, because it's made with feta cheese rather than mozzarella and provolone, and because its toppings include something called "Tuscan" salami (is "Tuscan" the next "artisan"?).

But at the same time, Domino's rushes to reassure its core customers that it doesn't really mean "artisan" as in, you know, "well-made." The pizza boxes state in large letters: "We're Not Artisans." The printed message goes on to say, "We don't wear black berets, cook with wood-fired ovens or apprentice with the masters in Italy."

That, apparently, would be "persnickety" and "snobby," a spokesman told the Times' Tiffany Hsu. Nothing like wanting to have your pie and eat it too.


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Photo: Domino's "artisan pizzas" by Jeff Padrick/PR Newswire

5 Questions for Jeff Mahin

JeffMahinHeadshotJeff Mahin is chef-partner of Stella Rossa Pizza Bar in Santa Monica. As the son of a scientist and engineer, the 27-year-old followed in his family's footsteps by studying science and math at UC Berkeley before landing a job as a laboratory assistant at Heston Blumenthal's Fat Duck in England. He now works with Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises, the restaurant group behind Stella Rossa. Mahin says he experimented with more than 30 variations to create the restaurant's signature pizza crust; talk about trial and error, in a good way.

What’s coming up next on your menu? I have a lot of fall and winter ideas. I view summer as almost cheating as a chef. Everything is so fresh and vibrant, so full of life, it’s relatively easy to put a small finishing touch on something and call it amazing. Winter, on the other hand, takes a bit more time and creativity -- braising and roasting are two of my favorite forms of preparing foods. I am looking forward to two dishes (one that we are currently running): shaved fennel with Grana Padano, fresh burrata, torn basil and organic extra virgin olive oil, and roasted cauliflower with medjool dates and Calabrian chiles and chard tomato vinaigrette.

Latest ingredient obsession? Purple mizuna, I can’t get enough of it. I love the flavor and texture. It is such a diverse green; we use the leaves in one of our salads and remove the stems, grill them over our wood-fired grill and use it as a pizza topping.

The one piece of kitchen equipment you can’t live without, other than your knives? A Japanese mandolin. I love shaving things with a mandolin. You name it, I have tried it. There is something about a vegetable that has been sliced using a sharp mandolin that interests me. Whether it’s because they are perfectly uniform, or are translucent, shaved vegetables take on a truly appealing character to me.

What’s your favorite breakfast? Greek yogurt with fresh berries (preferably blueberries) and Hawaiian white honey –- or we could go down the route of soft scrambled eggs with shaved white truffle –- a favorite, but a rarity.   

The last cookbook you read –- and what inspired you to pick it up? "Kitcho: Japan's Ultimate Dining Experience." I love the art form balanced in Japanese food. I find it far more challenging to create simple food than complex food.

Stella Rossa Pizza Bar, 2000 Main St., Santa Monica, (310) 396-9250, stellarossapizzabar.com.


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Photo credit: Gregory Cannon

Atwater Crossing Kitchen: Outdoor dining coming soon

Pics 014 USE

Retired chef Sarkis Berghoudian, formerly of Fiddler's Bistro on West 3rd Street in Los Angeles and Blue Pyramid in Glendale, was recently lured back into the kitchen to tend to the wood fire oven at Atwater Crossing Kitchen, which opened earlier this summer.

Located in the heart of the 100,000-square-foot Atwater Crossing complex at 3265-3191 Casitas Ave., the kitchen is part of five industrial buildings spanning five city blocks that are home to creative offices and artisanal manufacturing facilities, including a yoga studio, a theater company and the literary journal Slake: Los Angeles.

Pics 027 USEThe kitchen opened last month for breakfast and lunch but plans to launch dinner service next month. The restaurant will expand its hours to include weekends and will open up its spacious courtyard for what will be an outdoor dining space with communal tables, a bar and a stage for live performances. Amtrak trains roll by in the background, in a surprisingly pleasant way.

The dinner menu is in the works with a fitting winebar concept to complement the relaxed space: Think small plates, Berghoudian's flatbread creations and a beer and wine list.

Atwater Crossing 's new hours (as of Sept. 20) will be Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m., Saturday from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Sunday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Pics 029 USE3245 Casitas Ave., Los Angeles, (323) 522-3488, atwatercrossingkitchen.com.


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Restaurant critic S. Irene Virbila finds 'The Obama' pizza in Paris

Meg1 When I was in Paris last month, I arrived on the same day the collaborative Paris food blog Paris by Mouth was celebrating its first anniversary. The picnic was at Canal St. Martin in the 10th arrondissement, a couple of blocks, as it turns out, from my hotel.

Jet lag hadn’t clobbered me yet, so I ambled over for the festivities, where I met the blog’s founder and co-editor, Meg Zimbeck, and her co-editor, Barbra Austin (wearing a paper crown for the occasion). Pastry chef and food blogger extraordinaire David Lebovitz was in attendance. Cookbook author Dorie Greenspan showed up wearing some quirky eyeglasses. And a little later,  Patricia Wells joined the group and poured some of the quite delicious Côtes-du-Rhône made on her Chanteduc estate in Provence. She was in town to work on an app for her early book "Food Lover’s Guide to Paris." I also met food writer Jane Segal, who was once Wells’ assistant in Paris. We all sat (or stood) by the canal, talking and enjoying the beautiful day.

At a certain point, Meg ordered pizza from Pink Flamingo Pizza, specifically “the Canal1 (1 of 1) Obama,” which has bacon and pineapple chutney (for Hawaii) on top. Actually, the combination is fun, especially on the thin crust made with organic flour and good sea salt. And -- get this -- the pie was delivered right to the picnic site.

Here’s Meg showing off “the Obama.” And here’s a link to her earlier blog post about the pizzas. It turns out it’s standard practice for the pizzeria to deliver to Canal St. Martin. Who knew? On warm evenings, the banks are lined with neighborhood folks enjoying an impromptu pique-nique with wine. If only I could get Stella Rossa Pizza Bar or Sotto or the new Pizzeria il Fico to deliver to the beach! 

Looking for a budget meal in Paris? This is it.

Pink Flamingo Pizza, 7 rue Bichat, 10th arrondissement, Paris; 011-33/1-42-02-31-70; Métro Jacques Bonsergent. Closed Monday.


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Photo credit: S. Irene Virbila / Los Angeles Times


3 Food Events You Should Know About: Pizza- and pasta-making from scratch, 'Top Chef' casting call, and Planned Parenthood Food Fare


Have what it takes to be a Top (Pastry) Chef? Put away the knives and pick up your pastry bag.  Bravo announced that it will film a second season of "Top Chef Just Desserts." Casting calls for the new series, along with a new season of "Top Chef," will take place in Los Angeles at the Foundry on Melrose on March 14 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Time to start practicing the monologue on how your prized signature dish has been passed down five generations, proving that you have what it takes to win (the audition).

Pizza and Pasta 101: Confounded by the art of pasta fresca and homemade pizza?  Pizzeria Ortica is hosting hands-on cooking demonstrations with chef Justin Miller that teach how to make pasta and pizza from scratch. Guests can reap the joy of their hard work, accompanied by Italian wines, at the end of the class. The demonstration classes begin at 11 a.m. March 26, April 23, and May 21. 

Planned Parenthood Food Fare 2011: Planned Parenthood's annual Food Fare, kicked off more than 30 years ago by Julia Child, is set for March 10 at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium. This year, more than 150 restaurants and caterers are taking part, ranging from A.O.C. to Pink's hot dogs.  Tickets cost $150 for the daytime event and $225 for the evening session. Santa Monica Civic Auditorium, 1855 Main St., Santa Monica; (213) 284-3316.

Photo: "Top Chef Just Desserts" judges, from left, Hubert Keller, Gail Simmons, Johnny Iuzzini and Dannielle Kyrillos surround the show's first winner, Yigit Pura.

Pizzaiolo Bradford Kent gives L.A. a taste of Olio


We've been tracking Bradford Kent since his days at the Manhattan Beach farmers market, where he'd roll his wood-burning oven to 13th Street and serve up his fresh crisp-crusted pizzas. Back then he was making specials such as a Thai basil-shrimp pizza with Thai basil-mint-cilantro pesto, fresh spinach, curried shrimp, Monterey Jack cheese, wok-charred cashews, and a drizzle of Thai curry sauce that he made with reduced coconut milk, his penang curry and kaffir lime leaf.

Now Kent, a chef and food scientist, is set to open Olio Pizzeria & Cafe in an 860-square-foot corner space on 3rd Street in Los Angeles. He says he expects to open in October.

But over the weekend he was cooking pizzas and offering samples from his mobile wood-burning oven in front of the under-construction restaurant. On his planned menu are a pizza Margherita; one with organic chicken fennel sausage; a "Hawaiian" with fresh pineapple, prosciutto di Parma and (if requested) jalapeno; a truffled potato, mushroom and pancetta pizza; another with prosciutto and brie; and rotating specials.

Kent plans to serve breakfast, lunch and dinner, and this weekend he was making his sesame seed and onion bialys, slathered with cream cheese and filled with his cured wild salmon. On Sunday, his mom, visiting from San Diego, stopped by and for the first time tried Kent's wood-fired "danish" -- his pizza dough sprinkled with turbinado sugar and topped with fresh blueberries. In the oven, the sugar gets caramelized and crackly and juice bursts from the blueberries. Says Mom: "It's wonderful."

8075 W. 3rd St., Los Angeles, (323) 930-9490, www.pizzeriaolio.com.

-- Betty Hallock

See photos of Bradford Kent's bialy and blueberry "danish" after the jump.


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Daily Dish is written by Times staff writers.