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Best of Inuyaki Italian Mario Batali reviews Southern California

Osteria Mozza

Since the mid 90s, the restaurant location on Melrose and Highland has been, for lack of a better word, cursed. Ever since the long-standing Emilio’s closed its doors, it’s been hard for another restaurant to gain a solid footing in that space. This changed in 2007 as both Pizzeria Mozza and Osteria Mozza, joint ventures by culinary luminaries Nancy Silverton (La Brea Bakery, Campanile), Mario Batali (Babbo, Iron Chef, Iconoclast) and Joseph Bastianich (son of Lidia and Mario’s business partner), look like they’re ready to set up permanent shop at this famous Hollywood intersection and transform Southern California into the West Coast epicenter of fine Italian cuisine.

Osteria Mozza was the third stop on our wedding anniversary eating tour, and we were excited about this new restaurant after our visit to Pizzeria Mozza, as well as the incredible meal we had at Batali’s flagship restaurant, Babbo, when we were in New York last May. Could Osteria Mozza possibly live up to our expectations?

If you want reservations, you need to call in advance up to one month before your desired dining date. I managed to get through after a few tries and got a 7pm reservation. (When I called for Babbo, it took me 4 hours to get through, and the only tables available were at 5:30pm or after 9pm.) We were 15 minutes early for our reservation and were seated on arrival. The room is dark with lots of espresso wood furnishings. The mozzarella bar is in the middle of the space, and it was nice to see Nancy Silverton back there working her magic. And while Mario’s influence on the cuisine is undeniable, Osteria Mozza really belongs to both Nancy and Executive Chef Matt Molina, a Batali protege who’s running the show at the tender age of 29.


On advice from our server, we started with two antipasti—grilled figs wrapped in pancetta and the burrata with bacon, marinated escarole and caramelized shallots served on crostini. The concept of pancetta-wrapped fruit is irresistable, and the grilled figs had a beautiful smokiness and sweetness that was incredible. The burrata was really nice, especially when accompanied by the smoky bacon, but the crostini was a bit hard, which made this a bit of a challenge to eat. Nonetheless, the melding of flavors and textures here was wonderful.

Our primi was the Orrechiete, an ear-shaped pasta served with fennel sausage and a light, delicious sauce. After one bite, I was beaming with joy. I actually giggled. The sausage was chopped fine enough so that it got trapped inside every piece of pasta and every bite was hearty and flavorful. This is the kind of dish that you would eat a bowl of on a cold, rainy night…sitting on the couch, wrapped in a blanket and watching a movie or sitting by the fire. This was definitely the the best dish of the night.

That’s not to take anything away from our secondi, which were delicious in their own right. My wife’s Monkfish was outstanding. It was served with a wonderful tomato-based sauce, greens and generous scoop of seasoned breadcrumbs on top that provided a crunchy complement to the tender, meaty fish. I ordered the Beef Brasato, a melt-in-your-mouth beef short rib that was served atop a polenta and horseradish gremolata. I have a bit of a love affair with beef short ribs, so this dish was basically perfect. The polenta was a little bland on its own, but once it soaked up the flavors from the meat, it was creamy and delicious.

For dolci, my wife ordered the Roasted Olive Oil cakes. Served with an olive oil gelato and some salt (maybe fleur de sel?), the cakes were like a mini muffin with a nice olive oil flavor. I didn’t taste the olive oil in the gelato, but my wife said it was very distinct and went great with the salt. I ordered the Bombolini, little round donuts served with lemon mascarpone and Fruiti di Bosco sorbet. The bombolini are similar to the malasadas you can find in Hawaii, only denser, and they have a wonderful creamy interior that’s a nice contrast to the crispy exterior.

Service was on point, much more efficient than the experience we had at Babbo. In fact, I’d say that it might have been too efficient. I’ve been starting to appreciate longer gaps between courses so that we can rest and savor the previous course before diving into the next one. It was nice not having to wait too long for our food, but if it had arrived five minutes later, that would have been fine too.

To say that Osteria Mozza met our expectations is an understatement. It was in many ways a much more satisfying experience than Babbo, which may have a lot to do with what we actually ordered. But when you combine the excellent service with amazing food, and the fact that L.A. is much more accessible than New York, Osteria Mozza comes out on top.

INFORMATION
Osteria Mozza
6602 Melrose Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90038 map
323.297.0100
Web site

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Best of Inuyaki Italian Mario Batali Neapolitan pizza reviews Southern California

Pizzeria Mozza

Pizzeria Mozza LogoAt lunch, the dining room at Pizzeria Mozza is bright, sunny and bustling. It’s a relatively small space and Pizzeria Mozza’s popularity ensures that is always packed. It was apparent when we walked in that Pizzera Mozza isn’t your ordinary pizza joint. I mean, would you really expect the ordinary when Chefs Silverton and Batali join forces?

We started with Nancy’s Chopped Salad, an upscale take on the classic antipasto salad that featured iceberg, radichhio, garbanzo beans, grape tomatoes, red onions, mozzarella slices and some delicious salumi (I think from Mario’s dad in Seattle). I thought it was a bit overdressed, but it was still delicious, especially the salumi. I even took a couple bits and wrapped it around the skinny, crunchy breadsticks that are on the table.

I ordered the Bianco Pizza (three cheeses and sage) and added some sausage to it (a tip from my favorite food writer, the LA Weekly’s Pulitzer Prize-winner Jonathan Gold). The fennel sausage at Pizzeria Mozza is the most heavenly Italian sausage I’ve ever had, and it complimented the cheeses perfectly. My only complaint was that the middle of the pizza was really oily, probably due to the thin crust and all the cheeses, but the pizza was still really good. Find a way to get some sausage on your pizza, even if it means adding it as an extra. My wife’s squash blossom, burrata and tomato pizza was fantastic. The toppings were really fresh, especially the burrata (mozzarella mixed with cream), and the crust was perfect…no sogginess to report.



We finished off the meal with a gelato/sorbet combination (3 choices for $7). We had chocolate hazelnut and caramel vanilla gelatos, along with the Frutti di Bosco sorbet (strawberry, blueberry, raspberry blend). The vanilla was okay, but the chocolate hazelnut mixed with the fruity sorbet was sinful.

If it wasn’t for the soggy pizza, Pizzeria Mozza would definitely get five stars, but I really want to go back. There’s so many things on the menu I want to try.

UPDATE: We’ve been back to Mozza several times since this first visit, and I really love the creativity of the pizzas, especially the fresh and sometimes exotic toppings. This is more than enough to warrant a half-star bump for a full five-star rating.

INFORMATION
Pizzeria Mozza
641 N. Highland Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90036 map
323.297.0101
Web site

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beef grilling Northern California recipes Southern California steak

Summer Grilling – Steaks

I love grilled meat, but I love it even more in the summertime. This past 4th of July, we had a mini family reunion, and as usual, I was asked to grill some meat. I wanted to keep it simple, so I grilled some New York Strips and did an easy BBQ chicken recipe that I’ve been using for years.


finished steak

Steaks are pretty easy to make, and I don’t see why people are so amazed when I grill them. I had five steaks to work with, so I decided to do two different preparations. Three steaks were rubbed with olive oil to coat and then seasoned with kosher salt and fresh ground pepper on both sides. On the other two steaks, I used Emeril’s Southwest Essence as a rub. I don’t normally use Emeril’s products, but we had the bottle buried in our pantry, so I thought I’d use it. It worked out really nicely.

Classic Grilled New York Steaks

INGREDIENTS
New York Steaks
Kosher Salt
Fresh Ground Pepper
Olive Oil (approx 1 tbsp. per steak)


Classic Steak

DIRECTIONS

  1. One hour before grillling, remove steaks from the refrigerator so they can get up to room temperature.
  2. Rub each steak with olive oil.
  3. Sprinkle each side of steak with kosher salt

Southwest New York Strips

INGREDIENTS
Emeril’s Southwest Essence (or use your favorite rub)
New York Steaks


Southwest Steak

DIRECTIONS

  1. The night before you grill, pat the steaks dry with a paper towel.
  2. Sprinkle rub mixture on steaks so that there’s an even coating on all sides.
  3. One hour before grilling, remove steaks from refrigerator so they can get up to room temperature.

COOKING TIMES

For medium rare, I generally cook the steaks for 4 minutes per side. Add or subtract a minute depending on your desired doneness. If you want to make cross-hatched grill marks on the meat, turn the steaks 90 degrees after 2 minutes.

To check for doneness more accurately, use a digital instant-read thermometer to monitor the temperature of the meat (med. rare is somewhere between 130-135 degrees)

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reviews Southern California

Canter’s Deli

I love pastrami and I love sauerkraut, but I’ve never really been a fan of Jewish delis because I’ve always thought they were overpriced. I ended up at Canter’s against my will the other night, but approached it as an opportunity to give the place another chance. I’ve been to Canter’s a few times before and was never really impressed by the food, but honestly, I don’t think my palette or my food knowledge was very good back then. Plus, I was usually poor, so any sandwich that cost over $10 was a big problem for me.

My wife and I split the Reuben sandwich. We got it with pastrami and it was really good. Not melt-in-your-mouth pastrami like at Katz’s Delicatessen in New York, but still very good. The sauerkraut was excellent and was easily my favorite part of the meal. For dessert, my wife ordered the blueberry pie a la mode, which she thought was just okay because the filling was more like a blueberry jelly than actual whole blueberries.



If you like pickles, they’re free at Canter’s, and they bring you a plate of them when you’re seated. If you’re in a drinking mood, you can order most mixed drinks at your table and i think they come from the bar next door. If there’s a band playing at the bar, then it can get a little loud, so you may want to sit in the room near the main entrance if you want to have a conversation. Our waitress was cool and very accommodating of our group of 10 and had no problem handling separate checks.

The one thing I really hate about Canter’s is the parking, especially in the evening. There’s a small lot adjacent to the restaurant that’s usually full, so unless you’re going to hunting for street parking, you’ll have to wait till someone leaves before you can park. Luckily this process moves fairly quickly since people are always coming and going, and while you wait, you can admire the mural that’s painted on the side of the building chronicling the Jewish struggle in Los Angeles.

INFORMATION
Canter’s Deli
419 N. Fairfax Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90036 map
323.651.2030
Web site