There was ample 2-hour street parking just around the corner from the restaurant. We parked under an interesting tree that neither one of us could identify. Fruit? Flower? Any gardeners out there who can solve this mystery?
The graffiti on this dumpster seemed to raise a Law & Disorder appropriate question: What the hell happened here?! Did we stumble upon a popular baby dumping part of the city? :-/
From the corner of Highland & Melrose we could see the iconic Hollywood sign, albeit it through a thick layer of nasty haze.
Finally, we were inside the pizzeria. We had arrived a bit early for our 1:15 reservation and the restaurant was indeed full until our table was ready. We had waited outside because the restaurant was very full and standing space was limited. It's a tiny place. When I called at 10am exactly one month prior to make the reservation, I was number 4 on the waiting list of calls to be answered. Despite that, 1:15 was still the earliest lunch reservation I could get. They weren't kidding around. The place was packed with a mix of families, young & old couples and large groups of friends.
We started off with crisp breadsticks.The wine list is extensive, reasonably priced and features Italian wines. You can either purchase a bottle or a quartino. I asked our waitress to recommend an easy-drinking white and ended up with a '04 Verdicchio di Castelli di Jesi.
Valerie had a '05 Montepulciano Quattro Mani.
We shared an appetizer of fried squash blossoms stuffed with ricotta. I've been obsessed with trying fried squash blossoms since I read A Thousand Days in Tuscany. I wasn't disappointed. The batter was light and crispy. And the contrast between the crisp exterior and the warm. melty cheese inside was wonderful. While we ate our appetizer, we noticed that the table next to us had ordered an incredible looking caprese salad with burrata and roasted tomatoes. I had a moment of appetizer envy, but since squash blossoms are a seasonal item (and yummy!) I didn't have any regrets.
Valerie ordered a pizza topped with prosciutto di parma, rucola, tomato & mozzarella.
I ordered the fennel sausage, panna, red onion & scallion pizza.
Both pizzas were great and on par with pizzas I have eaten in Italy. They definitely lived up to the hype that this place receives. In particular, the house-made fennel sausage was outstanding. If they sold that stuff I'd be buying it by the pounds.
Although we knew we'd be ordering the butterscotch budino for dessert, we didn't see any harm in ordering another dessert to share as well. We started Round 3 of our meal with a coconut sorbetto pie. Served in a chocolate crust and with salted almonds on the side, it tasted like an upscale, reinvented Almond Joy. Sometimes I feel like a nut, so I enjoyed this dessert.
The best was saved for last. I'm normally not a huge fan of butterscotch; it's not the first thing I think of when I think of dessert. But the budino was one of the most perfect desserts I have had in recent memory. The budino was thick and creamy without being heavy. The sweetness of the budino and layer of cramel is perfectly balanced by the flecks of sea salt. It's accompanied by shortbread cookies topped with pinenuts and rosemary, which are fantastic in their own right. The only remotely bad thing I can say about this dessert is that the whipped cream isn't necessary. It doesn't really add anything other than a nice aesthetic. We spooned off the cream so that we could fully enjoy the flavors of the budino.
In short, I can't wait to head back to Pizzeria Mozza. Deciding what to order was somewhat of a challenge because there were so many items on the menu I wanted to try. Not to mention that I could definitely have more budino in my life. Getting a reservations seems to require a bit of planning, but it seemed that walk-ins didn't have too long of a wait getting seats at one of the bar counters, especially towards the tail end of lunch (approx. 2pm).
After lunch we headed over to Amoeba Records. Valerie had certain CDs in mind that she was on the hunt for. I didn't have anything in mind at all yet I walked out with all of the following: