My husband and I visited my parents in Los Angeles for Christmas. I lived in L.A. on and off for 10 years, right before moving to Charlottesville. I love the metropolis for many reasons, but its culinary diversity definitely ranks at the top of the list. Looking for new, out-of-the-public-eye eateries in a land populated by close to 10 million people isn’t easy, and coupled with grad school, well, that became close to impossible.
I’ve tasted exquisite risotti in fancy Italian restaurants, solid lasagnas in mom-and-pop digs and everything in between, but when the perfect pizza comes from an unassuming warehouse turned into a restaurant in Gardena…that’s fate.
At Eatalian Cafe, the pizza is divine: thin, crispy, crunchy and juicy. With just one bite, I was transported back to S. Agata Martesana, my tiny home town – the not-so late nights on the back of my friends’ scooters, hair flipping in the warm summer air, anticipating the pizza and Coca Cola dinner only grownups were allowed to have. Those were the days!
The menu for their traditional pizza was impressive: quattro stagioni (four seasons), quattro formaggi (four cheeses), Margherita, Capricciosa, funghi porcini (Porcini mushrooms), Diavola. The choices were many and they all looked appetizing. I have my ritual when choosing the right pizza pie: read the whole menu from top to bottom; stop and think about what toppings seem to be calling my name and, finally, go with what will make your belly happy. A happy belly, a happy person.
The restaurant, housed in a large warehouse comfortably nested in Gardena, offers a few other gems. Their Eatalian pizzas have funny names: the Marlon Brando (the owner, Antonio Pellini told us that Brando’s son, a quasi-daily customer, has tried it); the Rock; the Pizman, and my favorite: the Calzone Roger (still wondering who this Roger is and what he could have accomplished to have a pizza named after himself). Roger Federer? (would Federer eat a calzone with mozzarella and prosciutto di Parma? Calories galore?) Roger Moore?
I went with the classic Prosciutto Crudo pizza with slices of delicious prosciutto di Parma, while my dad and brother devoured the Gibo, tomato sauce, mozzarella and Italian sausage.
Another great find was a quaint cafe’ on Montana Avenue in Santa Monica. Caffe Luxxe‘s coffee was hailed the best in Los Angeles by none other than Los Angeles Magazine. The decor was very minimal, gray tables, black and white photographs of Napoli, Italy and a small refrigerated display case filled with tortes, croissants and other chocolaty goodness. Oh, and they are geniuses in milk foam art.