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Its roots have no real ties to the City of Angels, not to mention there is no such thing as Los Angeles-style pizza. And the West Coast’s prevailing vegan and health-nut stereotypes make a carb-heavy dish laden with cheese seem an unlikely addiction. Yet Angelenos harbor a serious love for pizza. And no, it’s not a pandemic comfort food thing, or strictly a cauliflower crust-and-cashew cheese situation. Over the course of years, L.A.’s chefs have tapped into the truth: that the city’s residents are not simply willing, but rabid consumers of pies made with careful fermentation processes, locally sourced ingredients and, in some cases, artisanal flair.
Nancy Silverton can take some credit for starting the movement with her Pizzeria Mozza, a destination that’s drawn the likes of Jay Z and Beyonce. But many others have seen opportunity and run with it. In 2021, Los Angeles’ pizza offerings are as prolific as they are dynamic—Neapolitan to Sicilian, Chicago-style to Detroit. And thank goodness they are, since as we all know, pizza is perhaps the most takeaway-and-delivery-friendly meal there is. Legend has it, pizza was the very first food delivery made back in 1889. And with outdoor dining set to resume soon, it’s once again possible to savor one just out of the oven.
Chef Evan Funke is passionate about dough, and can speak poetically about everything from gluten structures to fermentation. It shows in his pizzas at this Venice restaurant which, pre-pandemic, was quite a tough reservation to get. In all his pizzas, which are somewhat seasonal (think the mushrooms used on the funghi), chef chases feather-light airiness with a blend of American and Italian flours. It’s worth noting that Funke’s incredibly comprehensive pasta program—which includes shapes and their appropriate accompaniments broken down by specific region—shouldn’t be missed either. 1023 Abbot Kinney Blvd., Venice, 424-387-8622
Each pie that comes out of Ronan’s wood-fired oven is like a bubbling, perfectly charred, pillowy offering straight from Naples. The crust’s supple texture and incomparable flavor come from using more than normal sourdough starter—grown by chef and co-owner Daniel Cutler and his wife/co-owner Caitlin under the sink of their first apartment together—a diving arm–style mixer and long cold fermentation. The classic margherita, with not only mozzarella but also Pecorino Calabrese, their vibrant San Marzano #DOPE sauce, and a liberal fistful of basil, is transcendent. Less orthodox offerings include the Sweet Cheeks, with housemade guanciale and cacio e pepe honey, and How ‘Nduja Want It? comprising spicy sausage, gorgonzola crema, green onion and celery. During the pandemic they’re also selling pizza kits for home baking, which include rolled dough, sauce, cheese, toppings. 7315 Melrose Ave., LA, 323-917-5100
The magic at this pair of pizza havens—in the hearts of Brentwood and West Hollywood—is in the so-called “slow dough,” Italian native chef Daniele Uditi’s creation comprising a blend of imported Italian flours, fermented for 48 hours. The result is neither floppy nor too crisp, but perfect for holding up sustainably-sourced toppings such from fennel to squash blossoms, the California spin they refer to as neo-Neapolitan. The bright San Marzano tomatoes used are even grown expressly for Pizzana in the countryside of Naples. Uditi’s most famously combined a beloved pasta with pizza: the addictive Cacio e Pepe white pie features two kinds of cheese plus parmigiano crema and cracked black pepper. They also feature a couple vegan options, and gluten-free crust. 11712 San Vicente Blvd., LA, 310-481-7108; 460 N. Robertson Blvd., West Hollywood, 310-657-4662
Lightly blistered and perfectly chewy describe chef Zach Pollack’s pizzas, which cook in just 60 seconds in a wood-burning oven and range from a purist’s take on Naples-style margherita—tomato, mozzarella, basil, with everything being thoughtfully sourced, of course—to the Hawaiiana with Canadian bacon, pineapple and jalapeño and Biancoverde, topped with ricotta, mozzarella, and spinach. Sicilian-style pan pizzas are a newer menu addition, sturdy, excellent bases for indulgent doses of pepperoni (plus three cheeses) or, say, barbecue chicken, with ZBQ sauce, cheese, onion, jalapeño, cilantro and ranch. 2100 Sunset Blvd., LA, 213-908-5211
James Beard Award–winning chef and member of the American Express Global Dining Collection, Nancy Silverton, is a true legend on Los Angeles’ culinary scene so, in 2006, when she and Joe Bastianich opened Pizzeria Mozza, people took notice. They still are. There’s a contingent of Angelenos who swear the pastry expert’s pies are the city’s best. Part of the reason, she claims, is the length of time the team allows the dough to ferment, developing the flavor and texture of what ends up being a one-of-a-kind, bubble-heavy crust. Admittedly that element is just as important as the imaginative, often-seasonal toppings—think honeynut squash in the fall, Jimmy Nardello peppers in the summer, and asparagus and peas in spring. DIY-minded home chefs can also indulge with the Mozza pizza kit. 6610 Melrose Ave., LA, 323-297-1130
L’Antica Pizzeria da Michele
In pre-pandemic times, this Hollywood eatery co-helmed by Ischia, Italy native pizzaiolo Michele Rubini, was a lively place for social butterflies to indulge in traditional Neapolitan-style pies on a generous patio. The recipe stays true to Rubini’s historic original, made famous by Eat Pray Love. Dependably chewy crust shines to the point where pies don’t even need cheese to be mouthwatering—the Marinara, with tomato, Sicilian oregano, garlic, salt and basil, is divine. Capricciosa, Arugula & Prosciutto, and Diavola pizzas also thrill and now their Dream Pizza option allows indecisive patrons to select four different quarters. During COVID the team has created a drive-in movie experience in the parking lot across the street where Thursday through Sunday nights short films are screened and staff deliver pies to the cars. 1534 N. McCadden Pl., LA, 310-570-9008
This Bushwick, Brooklyn favorite first arrived as a pop-up and then became a permanent presence at Platform Culver City, attracting fans from all over the city. The vibrant outpost hawks an array of charred-edge standbys, including the super-cheesy Famous Original, with mozzarella, parmigiano reggiano, caciocavallo, and oregano and chili sprinkled on top, and the Bee Sting, with soppressata, chili, honey, and basil. But they also allow guests to build their own pie—options range from speck to capers to egg—and add the occasional seasonal offering. Think a wintery guanciale and housemade pork sausage with basil and fennel seed. 8810 Washington Blvd., Culver City
If authenticity is important, DeSano is a sure thing. From the mozzarella di bufala to the salt, specialty ingredients are imported to ensure quality and flavor are true to the Naples original. Apparently even the super-hot ovens incorporate volcanic rock from Mount Vesuvius. The menu is split between Tradizionale di Napoli pies—a couple luscious versions of the iconic Margherita, a classic and a D.O.P., with the additions of scamorza and garlic, plus a gooey Bianca, among others—and Specialita. That category contains the meatball-laden Lasagna pizza, plus the spicy Diavola and beloved San Gennaro, with peppadews, caramelized onions and sausage. In true Italian form, calzone and cannoli figure into the equation, too. 4959 Santa Monica Blvd., LA, 323-913-7000
Brooklyn Ave. Pizza Co.
Boyle Heights might not sound like the obvious destination for pizza. But nothing about Brooklyn Ave. Pizza Co. is exactly very orthodox. The newcomer is the vision of MasterChef Latino judge chef Mario Christerna, situated in a venue that in the early 20th century was the Jewish Bakers Union Headquarters. Christerna bakes his dough—a marriage between Roman, Neapolitan, and sourdough—in a black and brass wood-fired Forza Forni oven, and tops it with original combinations that span genres and cultures. For example, there’s the Mole pie, with Oaxacan queso, curtido (a fermented Salvadoran slaw) and crema, and the A La Vodka, with shrimp, ricotta, lemon and pink vodka sauce. Traditionalists can still find a perfect pepperoni to go along with sides including Flamin’ Hot Cheetos Wings and Chicano Gravy Fries. 2706 E. Cesar E. Chavez Ave., LA, 323-968-1106
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Because there’s nothing one-note about Nancy Silverton, she’s also behind this casual Roman-style pizzeria where rectangular slices are doled out, with scissors, by the ounce, half, or full pie. Alongside former Mozza chef Matt Molina—and with organic and biodynamic vinos by Silverlake Wine on offer—the crispy-crusted concoctions are topped with a satisfying proliferation of cheeses, fresh veggies, and meats. The combination of roasted fennel, housemade sausage and goat cheese on one is totally crave-worthy, while it’s hard to imagine anything more decadent than the fragrant Potato Sage and Truffle. Because they’re equal opportunity pizza providers, the whole menu also comes on gluten-free crust, and there’s even a Vegan Ratatouille pie. 1818 W. Sunset Blvd., Echo Park, 213-281-9753; 5918 N. Figueroa St., Highland Park, 323-545-3534
South End Pizza
Tender but crisp, rustic yet refined, the sourdough pies at South End, hidden in an unassuming strip mall at the end of Abbot Kinney Blvd., are worth the search. Rome native and pizzaiolo Mario Vollera is a constant presence, spreading his love of good pizza and good wine with everyone who steps in the door. The tomato sauce is made from scratch per Vollera’s grandmother’s recipe, and cheeses are imported from Italy, while toppings are consciously and locally sourced. There are plenty of tasty other bites to try, but save space for several artisanal pies, including the Kinney, with burrata and basil pesto, Windward, with its sautéed spinach, fontina, pecorino and garlic, and Brussels Town, featuring a smattering of the namesake sprout with gorgonzola, bacon and grandma’s sauce. 2805 Abbot Kinney Blvd., Venice, 424-228-4736
Hail Mary Pizza
Community is important at this Atwater Village go-to from a Gjelina alum, chef David Wilcox who opened it after closing his sustainable restaurant Journeymen there in 2018. Since COVID they’ve fed laid-off restaurant industry folks, delivered pies to ICU workers, and have done more delicious outreach. With a long, cold-fermented, organic whole grain–centered sourdough, these pies are baked in an open kitchen at lower temps than Neapolitan would be for a crisp crust. What’s on top is just as special. Yes, there are mainstays such as the stringy mozzarella-accessorized Beatrix, and the Meatball-za, but you’ll also find radical combinations like the Guist Oh! with potato, Swiss chard, feta, lemon zest and mornay sauce, and Rad Boi, featuring marinated radicchio, confit tomatoes and gouda. Creative inspiration comes from trips to local farmers markets for seasonal ingredients that may be on the menu one day and gone the next. Tip to the hungry: If you want it, order early—very early. 3219 Glendale Blvd., LA, 323-284-8879
It’s all about texture at this strip mall-hidden gem where modifications are kindly declined. First there’s the day-to-day offering: thin-crust, NY-style pies of foldable, cheesy slices styled with organic produce and heart-stopping meats like duck and bacon sausage. Then there’s the secret off-menu stuff: square slices and square pizzas that lean Detroit-style with a dash of Sicilian influence. It’s not only the impossibly open crumb of the dense yet holey crust that is alluring. It’s also the tall cheese fricos that border slices like delicious lace. And then there are the fusions of flavor: Acapulco Gold is an inviting blend of melty cheeses plus grape tomatoes, ricotta, arugula and truffle oil. But there’s no escaping the Ezzo cup and char pepperoni pie, topped with red square sauce and basil plus the pièce de résistance: a dollop of burrata and heady drizzle of Mike’s Hot Honey. 5176 Wilshire Blvd., LA, 323-937-2823