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.

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

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.

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

Best of Inuyaki Italian Mario Batali New York reviews

Babbo Ristorante e Enoteca

In the world of celebrity chefs, Mario Batali was never really one of my favorites, but I always respected his culinary skills (especially on Iron Chef America) and appreciated the joy he gets bringing “authentic” Italian food to the masses. But on our last trip to New York in May, the one place everyone kept telling us to go was Mario’s flagship restaurant, Babbo.


Because of its popularity, getting a table at Babbo is challenging. They take reservations 30 calendar days in advance, and when I called, the phone was busy for hours before I got through to a reservationist. The only seating times open were 5:30 and something after 9pm, so we took the early seating.

We arrived for our 5:30pm reservation and were seated upstairs, which I think is preferable to the darker downstairs because the sun was still out and brightened up the room through the enormous skylight. We fell for the old antipasti, primi, secondi” format of dining, which was fine because it let us sample a lot of the menu. We ordered three antipasti, one primi to split and we each got our own secondi. Our menu consisted of:

Asparagus “Milanese” with Duck Egg and Parmigiano
Warm Lamb’s Tongue Vinaigrette with Chanterelles and a 3-Minute Egg
Grilled Octopus with “Borlotti Marinati” and Spicy Limoncello Vinaigrette

Maccheroni alla Chitarra
with Oven Dried Tomatoes, Red Chiles and Bottarga di Muggine (Grey Mullet Roe)

Barbecued Skirt Steak with Asparagus “alla Piastra” and Salsa Verde
Roasted Veal Loin coiled in Sage and Housemade Pancetta and served with Caramelized Cauliflower (the nightly special)
Tilefish cooked with Pancetta and Giant Leeks

Of the antipasti, the grilled octopus was the standout. It was charred perfectly but had a sweetness to it that was an amazing combination. The asparagus was thick and it was perfectly cooked (you know how most restaurants overcook asparagus so that it’s limp and mushy? NOT here.) The lamb’s tongue was good, very tasty, and not as weird as it sounds.

The highlight of the meal might have been the primi. The Maccheroni alla Chitarra was at once spicy, salty and sweet (leaning towards spicy) and it was amazing. This was split between the three of us, but I was longing for a whole bowl all to myself.

After an amazing first two courses, the secondi were all just pretty good, but nothing really amazing. My wife liked her fish but wasn’t blown away by it. Our friend’s skirt steak was good and the pesto sauce it came with was really nice, but she ordered it medium well, so it was a bit chewy and probably would have been better cooked medium rare or medium. The veal loin wrapped in pancetta was probably the best of the three (I mean, it was wrapped in pancetta!), but I think that sans pancetta it would have been average.

Things picked up again for dessert. The warm chocolate cake was served with a hazelnut gelato that was amazing. The blueberry/coconut crostata with buttermilk gelato was awesome and by the blueberries tartness, you could tell that they were fresh. The warm pineapple cake was extremely sweet, but it wasn’t overpowering and a nice contrast to the other desserts.

Presentation of all the dishes was gorgeous, as it should be at a place like this. I have to say that one dish caught my eye multiple times as it made its way across the room…the deconstructed osso buco for two. It smelled great and looked like a lot of meat for just two people. I really think it could feed four.

I didn’t give Babbo five stars mainly for our lackadaisical service. There were times where we were just sitting there (waiting to order, waiting for our plates to be cleared, etc.) and I thought our server could have been more on the ball. Maybe he was gawking a bit because Luke Wilson was dining with a lady friend on the other side of the room, but that’s really no excuse. Otherwise, we had an amazing meal, and I would defintely go back to Babbo if I had another opportunity.

Babbo Ristorante e Enoteca
110 Waverly Pl,
New York, NY 10011+9109
Web site