Food bloggers, critics, and Yelpers will naturally swarm, swoon, and swipe at the latest restaurant launch. Being new to L.A. and loathing of crowds and hype, it's my pleasure to steer clear until the feathers have been preened; opting for virtually any other place that has a vegetarian option and an open table. For us, for now, everything is new. Here's a random stop from last week:
WOOD Handcrafted Pizza (2861 Sunset Blvd, Los Angeles CA 90026)
Brothers Edgar and Erik just celebrated their one year anniversary since opening their doors to a legion of fans and a fair share of hype. Like, Ellen Degeneres at the Oscars level hype. Edgar Martirosyan is the 2014 Oscars pizza delivery guy... seen by 44 million people delivering pie to George Clooney and Brad Pitt. But AK and I didn't know any of that when we peeled into his parking lot last week looking for a quick lunch. I asked how long it takes to fire up a pizza—they said about 10 minutes—so we ordered a beer and enjoyed the short wait on the patio with our dog.
Quick facts: Wood fired Neapolitan style pizzas (12", 4 slices each). Sizable selection of vegan and vegetarian pizza and non-pizza options. Claims 70% of ingredients imported from Italy and fresh produce from local farms. Serves beer and wine. Dog friendly patio. Closed Mondays, otherwise open 11a-11p.
Our to-do list: Classic Margharita pizza, Feel No Guilt vegan pizza, Caprese panuozzo, Orzo Selvatico, Crispy Brussels Sprouts, Crispy Kale
For a spontaneous choice with a quick turnaround, we were pretty blown away by the quality of this Farmers Market Mushrooms pizza. These folks know how to balance ingredients. They refrain from a cloying amount of cheese and allow that magic amount of char to develop on the crust. The edges we're chewy and lightly crispy, the bottom soft but not soggy. I've had what some might consider more authentic soggy-bottomed Neapolitan pizzas, and they're fantastic, but screw the rules and like what you like.
Toppings included fresh mozzarella, fontina, taleggio, and pecorino with farmer's market mushrooms and fresh thyme. One pizza, about the size of a large dinner plate, typically serves one person unless you're sharing another dish.
In our case, we shared the Vegans Favorite—a gluten-free version of the newcomer to American tables, panuozzo. Admittedly, we were clueless about this dish. Panuozzo is apparently akin to a baked sandwich made with pizza dough instead of bread. Ours, obviously far from traditional being gluten-free, was served in raw purple cabbage leaves so it was more like pigs in a blanket, aka cabbage rolls. We personally don't make any effort to be gluten-free. In fact, quite the opposite. But we were sold by the sausage filling... and it was pretty effing delicious.
We divided the juicy filling between two cabbage leaves and were pretty much stuffed before we even got to the pizza. It was hearty and chunky with crumbled vegan sausage, onions, roasted tomatoes, eggplant, cabbage, and fresh basil.
Oh, and that humble little garnish hiding the background? That's no throw-away. It's a perfect little balsamic, arugula, and tomato salad that's most welcome. It provides an acidity that was lacking in the panuozzo filling. My only criticism, and it's a small one.
Some reviewers have tagged these guys for their ballsy use of branding (check out their logo below.... get it?). I don't mind some well-placed suggestive humor if you're one of the few restaurants who can pull it off without taking it too far. Hey, I still appreciate a good fart gag, so who am I to judge?!
P.S. They have a nice little local and regional beer selection, with the likes of Saint Archer, Allagash, and Humboldt (plus the obligatory Peroni).