pizza

The build your own pizza fad is he re to stay. An original fan of Pieology ever since it opened in Fullerton, I feel like I was an early adopter of the build your own pizza thing. Pizza Rev in El Segundo seemed to be pretty much the same thing. You choose your dough, sauce, toppings, and they bake it within minutes. Think, Subway, or Chipotle, but with pizza. The fact that you can essentially build your own pizza with anything you want excites me.

I am a lover of anything salty. I was pleased that they had anchovies and all kinds of olives. Capers too! Excuse my excitement, but when you have olives, anchovies, and capers all on the same pizza, it turns into something so salty and delicious. The other toppings from the meats and cheese were fresh as well. The dough was the same as every make your own pizza spot. It was thin, crispy and not really inspired by anything.

The build your own pizza is genius. It’s cheap to make, and it’s relatively quick to make. I’d like to take it even further and have the customer actually make the pizza. Give us a pair of plastic gloves, and let us go at it. That would be interesting. If something like that takes off, I’m using this blog post to copyright that idea. Does that work?

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Olio Pizzeria – Mushrooms Take Over

by Franklin on April 29, 2014


Pizza has been on my mind lately. I even dream that one day I will have a wood fire oven of my own in my back yard. My house would be small, but the backyard, pool and all will be spot on. “Pizza Party” would have a new meaning. Imagine everyone gets their own personal pizza with their own favorite toppings — perfected by my own dough of course. I’d fire it up in just minutes and the pizzas would come charred and fluffy every time. That is the dream. Pizza has always been a fascination of mine. When I heard Olio Pizzeria on 3rd makes a killer pizza, I had to try it.

Of course I had to get the Wild mushroom pizza with crispy prosciutto. Atop this beautiful pie were fire roasted mushrooms, slow roasted garlic, caramelized onions, and truffled cheese. The mushrooms alone make this pizza hefty. Every bite had a chunk of mushrooms — a mouth full. I appreciated the crispy prosciutto because, well, I love prosciutto, and every pizza needs shrooms and some kind of meat. The cheese was perfectly unctuous and delicious. Although the ingredients were top tier, the crust/dough needed some work. The char on the dough was missing, and the fluffy/chewy balance was just not there. It was a nice texture and had a good consistency though. The dough is the hardest part, and the difference from a good pizza and a spectacular pizza.

Olio was delicious nonetheless. The ingredients were on point and the little spot on the corner has a stance in Los Angeles. I’d say Olio has made a name for themselves as far as Los Angeles pizza goes. Just recently, you can even find Olio Pizzeria inside Grand Central Market in Downtown. Whether you are in West LA, or Downtown LA, you can get your Olio fix.

Olio Pizzeria & Cafe on Urbanspoon

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After becoming a food blogger, the pizza as I know it changed. I don’t seek the gooiest cheese, cheese stuffed in the crust, overload of 5 kinds of meat, or a snowy layer of parmesan cheese. To me, if I finished the crust, the pizza was good. I can’t count how many crusts were thrown back into the pizza box. Pizza crust is the worst — probably why Pizza Hut and Dominoes has been stuffing them with cheese and sprinkling garlic butter on them. My friends, the dough is the most important part of the pizza.


The dough at Fuoco was quite decent. With flakes of char and crust on the outside, warm chewy center on the inside, this is what a pizza dough should be. Though I expected a little more rise and fluff on the outer crust, the dough with toppings were kept at bay and wafer thin. I wasn’t expecting much from this Downtown Fullerton spot, but I was quite happy with it. The Margherita was classic, and the cheese, though not as fresh as I’d like, was still pretty good. The tomato sauce was impressive, and quite delicious. My Funghi e salsiccia had good mushrooms, but the slices of sauces were uninspiring. Ground pork with spices and lots of fennel would have been perfect!

Fuoco Pizzeria Napoletana has something special. Their dough is better than most, and the toppings are fresh. With a pretty legit brick oven stove, I could only dream of owning one of those bad boys. Tweaking of my own pizza dough is all for nothing without the 500 plus degrees of burning embers. Honestly, it was a good time eating pizza with a knife and fork and enjoying the crust. It sure beats the cheese stuffed crust variation.

Fuoco Pizzeria Napoletana on Urbanspoon

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I went to Bestia for my 29th birthday. My fiancé’ asked me where I wanted to go for my birthday. Instead of the boring, but oh so yummy steak house, I wanted something lively, fun, and delicious. I didn’t care about the waiters coming around every second filling the water. I didn’t care about a romantic setting with candles and ambient music in the background. I just wanted the tastiest food possible for my birthday. Bestia in the Art District of Downtown was on my radar. Executive Chef Ori Menashe, former Chef of Angelini Osteria, pumps out regional Italian dishes. He even cures his own meats from 60 different kinds of charcuterie, and he also raises his own yeast for bread. With all of this love and care to do everything himself, the food has to be good. With his pastry chef wife, Genevieve Gregis making desserts, the duo is creating a huge buzz around Los Angeles. I could confidently say, I had one of my best meals of 2013 here.

You order everything first, and the dishes come out as they are prepared. Items are meant to be shared with the table.

We started things off with the grilled beef tongue crostino. I am huge fan of beef tongue. I like the texture of beef tongue that has been cooking for hours and hours. The pure beef flavor is unmatched to any other part of the cow. Sitting on top of a huge slice of bread was a garbanzo bean puree, purslane, pickled eggplant, and salsa verde. The beefy beef tongue and garbanzo bean played well with the picked eggplant and salsa. The purslane did a good job in grounding all the flavors. I felt the dish needed more acidic flavors to it. A chimichurri of some kind or picked onions would have balanced it out better. The pickled eggplant was a nice touch, but wasn’t tart enough. Nonetheless, this was still a great start.

One of my favorites of the night was the pan-seared octopus and calamari salad. The mix of fennel, mixed mushrooms and arugula was the base. Atop was some of the softest and tastiest octopus I ever had. The flavor was so delicate, and the texture was so soft which could only be achieved by using a sous-vide. The aged balsamic gave this dish so much tartness and acidity. The flavors were so lively. In hind sight, this would have been the perfect acidic factor for the beef tongue crostino. Too bad I already munched that up by the time this salad came out.

The roasted marrow bone was quite innovative and different. Most restaurants serve it with a side of toast of crostini. Chef Ori instructs us to mix it within the spinach gnocchetti. This way, it makes a little fatty sauce and coats the pasta completely. Each bite of the gnocchetti was perfect. Chewy and dense, the pasta was coated in bone marrow and salt. The aged balsamic on the marrow bone gave the dish the perfect zing to counteract the rich beef fat. This was one memorable dish.

Pizza is all about the dough, hands down. You can have some of the best ingredients on a pizza, but if your dough sucks, then the pizza suffers. Chef Ori is serious about his pizza dough. I can just talk about the pizza dough for days. I tried many times, trying to make pizza dough from scratch — I can never reach this kind of caliber, especially with an over that doesn’t even get above 400 degrees. It is hard stuff. The pizza dough at Bestia is near perfect. It has a nice chew, it is thin as can be, and there are black char marks like spots on a Dalmatian. To me, this is a sign of a true pizza. I ordered the salsiccia. This had housemade lamb sausage which was ridiculously mellow and flavorful. It also had ricotta, spinach, and breadcrumbs. The size isn’t that bad too. I always hate paying 15 bucks for a personal sized pizza. Theirs was quite large for the price.

It was my birthday, and my fiancé wanted to spoil me. Heck, I myself wanted to spoil me. We went ahead and ordered the spaghetti rustichella. This was their rendition of the sea urchin spaghetti. Mixed with calabrian chile and garlic, the dish had a subtle tinge to it. To me, the squid ink bottarga was the kicker. It gave the dish such a depth of seafood flavor. It was creamy, and full of the ocean’s goodness. Some mentioned that the pasta was too al dente, meaning, it was undercooked. To me, the pasta was cooked exactly al dente and had a nice mouth feel. Perfectly cooked noodles with a creamy sea urchin mixture is heaven. This was a great dish to end on.

Though I was stuffed, it had to end on a sweet note. It was my birthday after all. We ordered the chocolate budino tart. The salted caramel down the middle was good, but I wished there was more. The cacao crust cookie was a great crunch with the smooth budino. The olive oil was a head scratcher though. Nonetheless, it was a great dessert to end all things.

To start off my 29th year in this world with Bestia, I can tell this year will be a good year. From pastas to pizzas and other Italian dishes, Chef Ori is the man to see. With painstaking details from curing his own meat for charcuterie and raising his own yeast, the food is nothing but excellent. It isn’t about the location — Bestia is in the middle of nowhere in Downtown Arts District. They made best of what they have in one location and is pumping out some high quality foods. I wish to come back again soon and see what the chef has in store. Bestia is something to look out for in 2013. It is a beast!

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Mohawk Bend – Echo Park Doing a Complete 180

by Franklin on July 18, 2013

Echo Park is getting there. In the past years, the sub city has been making strides to beautify and clean up the mess. Echo Park in the 80′s and 90′s was terrifying. As a child, I remember visiting my grandparents who lived in Echo Park. Those were some rough memories, but still fun. Today, the remnants of that era still linger, but in a beautiful way. Boutique shops and restaurants popped up all over Echo Park — on Sunset, west of Alvarado at least. One such restaurant, Mohawk Bend is one of many that turned something ugly into something amazing. Owner Tony Yanow turned the 100-year old Vaudeville Theater into what Mohawk Bend is today. For awesome pictures and to learn more about the architecture, check out Freshome. Mohawk Bend is a restaurant and bar that sources everything locally. They appeal to meat eaters like me, to vegans and vegetarians. It opened it’s doors on August 1, 2011, and has been a popular spot of the neighborhood ever since.

A good buddy of mine and co-worker decided to catch happy hour — beer was in order. My buddy, @joeschai had the Victory Golden Monkey, a Philadelphia brew that he is more familiar with. It was full bodied and had a great taste. It made my beer seem like water.

Nachoes were on the happy hour menu and it was a great start. The nachos were quite standard though, and the pico de gallo and guacamole were fresh. I’m glad it didn’t have any chili or beans in it, but the cheese could have been more gooey. I am a fan of more of a cheese sauce than just melted cheddar on my nachos. That way, the cheese won’t harden and make it nearly impossible to enjoy. Other than that though, the nachos were quite nice.

The Buffalo-style Cauliflower was interesting. I felt we were ordering everything standard bar food. Beer, pizza, burger, and nachos? I wanted something to spice up our regular items and this seemed interesting enough. For a guy who hates cauliflower, this was a gamble. The cauliflower was a great blank vessel for the buffalo sauce. The most interesting part of this dish was the vegan “bleu cheese” dressing. Blue cheese was made of some kind of soy cheese. It tasted like plastic blocks, but the dressing itself was good. The dish was salty, zesty and full of flavor — not a bad veggie dish, fit for a vegetarian looking for some buffalo wings.

I appreciate a good pizza with a balance of flavors and textures. This flatbread had an amazing balance. The short rib and blue cheese gave the pizza a rich flavor to it. All was countered by the red onions and greens. The kicker was the smoked grapes. This gave it a nice subtle sweetness that this pizza needed. The balsamic reduction on top finished it off perfectly. The crust was decent — not all that great actually. The toppings helped with masking the shortcomings of the dough.

Every bar, gastropub, whatever you want to call it needs a burger. From all of their selections we opted for the one with bacon, short rib, and cheddar. The beef was nicely seared cooked to a medium. The beef was the star — the pure beef flavor from the patty and short rib shined through the burger. The bacon and everything else seemed like an afterthought. The bun was actually better than I thought. Though a burger isn’t a must order at Mohawk Bend, you wouldn’t be doing wrong by it.

I hate to say this, but the concept and interior design of it all is the most impressive part of Mohawk Bend. For them to have carried out a great interior with all of the amenities in a such a rundown property is amazing. Sorry to say though, the impressive interior is not reflected onto the food as well. Nothing I ate was amazing. The only thing that really stood out was the burger, and maybe their selection of beers. Other than that, their dishes were uninspired and boring. This may be a gem in Echo Park, but in the grand scheme of the City of Los Angeles, they are just “okay.” It was still great to catch up with my friend and coworker. Good company always makes things better.

Mohawk Bend on Urbanspoon

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