Whole Hog Dinner
Mozza’s Scuola Di Pizza
6610 Melrose Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90038
Dining date: 4/14/12
Mozza has really made use of their space at the corner of Melrose & Highland, creating their higher end Osteria Mozza, their sitdown Pizzeria Mozza, their takeout Mozza2Go and a sort of all-purpose Scuola di Mozza all within the same space. Like many others in LA, I’ve been a fan of the their establishments since they opened, but this would be my first time to the Scuola. The most junior Mozza on the block, the Scuola primarily serves as a space for family-style dinners and cooking classes, as well as the occasional special event dinner. The most noteworthy dinner has probably been the Whole Hog Dinner, a five-course affair showcasing a number of pig parts in various preparations. I’ve heard great things about the dinner and have been meaning to come out. These whole hog dinners seem to book pretty quickly; this April reservation was the soonest one available when I made a reservation in late February.
We were greeted at the door with a glass of prosecco and some passed appetizers as we awaited the first course. Seating for 28 is around one large table (duh, family style) in pretty close (cramped) quarters. It’s right in front of the open kitchen, which provides an upclose view of the chefs and the food preparations. Sitting on the countertop was a preview of what we’d be eating, including a skin-on roasted pork shoulder and roasted bone-in pork loin. Needless to say, it sure whet my appetite.
These were very flaky, with a nice crispy texture within the layers. The pork flavor was subtle but present.
To show off the quality of the pork and also serve as a preview of some of the cuts to be used during the evening, a selection of pork was brought out to taste. Pieces of loin, leg and belly were simply grilled with olive oil, salt and pepper. I thought the results were delicious, displaying the pork flavor with the smokiness of the grill. I enjoyed all three bites, particularly the juicy loin (pictured).
SALUMI & PATÉ coppa, speck, pancetta, capocollo, finocchiona, testa, ciccioli with pickles & spicy mustard
I don’t love charcuterie, but I enjoyed these examples. My favorite was probably the one I thought was head cheese; creamy and delicious especially with the tart acid of the pickled carrots and shallots.
PARMIGIANO-REGGIANO SOUFFLÉ pork leg ragù
This may have been the dish I was most looking forward to. As the souffles were taken out of the oven, they released a strong cheesy aroma signaling to everyone that the next course was coming. The souffle itself was very light and creamy with a heady parmesan flavor that really went well with the rich ragu. Quite nice.
PORK BELLY, ARUGULA, BEANS
This was an intermezzo of sorts, rich and fatty pork belly complemented by the bitter arugula and some creamy beans. It’s hard to go wrong with pork belly and these succulent pieces did not disappoint.
SLOW ROASTED PORK SHOULDER chicory salad & salsa verde
This looked like a turtle sitting on the counter, but it was actually a skin-on, bone-in pork shoulder. Roasted for 10 hours, much of the fat had rendered away leaving the skin to just be pulled apart from the meat. What a sight. Both were chopped up and served with a salad. The super crispy skin was addicting, but I found the tender meat to surprisingly be on the dry side. Hm. The salad and salsa verde both provided some acidity to counter the richness of the pork.
MILK ROASTED PORK LOIN caramelized ricotta & sage
This whole pork loin was roasted with the rib section intact, then the ribs were cut off and seared. Fried sage, the sliced loin and the ribs were put atop caramelized ricotta. I found the loin to be very tender and moist, an excellent example of the cut. I didn’t think the ricotta added too much flavor, but I enjoyed the sage with the pork. The seared pork ribs were good too with just a little bit of char. However, there weren’t enough ribs for everyone (most but not all) so the two in our party who were served last didn’t get any. Kind of a bummer to an otherwise good dish.
GRAHAM CRACKER PIGS gelato & sorbetti
The pig was incorporated into dessert not just by having the graham crackers shaped as the animal, but also via lard being used in the dough. Thankfully, no lard was used in the gelato (though something like Humphry Slocombe’s Boccalone proscuitto ice cream would’ve been sweet). Heaping scoops of gianduja, banana and vanilla came to the table; my favorite was easily the nutty chocolate flavor of the gianduja. The graham cracker had a mild sweetness and provided the textural crunch to complement the gelato.
Mozza’s whole hog dinner fell a bit short of my high expectations; nonetheless it was a good dinner. I was eager to see more pizzazz from the accompaniments, particularly from the last two savory courses. And I was surprised the shoulder was on the dry side given that it was the focal ingredient. However, I definitely ate to my heart’s content of porky goodness, and it was great to see so many preparations of the animal.
The full picture photo set can be found here on Flickr.