Mozza: Los Angeles - The Perfect Man

And on the eighth day, Mozza was created by a trinity of godly chefs Nancy Silverton, Mario Batali and Joseph Bastianich.

The genius behind the genesis is three unique Italian restaurants busily buzzing under one roof. Mozza, like mankind, is comprised of mind, body and soul.

A single, sorta slutty friend recently wished aloud that she'd like to take the best part of each of the three men she's dating --  one's rich, one's sexy and one's smart -- and create one perfect man. My mind drifted and I realized that the Mozza brand is like dating three different men.

While she wants to cut their bodies up, stitch them back together in a lab and zap life back into them via a brown-out causing surge of electricity, I doubt she'll do it -- she can't sew.

But I can build a fantasy date/meal from the heavenly bodies of the three Mozza eateries -- the casual Pizzeria, the classy Osteria, and the breakaway-takeaway, Mozza2Go.

First, I hit up the Pizzeria. Mozza's Hancock Park neighborhood is stuffed like a calzone with retro-mansions and fierce parking restrictions make pricey valet parking mandatory. I swung open the promising door to perfect pizza, and sent my eyes flying past the hostess in the pretty dress, and across the small dining room, to land on the open kitchen. Once I saw dough flying, I knew love was in the air and took a seat at the bar as if waiting for my date to be ready.

Their bartenders are as friendly and knowledgeable as food waiters. Technically better than a food waiter, because they also have the booze and they're mostly confined behind the bar. I didn't plan on pawing at them for more cheese, but it's nice to know they're close.

The richly-colored walls of the inviting room wrap me with the strong arms of an Italian. The menu is to the point and clear so my about-to-be romanced mind can think. I started slow by ordering the vegetarian eggplant caponata.

Bread put Nancy Silverton on the culinary map with La Brea Bakery; so I tore off a piece and used it to embrace the eggplant and onions, which is served surprisingly cold, like a spurned lover. Her bread warms even the coldest dish. The chefs take a couple of days to marinate the eggplant and spices, making this one of the best appetizers I have ever spread.

Sitting at the bar supported my lack of commitment to just one Mozza eatery and let me know that their craft beer menu is given the importance of a wine list. I was perched on the end near the door with one foot on the floor.

I had to order the prosciutto and arugula pizza. Everyone wants this pizza. Mozza's dough is worth the hype and the years spent in development. It's the hot girl in high school you never dared to touch. Now twenty years later she's right here before your hungry eyes served to you on an actual platter. She might've let herself go all soft and doughy, but I guarantee that once you have a taste, she'll be as good as you imagined.

The rhythm of the room is excitingly fast and this prequel to a meal warmed up my appetite. I paid the modest bill and on my way out I quickly poked my head into their adjacent wine-bottle lined smaller dining room. I noted that this intimate nook would make a great place for a small party. It's so private that if everyone kept their eyes on the corkscrews we could go clothing optional.

Walking the few steps along Highland Avenue to my next date, Mozza Osteria, I looked in the window as if peeking at other diner's plates. But I really used this reflective opportunity to check my hair and new Prada shirt, confident that no one else thought to theme-dress and exclusively wear Italian designers -- I wanted to look good for fancy Osteria. As I pulled open the door, I gasped -- the black, brown and white room is Prada. Like good Italian fashion, it looks expensive; it's crisp yet mysterious, open yet intimate.

The subtle beauty of the room and its great lighting flatters everyone. White cloths muffle the bustle and dress up the close tables. The couple next to us was celebrating their twenty-fifth wedding anniversary, so we toasted them, making a note to selves to keep our own table banter clean. A platter of freshly-made mozzarella whizzed by, jiggling like an eager young girl's breast.

Just the sight of grilled sardines on the menu recalled my July spent in St. Jean Cap Ferrat. Swarthy chefs at nameless beach side cafes tenderly pulled the shiny little fish from the shimmering Mediterranean Sea and threw them on the grill, then tossed them on a bed of lettuce.

When my sardines at Osteria arrived, I delicately poked my fork at the crispy skin, and sighed as it separated gently but firmly from the white, tender flesh. My mind was flooded with sensory visions of accented voices belonging to perpetually bikini-clad tanned bodies, who paused their sun worship just long enough to eat.

This dish is that summer in the South of France.

Fantastic house-made Burata with leeks roasted three shades past caramel, almost beyond recognition, was lovingly presented. I used my tongue to identify the charred, flat bodies of the leeks underneath the creamy thick mozzarella. No crime was committed, and the mustard bread crumbs on top did a good job of complimenting a cheese masterpiece. One should always know a double-jointed accountant, an honest mechanic, and a man who can make cheese.

Their oxtail ragu must have roasted all night, tended by chefs taking shifts and drinking strong Italian coffee to stay awake. The meat happily took on the flavors of the vegetables and herbs like an ox takes on a burden, making it seem effortless. I thought the waiter was trying to cut in on my dance with this dish when he tried to clear my plate too early.

I ordered the guinea hen with liver pancetta sauce, and ate it quickly to prevent my dining partner from wiping the sauce all over my naked body and inviting others to lick me clean. It can happen in this room: Love and lust is in the air and it smells a bit like bacon.

Our last plates were cleared. During that lull before dessert, when my table is empty, I'm hyper-aware of other silverware hitting china and get jealous that others might be having something I missed. Rather than be that guy always looking for the next best thing, I let the flavors of my dishes linger on my tongue, and in my mind. It was all so good --  I know I'd chosen well.

I readied myself for dessert like I was meeting a first date -- both can look harmless and/or threatening. Italian people smoke, drink, eat pasta and gelato, yet are always runway ready. So, since in Rome, I ordered Bambolini with lemon mascarpone and huckleberry marmellletta.
It's all made in-house, somewhere deep in the hidden kitchen.

As soon as I saw my plate, I had this desire to march back there and find the chef-agician who knows how to conjure up perfect doughnuts and beg them to marry me. I bet they keep the doors locked.

The soft doughnuts cut easily; the gooey center gushed out. Instinctively we fed each other bites -- this is the movie scene where the couple falls in love and everything starts to get literally and emotionally messy. The tart cheesy lemon ice cream served alongside brought out our shy smiles; it's borderline naughty.

My night wasn't over. Stumbling out the door, I headed a few feet down adjacent Melrose and fell in lovely Mozza2Go.

Here I picked up hand-cured olives and garlic knots -- they generously hand out their lovingly raised food-babies to take home. You had me at to go.

Their brilliant idea to half-bake pizzas in their flavorful wood oven means that you take it home and finish what they started. It's a sure-fire way to multiple male orgasms--you discreetly smell the thrilling pizza baking here, and then, let the aroma knock you to your knees while finishing it up at home.

I grabbed one of their lasagnas to cook later just to be wonderfully reminded that all lasagnas don't come frozen in a box with a peel-off plastic film that sends a burning blast of steam up after its microwave execution. 

Once home, we sat fireside and let the heat tear our clothes off. We talked about dinner and planned a trip to Venice while feeding each other love knots. Mozza is an amazing date, but I realized I'd had my perfect mate the whole time.

Ever been in Italy when in love? That's any meal at Mozza. 

Mozza Group. Melrose and Highland Avenues, Los Angeles, CA. (323) 297-0100. 

1 comment:

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