Pizzana? More like Pizza?Nah!

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This chocolate cake was truly a masterpiece.

I walked into Pizzana with cheerful anticipation. Italian is my favorite faire, and for some reason instinctually I was feeling that this meal was going to be amazing. The restaurant itself was small and narrow and unassuming. Upon entering I was slapped in the ears with the din of loud music bouncing off concrete floors mixed with the buzzing roar of patrons, but later as I walked back to my seat the area became acoustically kind, and I could once again hear myself think.

The hostess was kind and accommodating despite my being almost an hour early. Luckily there was room at the Chef’s bar with a full view of the kitchen which appeared clean, organized, and minimal. At first I was mortified because it seemed the pizza peel was directly on the floor! After careful scrutinization I discovered that it was not, thank goodness! I decided to do the bathroom check prior to ordering (in attempt to view the kitchen from a different angle and confirm the pizza peel wasn’t on the floor). The multi-gendered bathrooms were fairly clean, though every spec of dirt and splash of water was visible on the dark tiled floors. The bus station was in a strange spot, nestled in the corner en route to the rest room.

Once back at my seat I watched the pizzaiolos in the kitchen with some uncertainty. The oven itself was impressive with its grand stature and Star Wars looking facet, but every pizza leaving its threshold appeared burnt!

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The oven reminded me of a dark side R2D2 for some reason. Why wasn’t there an evil nemesis to R2D2? Was there and I am forgetting it??

The menu, which acted as a placemat, was small but ample and the price per plate was easy to swallow (horrible pun intended). The wine list prices were ridiculously high, however, with 3 oz of wine costing $12-$20, exponentially more than the entire bottle’s market price. I understand the concept of mark-up and making a profit, but the drink prices vs amount served seemed inappropriate and almost insulting. There is a certain clientele here, however, that would likely not bat an eye at the high cost of a cocktail.

My waiter, Matt, was attractive, welcoming, timely and knowledgeable. The water and wine were delivered within the 3 minute rule, and the utensils were immediately available and clean. Matt did deliver the salad before the antipasti, which, unfortunately, was an unfavorable choice. In his defense it was probably a kitchen decision, not his. I had decided to try the chopped salad because its a classic that can easily act as a hypothetical benchmark. The  pepperoni and sausage in the salad were reminiscent of divine European meats that are incomparably better than the American made counterparts  (with some exceptions from the smaller local butchers). I did miss the turkey that is found in some Italian chops, but the Clarion Chile vinaigrette more than made up for it, with its zesty delicious kick. Overall the salad was well balanced but I did feel the individual pieces of meat could have been chopped a bit more slender.

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Overall the chopped salad was really yummy.

As aforementioned, the antipasti was served next. I was steered towards the Carciofi Arrostiti because of my love for artichoke hearts. When the plate was delivered the hearts were unrecognizable. Instead it appeared I was staring at a plate full of hay. Perhaps this dish, with its light lemon spritz, would have been tasty if served prior to the spicy chop but after the spice I am afraid it tasted exactly as it looked- like hay. It was dry and flavorless. I tried adding more lemon and salt. It didn’t help. This dish, sadly, was an epic fail. I did find a few full sized artichoke hearts at the bottom that were not terrible, in comparison, to the hay stack above.

Moving on, the wine was fantastic. As per suggestion, I decided to pair my food with the 2015 Quercia Al Pggio Chianti and once again the Sangiovese did not disappoint. It didn’t save the hay stack, but it was a beautifully aromatic wine with a flavorful palette and warming tannins that spread across the palette nicely.

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Is this not a spitting image of a haystack?!

For the pizza, once again, I chose the pepperoni. Not to be boring, because they did offer some gourmet pizzas that seemed very promising and interesting, but I wanted something simple for comparison purposes. To add a little variety, though, I had them add the cremini mushrooms as per the menu’s recommendation. The pizza was ok. It wasn’t awful. It was better than the pizza we used to get at work that we donned “prison pizza”.  I feel like the pizza could have been good. I wanted it to be good. Sadly, it just wasn’t good. I silently shook my head as the pizza came towards me because, as expected, the outside was burnt. The pie was extremely thin which is normally great, except here the middle was raw and when I lifted a slice, it went limp like a 60 year old man without viagra. My erstwhile concern was confirmed, every pizza being served was burnt.

The woman to my left had suggested I try the chocolate cake for dessert. I wasn’t hungry anymore but I tasted one bite (it was decent) and took home the left over cake along with left over pizza. The next morning the cold breakfast pizza was flavorful and had a better texture than the night prior when it was hot and limp. The charred crust, however, was still inedible and tasted exactly how one would imagine burnt soggy wood. The chocolate cake was FANTASTIC the next day. Light, moist, and decadently chocolate.  I think I will rename this restaurant PizzaNO PastryYA.

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This looks amazing, but unfortunately the burnt crust really destroyed the flavor.

Overall the staff was friendly and accommodating, the other patrons were typical for the area, the space itself was clean (though not acoustically the best for good conversation). Regarding the food, though the meats were truly fantastic, one can find much better pizza at another restaurant not too far away, a delicious pizza that can easily be paired with a less expensive BOTTLE of chianti from anywhere. C-

 

xoxo

QJ

QJ

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Cevichería

LAC

 

As I lock my car after parking on a quiet street near  Cevichería,  I am a bit worried I wouldn’t have any tires when I return. Oddly, I don’t feel too nervous walking the block to the restaurant because somehow the neighborhood feels snug and somewhat safeguarded. As I turn the corner onto Pico Boulevard, the  Cevicheria is revealed, sitting quietly with all of its bright blue splendor, in its place behind the sidewalk. It’s an unassuming ostensible hole in the wall. There is a small silver lawn table with two matching chairs out front,  and a tiny 7 table restaurant inside. Its impression is that of a movie set; a restaurant facade in an impoverished area, perhaps where two antagonists will meet to discuss love, life, and friendships. This appearance is extremely deceptive, except for the friendship part because the inside does house friends yet unknown. The staff and clientele are familiar and convivial as if I’ve been visiting here for years. I receive a menu and water immediately. Owner and Chef, Carolina Orellana is welcoming, accepting, and all around lovely, not to mention an AMAZING culinary artist. She is excited to give recommendations and impressively as excited to TAKE recommendations. A sign that Cevicheria’s menu will never be stale or stagnant.

In the Tostadas De Ceviche department I order the Pescado but am served the Camrón. This is an obvious error but somehow, in this laid back environment, feels acceptable. The mix up is actually a blessing in disguise. The dish comprised of perfectly small bits of shrimp, moistened with citrus and chiles, sits beautifully atop a crispy tortilla with an avocado topper. With a squeeze of extra lime, the Camarones dish tastes bright and fresh and is unexpectedly filling!

 

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The Mejillones, muscles in garlic butter sauce, are outstandingly decadent. Unlike other restaurants, each muscle is sweet, well cleaned (no sand, thank you!) and has the perfect texture blend of chewy and silky. A party in the mouth for any garlic lover.

 

Mussels

My favorite dish on the menu is one that Carolina recommends as a Guatemalan favorite, called Aguachiles. This dish of raw shrimp marinated in a light green sauce of line, cilantro, jalepeño and onion is out of this world. OMG That sauce! Its fresh and crisp with that perfect amount of citrus zing. Its dreamy, and if it were up to me I would use it on practically every dish I make! In fact, once the large chalice of Camarón Ceviche lands on the table,  we pour the remaining green sauce over the camerones to see how the flavor changes. The results: in the immortal words of Emeril Legasse, “BAM!” The other flavors become so alive and active, each bite is just WOW. The camarones ceviche also remained delicious over the next three days (I took home left overs, with the green sauce mixed in).

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Having gotten to know Carolina a little, I am not surprised that the kitchen appeared clean and well-organized. The service was great, despite any mishaps. The waitress offered to correct the error immediately, but I was excited and happy to go with the flow and taste whatever came to the table. Thats the thing about Cevichería, visiting there was like taking a little break from the pressures of mundanity and reminding me to just go with the flow and see what the universe brings; and at this place, most likely everything it brings will be delicious. I highly recommend taking what will feel like a little trip to another world and visiting Cevicherįa. You will not be disappointed. And I hear the Blood Clams are amazing, so I guess I’ll be going back!

On a side note, my tires were fully in tact when I returned to my car.

A+

 

 

To Jillian on her blankety blank birthday

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Happy birthday to me! Flowers and card from my beautiful cousin.

Remember that Michelle Pfeiffer movie from 1996? To Jillian on her 37th Birthday? Well, I never actually saw that movie, but I like the title so….

My birthday month has come to a close. Such an amazing month it was! Especially the last week, when my actual birthday fell. It began on Monday night when the show I just wrapped had a premier party at The Parlor in West Hollywood (I’ll review that another time) followed by dinner at Summer Buffalo with some cast mates (another review for another time- but WOW that food was good!).

Spago

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Initially we had planned on celebrating my actual birthday dinner (on my actual birthday) at Maude, Curtis Stone’s restaurant. At 300$/person (without drinks) for the “November Truffles” theme, we decided it would dip too much into our Italy fund, so, at my bosses recommendation,  MSM decided to treat me with reservations at Spago, home of Wolfgang Puck.

Back in the day Mr. Puck revolutionized the Los Angeles food scene with  Spago. He decided he wanted to create an affordable menu based on food that was indigenous to LA and fit the LA healthy lifestyle. So Spago was born and healthy contemporary LA eating was put on the map. High maintenance orderers finally had a place to nourish their souls!  MSM and I had never eaten there before, so we were thrilled to try something new.

Ambiance

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“Dress shabbily and they remember the dress; dress impeccably and they remember the woman” – Coco Chanel

When you first go into Spago, you are in the bar. There’s a small lounge area with sofas and chairs and then the bar itself. Upon entering, the atmosphere feels rich but approachable. This area is nicely lit with dim over heads and candles. The hostesses are friendly but professional.

From what I could tell there were two main dining areas. The main room is a well lit indoor space with contemporary paintings decorating the walls. MSM mentioned in passing that he wished it was more dimly lit. I, however, was excited to be able to see the menu without using my phone flashlight (embarrassing age giver-awayer- I know, not a word but gets the point across). The other dining area is an outdoor garden which looked very romantic with trees and twinkle lights (my favorite!). I was a little jealous we weren’t out there, but whatever, where we sat seemed more tailored and luxurious.

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My Cousin, Katherine, and I enjoying our first visit to Spago. I am so grateful Katherine and her husband could join us. I love spending my actual birthday with family. Its so important to me. 

Most of the patrons at Spago, I hate to say it, were probably around 70 years old. I’m sure this is true because the place has been around for 30+ years and was SO ridiculously famously popular back in the 20th century that those visitors are still meeting there thinking its cool. Why is that? Like how come some people get stuck on things? Same hair cut for 50 years or clothing. Lord don’t let that happen to me!

Hilarious story- As I walked towards the restroom one woman, she must have been about 75, grabbed my arm and said “honey! Could you get me a glass of water? My leg is cramping. I can’t make it to the bar.” I’m pretty sure she thought I worked there (due to the average minimum age). Of course I helped her! And I told her to remove her stunning Jimmy Choos’ because they were the cause of the cramp. OMG 5″ heels almost killed me at blankety blank, how the heck is she wearing those at 70?? (and please let me be able to do the same without the leg cramp!).

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Once seated, the waiter brought us each a shot of mushroom soup. Delicious and soul warming.

Even though we were most definitely some of the youngest ones there, there was a mix of ages ranging from 30-80 and it didn’t feel stuffy AT ALL. It was lively inside. Fun. Lots of laughter and joy. I can see why its still listed in the top 3 restaurants in LA.

What to eat

AHi
The most ridiculously amazing spicy tuna on crispy rice I have EVER had. Eye popping good!

Answer: Everything. I can’t even tell you how AMAAAAZING the food was here.

We started our adventure with an aperitif shot of Wolfgang’s cream of mushroom soup. Hello! Can I have a carafe of that please??

Next we shared an appetizer of  spicy ahi in a crispy cone; Mr. Pucks rendition of spicy tuna on crispy rice. OMG. There are no words. Seriously. One bite and we exchanged that look that only “that look” can describe. That “holy S*** this tastes amazing” look. It was like a symphony of flavor that all blended so well together yet stood tasty on its own as well; a symphonic poem of food.

After the heavenly tuna cones we shared an endive salad (delicious) and a Bolognese pasta that was TO DIE FOR. Both exploded with flavors; their own symphonic poems in our mouthes.

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Every single appetizer, salad, and first course that we tasted at Spago was incredible. A starburst of flavors in the mouth!
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I was SO excited that the special on my birthday was Veiner Schnitzel! It was as if they did that just for me! The breading was a bit dry, but the presentation was gorgeous. 

For the main course I was (sadly) underwhelmed. My favorite food in the world is Weiner shnitzel. No, NOT the hot dogs. The actual dish that originated in Austria. Now, the first time I had ever eaten Weiner Schnitzel was in Baden Baden, Germany, so I may be a bit overly critical when an american chef attempts to correctly make it. Back in Baden Baden I sat with my father under the enormous oak trees. I was 13 years old. Long wire-y haired dachshunds frolicked in the park across from us. As the kliener vogel (little birds) sang their songs and my dad and I laughed about our day, the waiter served us our Veiner Schnitzel. I remember my father exclaiming “wait til you try this, Jilly, its my favorite!” He taught me how to squeeze the lemon over the veal, and then stir the spatzel into the gravy. We each took a bite and I remember the moment it hit my lips and the flavor explosion that followed. So delicious. And we sat there, in silence, enjoying our food and Germany. So many unspoken moments with my father where I truly felt loved and accepted as me. I so miss him. Anyways, I digress…. They say food is experience, and I do believe that one reason I love this dish so much is because of that moment when I first tasted it.  So back here at Spago, the chef had huge shoes to fill and I’m sad to say he failed. It was dry and not so great.

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Desert was so yummy. Triple chocolate with raspberry sauce and lemon gelato. It looked so good we didn’t even stop to take a photo!

BUT….the desert resurrected my taste buds. Delicious combinations of citrus and chocolate…..HOLY COW it was yummy! And the four of us (my cousin and her hubby were with us) were serenaded by our waiters rendition of Happy Birthday. Of course our waiter was a dancer and an actor and a producer and a singer….the list goes on. We do live in LA, right?

 

What the heck do you wear to Spago?

So I was really nervous because I went here straight from work and had no time to do my hair. It was up in its usual work bun. It was to my relief when I walked into Spago and literally half the women there had their hair in a bun!

The dress is mixed. I mean I bet you probably could get away with wearing Jeans and gorgeous shoes with a swanky top. However, I would never. I think I would call the dress here upscale casual. I was excited to wear the new coat that I bought for my birthday. Danielle found this GORGEOUS gem ON SALE 🙂 YAY!

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Coat: Red Valentino  Booties: St. Laurent  Skirt: Chloe  Top: ALC

So began the my birthday week. Off to a great start! Next post- our trip to San Luis Obispo and Paso Robles wine tasting….

Bon Apetit! And thank you MSM for such a wonderful dinner! :*

xoxo

QJ

 

QJ