This time around, I had gotten street parking, but other times I had been running late, and had to use their extremely ridiculously priced valet parking (I think 8 dollars is the service charge?!!) I mean, yeah, it's LA, yeah, parking is hell, but yipes. Just yipes. That's like...a price of a lunch already, and that's before you even walk through the door...
Walking into Mozza, everything feels so...cozy. Good and bad way to describe it. It's a tiny space, so, as I mentioned before, they really have to pack in the tables and chairs, and why it's so dang hard to get a reservation here. The coziness factor is heightened by the color of the walls, a dark orange, which is easy on the eyes. Wine bottles crowd the walls, people crowd the floor, it's all a jumble, and usually hopping.
Once seated at the table, a few breadsticks are always placed in front of us. They kinda stave off the hunger but what I really want is a big old slab of bread...but I guess we should wait for the pizza. They also ask if you want sparkling, still or filtered tap, and we usually go for the tap. They fill a bottle of it and leave it at the table, which you can use to fill your own glass (if the waiter doesn't get to it first to fill your glasses for you.)
The first of our appetizers - shrimp and melon. Owen really likes this one, as we had it the first time we went to Mozza. The flavors are really punchy and fresh, and everything works harmoniously together. You really feel the mastery of Batali here - his detail in mixing things together, things I wouldn't necessarily eat in the same dish - shrimp, melon, red onion, basil, mint, red pepper flakes. It's so simple, yet kicks you in the pants when you first take a bite. The shrimp is perfectly steamed here - nothing is worse than overcooked shrimp - and soaks up all those sweet and tangy melon-y juices. Really good, a must try.
A favorite of mine, probably not so much Owen's, is bone marrow. Three big honkin' pieces of cow bones, roasted, with the marrow warm and gooey, with softened garlic, salt, and two pieces of grilled toast. This so fun to construct - using the little fork, scraping some marrow onto the toast, mashing a garlic clove into it, maybe a little of the parsley salad, a sprinkle of salt and then the bite into the toast...just...essence of meat, great flavors and textures. It's no wonder most cooks love this stuff. I admit though, I liked this better when I had it with Jay, as one of the marrow pieces had a HUGE glob of fat in it (kinda gross when I bit into some, ugh, and worse when I scraped it out, and it congealed into fatty nastiness on my plate), and Jay was eating his full share of his half. Owen mostly only ate a bit of the marrow, but ate his full slice of toast, thusly I had way too much marrow and not enough toast to spread it on. And when there's TOO much of a good thing...well, it's just not as good. In any case, if you've never tried bone marrow, I highly suggest it.
Finally our pizzas arrived at the table. This one has Prosciutto, basil, fresh mozzarella, and olive tapenade. I thought this would be the winner, initially, but it was an odd mix of flavors. When Owen was eating it, he mentioned that he got a sudden reminder of eating bubble gum. And it WAS kind of like eating bubble gum - the fresh mozzarella added that chewy texture - I think what it was is that the toppings weren't really baked on here, they seemed to have baked the crust and then added the fresh toppings on top, so there was an odd temperature difference, and no crisp to the prosciutto. The tapenade was a huge mistake here, I thought, it really didn't add to any of the meaty flavors of the rest of the pizza. I mean, bad pizza is still pizza (as I was discussing with an afficionado of pizza,) but it was just a bit of a letdown. The crust was still good as usual, that billowy texture, the crunch on the outside, pleasing and yielding insides.
This pizza fared much better, it was a bacon, goat cheese and leeks pizza. This is what I'm talking about, all the ingredients BAKED in the OVEN, so it's melty and hot and mingles with the crust. It was a good salty mix of flavors, with the leeks that helped mellow out the rest of the punchy flavors of goat cheese and bacon. This was definitely a winner.
The most amazing thing is this butterscotch budino, what can I say that hasn't been said before? Even though I am not the biggest butterscotch fan, this dessert, I sometimes long for this dessert. It almost feels light, even though it's super decadent. Flecks of maldon sea salt dot the top, which add depth to what otherwise would probably be too sweet. The top caramel layer is the sweetest part, but the budino itself is just pure creamy goodness. The little pine nut rosmary cookies on the side are a decent accompaniment, but it pales in comparison to the overwhelming awesomeness of the budino.
I like this place lots, and it's quite a treat, but I admit the prices are a little steep for pizza, not to mention PARKING. But it is noteworthy, and an LA experience. Do yourself a favor and go if you haven't already.