Sunday, February 10, 2008

Osteria Mozza, Los Angeles - A Spontaneous Hundred-Dollar Snack

Osteria Mozza Los Angeles

On the way back from Audrey Kawasaki's latest exhibit at the Bergamot Station, Mayoi Michi, J & I drove with rumbling stomachs. We started to flip through our mental rolodex of late-night food options in the Silver Lake adjacent.

Soup noodles at Torung or Ruen Pair in Thai Town?
Tacos Arizas, the taco truck that catered our first date in Echo Park?
Best Fish Tacos in Ensenada? I wish! They close too early.
Two Tacos for $.99 at Jack in the Crack?
Fried Chicken at The Prince or Toe Bang in Koreatown?
Pho Cafe in Silver Lake? No, thanks.
Raw oysters and tasty fries at Hungry Cat? We didn't feel like drinking.


We couldn't decide on a place because there was a con for every pro. But heading on the 10 towards the La Brea exit, we both shot a slight grin... as though we knew what would be best for us right now...

Pizza.

Specifically, Mario Batali's & Nancy Silverton's delicious pie at Pizzeria Mozza. Beautifully-crafted dough with minimal, yet sufficient, toppings – it's what makes the pizza more than a delectable snack. We parked on Highland and crossed the street but instead, focused our attention on Pizzeria Mozza's sister restaurant, Osteria Mozza, which focused more on pasta and rustic dishes... but no pizza. Since we had already tried their pizza, this would be a good chance to try out Osteria. This year, we've been good with eating at home and spending less on extracurricular activities. Osteria was our little reward for wearing halos on our head for 2 months.

The main criticism on Osteria Mozza is the advanced reservation one must make in order to eat there. God, so L.A. But we've learned that some places may do that to create a hype. It was already 10:45 pm and we were hungry. We walked in, not knowing what to expect, and felt the vibe of good ambiance. Dimly lit with sparse lighting, the constant sound of indistinct chatter and silverware clanking on porcelain plates made us feel that we are at the right place at the right time. Even at 10:45 pm. I walked up to hostess and asked if it was possible to get a bar seat without reservations. He glanced over his shoulder with his stylish Armani Exchange glasses, the Malcolm X-style ones, and pointed at the corner of the bar. Nice.

Osteria Mozza3

Osteria Mozza2

Osteria Mozza1

He pulled us towards the 'cheese bar', where we could see four line cooks hustling and bustling. Two were busy working the expensive-looking deli slicers that looked like they were imported from Italy. Another cook was meticulously plating what looked like a burrata cheese appetizer. And the last cook, a woman with frizzy brown hair in her 40s who had to be none other than, La Brea Bakery's Nancy Silverton. We looked at each other and felt even more excited to sit at the bar. She wore an apron that was different from everyone else's, almost like a midwest-style denim dress. Not the most stylish, but gave us the feeling of motherliness with her cooking. All she needed was one of those wooden, beaded necklaces made with stuff from Michael's. Nancy Silverton is another one of our favorite female chefs that cook more with soul than anything. She fits right up there with Suzanne Goin (Lucques & AOC), Alice Waters (Chez Panisse, Berkeley) and Judy Rodgers (Zuni Cafe, San Francisco). We stared at every one of her moves. You can see her in the photo above.

Osteria Mozza4

Osteria Mozza5

As we pulled our new replacement for our stolen camera, we heard a voice behind us saying:

"Which model is that?"

We turned back to see that it was a server with a joyful demeanor and hair that was 30 minutes away from needing a re-gelling session. Very nice guy. After hearing about his new camera from Costco, flight-attendant wife, recent travels to Dubai and Buenos Aires and love for cooking... we got our menus and had to order within 5 minutes. Because our server was so into food we let him pretty much do the ordering. Here's what we had.

Osteria Mozza Burrata Bacon

Burrata Cheese with Bacon, Braised Escarole & Caramelized Onions
This was our server's recommendation. It was larger than we had expected, because after all, this was just snack time, not a tasting menu. And honestly, after one bite of this, I knew why Mario looks the way he does. But you know what, that's a good thing. He is a man that is so passionate about his food and tacky orange Chuck's and clogs. He's not going to cheat you out of food; he's going to knock you out the Italian way. The combination of creamy burrata cheese, sweet caramelized onions, soupy escarole on grilled bread was decadent, yet tasty. I only wish that they had divided this dish into 6 normal sized pieces vs. 2 boatloads.

Osteria Mozza Grilled Scallops Lardo

Grilled Diver Scallops with Lardo & Pink Peppercorns
In the book, Heat, by Bill Buford, he describes a dinner party where one of the guests was Batali himself. The man is more than generous, as he came to the party prepared... with a case of wine and a slice of deli meat known as lardo. The marketing term for that is white prosciutto, and let's just through that bullshit. It's pure lard that has been smoked and cured... and it is heavenly. Sure anyone can grill diver scallops, but only Batali would finish it with the near-translucent slices of one of the many delicious parts of the pig. Fat so thin and ghostly, it almost melts on your tongue. These scallops, although small and expensive, were cooked beautifully and I'm still thinking about them. But that's me, I'm a scallop-whore. I wanted another 5 skewers, but at $16 for this dish, would you drop $100 on this?

Osteria Mozza Grilled Octopus

Grilled Octopus with Potatoes, Lemon & Celery
Before I selected the diver scallops, I was declined by my own server. And I love that honesty. He asked if we could change our minds and direct our attention to this instead. And what he told us next really proved that he was the type of knowledge every server should have. Basically, he said that we've never had this style of octopus before. Hmm, how so? First, they get 6 large octopi – pack them in a large hotel pan and fill it to the brim with some of the finest Italian olive oil with salt & pepper. But before it's slowly poached at 175 degrees, a secret ingredient is added. One that NO ONE would guess, well unless you work at Osteria Mozza. Four corks from wine bottles! Ok, so now we were excited. The plate arrived and we immediately dove in. If you told me it was slightly braised chicken, I would believe you. This preparation for the octopi really tenderized the meat. It was awesome and for us, the winner of the night. The server said that if you didn't add the wine corks, the meat would not come out this way. Something about an enzyme that leaks out from the wine corks. Alton, please analyze.

Osteria Mozza Oxtail Ragu Tagliatella

Oxtail Ragu with Tagliatelle
And finally, what J and I were both dying to try... Batali's handmade pasta. After a few occasions at Cube on La Brea, I was entirely hooked on fresh pasta. It's a completely different beast than the dried pasta. The server said this oxtail was cooked with Fresno chiles, San Marzano tomatoes and soffrito. Soffrito is basically an Italian version of mire poix. It varies in different countries. In Cuban, Caribbean and Puerto Rico, sofrito consists of red bell peppers, garlic and onions and is a standard base for stews, soups and sauces. I could totally smell the red bell peppers in this dish, so sweet and homey. I wound up the ribbon-like pasta and tender oxtail with my fork... and wow. Simply divine. The portion, at first, may look small, but you have to know that oxtail releases TONS of rat. Along with the sauce of the braised stew, you're guaranteed to get a flavor in every bite. We woke this dish up with some fresh black pepper. So good.

Although this was a pricey 'snack', it was more than worth it. Mario and Nancy's food is decadent and will put you right to sleep... with sauce stains on your shirt and a big smile on your face. Thanks for reading.

For those that have been to Angelini Osteria and Osteria La Buca, I'd love to hear your recommendations because I'm eating there next!

Osteria Mozza
6602 Melrose Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90038
(323) 297-0100

18 comments:

H. C. said...

But... but... you could've had 200 jack in the crack tacos! ;)

Nice post and glad to know Osteria, which I've still yet to visit, is still on its game. If I call in now, maybe I can get a rezzie by end of Lent - how convenient!

I would prefer not eating oxtails that "releases TONS of rat." though :)

Anonymous said...

Hi Dylan! It's han nah (susan's friend)...

I've been to Osteria Mozza and to Angelini and I, personally, like Angelini over Mozza. Yet, my opinion might be a little obsured as I literally fainted before I got to try any main dishes (other than pasta) at Mozza.

I actually tried all of the dishes that you ate except for the scallops dish. Personally, I heard so much hype about the octopus dish that I was kindof disappointed when I ate it. I definitely have to agree w/ your description on the burrata appetizer. I wished it was stacked on more bread. It was too messy and difficult to eat. Yet, I absolutely enjoyed the oxtail ragu dish.

Bon Vivant said...

I think that the dished from the Mozz bar are far superior to the main dishes. I don't really like the pastas at the Osteria since I've had Batali's pastas at Lupa and they are absolutely perfect. Here they are no bueno (exception: the lasagne al forno at Pizzeria Mozza on Sundays; it's an authentic Italian lasange - people who like the Italian-American lasagne won't "get" it but if you know true Italian cooking, it is a thing of beauty.)

Daily Gluttony said...

nice review!!! i've been wanting to go here!

the closest i've gotten to going to OM is when i tried getting a reservation for me & my girlfriends. I called 30 days prior, but at 10:30am--a half hour too late. all they had left was a 10:30pm table. we ended up going elsewhere. sheesh.

let me know how osteria la buca is if you go...we've been wanting to go too, but i'm sure you guys will prolly make it there first! :)

BoLA said...

YUM!!! My girlfriend is an expert over at Angelini since she used to work there and still knows the people there. I'll ask her what her picks are... I still have to go too! BAH!

Went to OM with my girlfriends from work for an early dinner a couple months back. I think there was a cancellation and we were able to sneak in? But LOVED our dishes... I don't remember what we ordered though... all I remember is that the bill came to about $75/person! YIKES!!!

Anonymous said...

Haven't been to Mozza but Angelini is my favorite restaurant in LA hands down. Great food and ambiance (real Italian staff) and great value. True rustic cooking as Gino is from Emilia-Romangna. A waiter at Spago also had mentioned to me that Angelini is her choice of Mozza as well.
Although, next I'm in LA, Mozza is on the top of my list.

susan said...

i must have osteria mozza soon! still haven't went. if you goto angelini eat the spaghetti carbonara. also the milanese was great and the porchetta. actually everything i've had at angelini has been pretty great.

Jeni said...

Hi Dylan...it's Jeni. I had fun Friday night. Let's go out again. I like you. Do you like me? circle yes/no

eatdrinknbmerry said...

Han nah, why were you about to faint haha? Yoony told me a lot about Angelini Osteria and I trust her opinion on it. The diver scallops, although delicious, were just way too expensive. If you do the math, you're paying nearly $5 PER SCALLOP, although there is thinly sliced lardo to accompany it. I don't think I will eat that burrata appetizer again – it is just way too much for me. It's like eating a pizza with ranch, bacon, pork belly, prosciutto, salami, sopressata.... stacked 4" high. Bleh. When I go back again, i'm up for the wild boar gnocchi. Happy Korean New Year??? haha.

Hi BV, is the lasagne ANYTHING like the Italian-American Fuggedaboutit-style? If so, I'm there to try it. As with the burrata cheese thing, lasagna can be a bit much. I've heard that Bollini's Pizzeria in Monterey Park serves a good lasagna. Have you been to Cube on La Brea?

Hi DG, no way would J & I wait an hour... we'd end up eating each other b/c of starvation. I would go crazy if I had to wait an hour for those fish tacos at BFTIE. We'll be going to Osteria la Buca soon!

Hi Osteria Bola, I don't think you can go wrong at either of the pasta camps. $75/person is no joke!!!

Anonymous to the 2nd Power, Italian staff? Awesome. If I can't even tell them I'd like a glass of ice water from them... then I know I'm at an authentic place. Hope you enjoy your visit here.

Uni (oo-ni), I told Sloe about it and said if he didn't take you there he wouldn't get any more pork belly surprises from you ever again. Dude, J&I just made our first batch of fresh pasta – I am at a loss for words b/c of how divine it is. It was quite translucent.... and that texture... mmm.

J, I circled my answer. Can you see it? And yes, I had a blast with you that night. You gave me a false phone number at the end of the night. You jerk!!! =b

Anonymous said...

(han nah) I actually fainted. The ambulance came along w/ the firemen. It was quite embarrassing!

Angelini had this one pasta dish w/ black truffles which were to die for. When I went a second time to try the dish, they told me it was seasonal.

infinity 2.0 said...

I'm a hongry! DF was a lot of fun. New Years day, it was a ghost town. Settled in and Condesa became Home part deux. Still, Oaxaca wins. A couple weeks ago my gf and I went to LA. In only 2 days, not a lot of time to sightsee, she hadn't been to LA since a kid. Went to 3 Mexican food places within 2 hours of flying in. Carne Asada burrito taste test...and the winner is...tie! Anyways, what caught my eye today when reading your blog was the Audrey Kawasaki show y'all went to. I just got an AK print a couple months ago. Xmas present to myself. Next time I go to LA (March), I plan on a 5 senses review of your 2-D fish taco post. Take care.

Becky said...

osteria mozza is my ultimate favorite italian restaurant in LA right now! the grilled octopus, bufalo mozarella w/ prosciutto di parma, & garganelle are my picks. next time, try the bombillini dessert...little bites of heaven!

la buca is my 2nd favorite italian in LA. all the homemade pastas are so simple but delicious. the style is much more simple than OM, but very very tasty! the pizzas are very good too. the closest taste to tuscany that i've had outside of italy.

Jessica said...

Thanks for a great post! But I have a little question... Near the end when you're talking about the pasta dish, you say"...you have to know that oxtail releases TONS of rat." As someone who's never been to Osteria Mozza, I'm going to assume (and hope desperately) that you mean "fat"...?

Sanford Woo, CSP said...

Great review. I envy the choices you have out on the West Coast.

Max Million said...

Very nice review, Dylan. It almost makes me wanna go there. Almost. BUT I've had my fill of the fine and affordable cuisine at Pizzeria Mozza and just don't want to take it to the next level (meaning the expensive level...)

I just can't do it -- and a friend offered me her cancelled rez only yesterday!

As for the lasagne al forno at Pizzeria Mozza - I'll have to trust the taste of the person who posted that it's a 'thing of beauty', but it has been the only thing that disappointed me over my 4-5 superb visits there.

I FAR prefer the lasagne verdi at Angelini Osteria. Truly wonderful, with beef and veal ragu between fresh spinach pasta and bechamel sauce. Drool!

OKAY, I am astounded that a waiter would divulge the full recipe and the key to one of their top dishes, namely the secret ingredient of "corks". [Hey -- mebbe they can do an Iron Chef with this theme -- lol!]

I am going to attempt this dish at home and I won't have to spend the big bucks at Mozza.

bwahahahahahahahaha!

Susan said...

Thanks so much for the thorough review! We're going to OM on Sunday and I feel more prepared now.

~Susan

e d b m said...

Susan, my pleasure. You'll have a good time there.

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