Getting a good slice of pizza in New York is easy. Getting a good slice of New York style pizza in LA is not.
Is it the water? Is it the dough? It sure seems like that has something to do with it. What else can explain it?
There are a few places in LA that have their dough trucked out from New York or New Jersey. Their pizza is definitely close to that great East Coast style… but the time and days it takes to get out here probably loses something in the translation.
The other problem for all LA pizza shops, in regards to me, is this… I was at Star Tavern in Orange, New Jersey less than a month ago. The smells, the taste, the texture… it’s all still in my mind, and considering that was one of the best pizzas I have ever had, there is a lot more to live up to.
I was supposed to wait for our friends down the block to journey to Red Ball’s Rock and Roll Pizza for the first time. That was the plan. But then another buddy caught me in a moment of weakness. I was feeling a cold or something coming on, was overwhelmed with busy work, and wanted to get out of the house.
He texted, I responded… Next thing I knew we are driving down Topanga Boulevard heading out for some za.
The first good sign was that the door handle was made from the neck of an electric guitar. Definitely what I would expect from a place partially owned, I think, by Elliot Easton of the Cars.
Once we stepped inside we were not greeted with a hello or even a hey… just a strong wind of some kind of cleaner… Lysol maybe. I did not mind it as much as my pal Rob, who was immediately put off by it. It was definitely strong, but I figured they had just opened and clean was a good thing. It did go away after a while.
We were the only ones inside, and our pizza man was on the phone dealing with some kind of order or something pizza related, so we looked around at the memorabilia: signed photos, framed autographs, old posters… A bunch of New York Posts hung under the counter. Black and white checkered tablecloths… The visuals were all there… This place could be in NYC or Jersey.
A small stage was set up in the back, and apparently the live music on the weekends can be pretty amazing and feature some pretty big names. We’ll definitely come back for this!
The best way to test the true metal of any good pizza joint is by going for a fresh out of the oven plain cheese pie. We did not do that, so my true judgment will be reserved until I do. You hear that, Steve? I’m waiting for you to get the whole pie! Who loves you, baby?
We each had the two-slice special for $7.99, which came with a small house salad and drink. The salad was good, nice and fresh, but the bowl was too small to really mix it up and enjoy it from. The one drink I was craving, root beer, was not working, so I drank my way through a Coke and some iced tea… great way to start the first day of my diet… And it’s a damn good thing I did not see the full line of Dr. Brown in bottles!
I went for the plain cheese. Rob, yes he is a Californian, had olives and pineapple… which caused his slice to bend and break a bit. I hit mine up with my usual… garlic powder, red pepper flakes and some Oregano if I’m in the mood for that last item. Rob said later that he did not like the slices served on the white paper plates because some of the cheese got stuck to it, but hey, if you’re from New York, that’s the way you get it.
My one major gripe was that there were two flies who seemed mildly interested in Rob for like a second, and then decided to crawl under my hat and dive bomb me the entire rest of the meal. I am sure I looked like a drunk mime doing his best impression of a horrible, amateur tennis player swatting helplessly and completely ineffectually at Roger Federer groundstrokes … or something like that. It was really that bad. I still feel like they are on me and am about to hop into the shower… again!
The pizza was good. The slices were very big, and definitely reminded me of my youth and many a corner pizza joint in the city. If you are looking to get that New York feel, this will definitely be on your short list of places to go to.
Was it great? No. But again, I reserve further judgment until I get the plain pie, with Steve and our pizza going families, straight out of the oven.
So far, in this born in New York, raised in New Jersey guy’s mind, Mulberry Street stays on top. There is just something about that place that is a little more authentic and a little tastier. I think maybe my slices today did not have enough sauce and were not crispy enough… Still trying to put a New York finger on it.
Winner’s in Agoura used to be great, but if the teenagers are running the ovens, sometimes the crust comes out strangely.
The thing about pizza is this, and it’s really quite simple: crust, sauce, and toppings. Three things to worry about and while that might seem easy… it is anything but.
The crust should be cooked perfectly… a little bit of burn on the bottom and the crust, yet still chewy in places… The sauce needs to be the perfect balance of sweet and savory… it needs to compliment and not overwhelm… and the toppings, even if it is just cheese, needs to be the best quality and cooked until golden brown, with little mini volcanoes of slightly burnt cheese spread throughout, like the perfect roasting of a marshmallow.
I have had these pies before… In Italy… in New York and most recently in New Jersey. Well, I have had them in NYC and Jersey all my life, but now I am hoping to have them in LA! So let it be known Los Angeles, I am in search of great New York style pizza!