For those of you who don’t live in Los Angeles, there’s something you should know about our currently frosty (63 degrees!!) city: Ã‚Â we have very bad pizza. Ã‚Â Let me restate that: Ã‚Â we have very bad normal pizza. Ã‚Â The dainty, gourmet stuff is fine. Ã‚Â You know what I’m talking about: Ã‚Â the fancy stuff with the proscuitto and goat cheese and other assorted ingredients. Ã‚Â That’s all good. Ã‚Â But sometimes you just want a basicÃ‚Â mozzarella and tomato sauceÃ‚Â pie (ie. a margherita, for the highbrow set). Ã‚Â You’d think it would be an easy enough thing to execute, but you’d be surprised at how many well-meaning pizza parlors fall short.
Recently, however, there’s been a lot of buzz on the internets about a pizza joint named Vito’s Pizza
. Ã‚Â It’s been around for a while, but over the past year, and especially in the last two months or so, the chattering about Vito’s on sites such as Chowhound
Ã‚Â andÃ‚Â Eater LA
has intensified. Ã‚Â Boosters claim it’s the only place in Los Angeles to get authentic New York pizza. Ã‚Â Detractors say it’s overhyped (of course, that’s what detractors always say). Ã‚Â Nevertheless, after sitting on the sidelines for months, my friends and I decided to trek down La Cienega Blvd (or La Ciens, for people in the know) to find out what all the fuss was about.
Well, heading down to the pizzeria with me were the usual suspects: fellow blogger J-Unit, occasional blogger Jash, and the one who spearheaded this whole pizza excursion in the first place, IndianJones (he’s not a blogger, but he wishes to remain anonymous for the time being). Anyway, we thought the restaurant was perhaps closed at first because the dark lighting and frosted windows gave the erroneous appearance from the outside that it was empty. However, logic dictated to us that such a hyped pizzeria wouldn’t be closed on a random Wednesday; so we pushed forward, entering Vito’s with unbridled gusto.
I headed the charge, which was unfortunate because as soon as all four of us walked into the restaurant, I forced an awkward moment by stopping short. You see, I didn’t know how the restaurant “worked.” Would we seat ourselves? Did we order at a counter? Was there an overhead menu that needed to be sought out? Rather than investigate these questions, I chose to simply stop walking and hope one of my more adventurous friends would take over as Vito’s President. Well, following my lead, our daisy-train of diners came to an abrupt halt, and everyone stared at me, waiting to make some sort of move — any move — lest we just stand there in the doorway like four idiot patrons. IndianJones, who was rather hungry, barked at me to go, but I announced that I didn’t know how the restaurant worked and that someone else should step forward. And I mean seriously, IndianJones WAS the Vito’s President. He clearly should have been leading the charge.
Nevertheless, this led to mild anarchy as all four of us went at once, causing a temporary bottleneck that at best looked comical and at worst (and most likely) looked idiotic. I take full responsibility for this egregious entrance by our party.
Anyway, as thrilled as you all must be at hearing these fine details of our first few seconds in Vito’s, I’ll move on. We eventually sat down at a table for four and commenced the argumentative process that was ordering. As I’m a purist (aka picky), I only wanted plain or pepperoni. Everyone else wanted, well, variety. I can’t blame them. It’s not their fault that I have limited topping scope for pizza. For regular pizza parlor pizza, I just like my slices simple and to the point. No peppers, sausage, mushrooms, olives, etc. Pepperoni is as far as I go.
Nevertheless, J-Unit, Jash, and IndianJones decided to split a Terra Firma pizza (sausage, pepperoni, olives, peppers, onions, mushrooms), while I merely got two slices of plain and one of pepperoni. We also ordered a batch of breadsticks as an appetizer since we were warned that our pizza might take a while. This was a smart move. The breadsticks arrived fresh from the oven, much to the consternation of IndianJones, who complained that they were too hot for his small, sensitive fingers. He was in the minority. The sticks were flavorful and soft and made all the better by the olive oil that was infused with garlic and, as the menu says, “a thing or two that we won’t tell you about.” As long as the “thing or two” didn’t involve sweat, urine, or any other bodily fluid, I was fine with it.
We then waited a long, long time for our pizza to come out. This meant we had to listen to the banter of two AWFUL people next to us. We tried not to listen, but they clearly had overlooked that whole “indoor voice” concept, and the close proximity of the slightly small tables didn’t help matters. This guy yammered on and on about his therapy and how his friend bought a Honda Civic and blah blah blah. Luckily, they left by the time our food arrived, which meant we could enjoy this much-heralded pizza in peace.
I can’t speak for the Terra Firma pie because I didn’t try it (I was banned from sampling it on account of my stubborn plain-slice-only policy), but from what I could tell from my fellow diners, it seemed as though everyone was happy. There weren’t any out-and-out raves, but no complaints either. I enjoyed my slices very much, but I wasn’t necessarily blown away. The proportion of cheese to tomato sauce was spot on, and the grease levels were right in my comfort zone. I could have used slightly more tang from the tomato sauce (if that makes sense), but this was such a minor quibble that I didn’t even voice it at the table (lest I be accused, as is often the case, of being an incessant complainer). We all agreed that the dough was perfect — not too thick, not too thin, not too crusty — and it was made all the better by dipping it in the leftover oil from the breadsticks, which we had requested the waiter to leave at the table — reason enough to order the appetizer.
By the end of the meal, I felt that while I hadn’t been absolutely blown away, Vito’s was definitely in the upper echelon of Los Angeles pizza places and certainly worthy of repeat business. I haven’t tried the new Joe’s Pizza, which is supposed to be Vito’s grand, new rival, but compared to other “New York Style” kitchens, I’d have to rank this in the same league as the Cathy Moriarity-owned Mulberry Street Pizza. To be fair, I haven’t dined at Mulberry Street Pizza in over a year; so another visit is in order to properly compare it to Vito’s. Same goes for Joe’s. A full update will be forthcoming…
Has anyone else been to Vito’s? And what do you think makes a pizza great?